CHICAGO – The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), City of Chicago and Access Living held a press conference today announcing the City of Chicago's Taxi Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) Cost Reimbursement Program that will put more than 130 additional wheelchair accessible taxicabs on the streets of Chicago.
Jennifer Thomas of Access Living speaks with public radio about her experience with, and the importance of, accessible taxis in Chicago
“This is a wonderful program that will further expand and improve access and mobility for people with disabilities,” said RTA Chairman John S. Gates, Jr., “On behalf of the RTA Board, it's an honor to be able to support funding for a project that helps to eliminate transportation barriers.”
The program, funded through a $1.7 million federal New Freedom grant, will reimburse expenses to convert taxicabs to accommodate wheelchairs. Also, partial funding can be used toward the purchase of new factory manufactured wheelchair accessible vehicles. The City of Chicago is covering approximately $443,000 for the program. The estimated cost for converting a taxi is between $15,000 and $20,000. The program is scheduled to begin in 2013.
“Accessible transportation in the City of Chicago is critical to the independence and community participation of people with disabilities, “said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “By providing accessible taxicabs, we can continue to make Chicago one of the most accessible cities in the world and help Chicagoans with disabilities pursue their goals and aspirations.”
The WAV fund was established in the taxi ordinance passed by City of Chicago Council members in January of 2012, reimbursing a taxi owner's cost in placing a WAV into service.
“This funding is yet another incentive for taxicab owners to add a wheelchair accessible vehicle to their fleet. Adding an accessible vehicle is good for all of Chicago and makes solid economic sense for taxicab owners. Increasing accessibility is a win–win for everyone.” said BACP Commissioner Rosemary Krimbel.
Yesterday, the RTA board approved two additional New Freedom funded projects benefiting people with disabilities. One project will fund CTA Rail Station Guides for Customers who are blind or visually impaired. The cost of this project is $53,000. The other project is to fund Visual information Systems (VIS) at 11 non–key ADA Metra stations to improve mobility for the hearing impaired. The cost of this project is $375,000.
”We are excited about how today's announcement will benefit people with disabilities,” said Marca Bristo, President and CEO of Access Living. “With an increased fleet of accessible cabs, people with disabilities throughout Chicago will have more options to engage and participate in their communities alongside their peers.”