The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard arguments this week on a controversial ruling in December, where a federal district court ruled that New York City’s taxicab fleet violates Americans with Disabilities Act public accessibility requirements.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District’s first-of-its kind December ruling temporarily halted the city’s long planned overhaul of its taxi cab services, until the city presents a plan to the court that provides “meaningful access” for people with disabilities.
The ruling temporarily halted a plan, announced December 20 by Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to add 2,000 new wheelchair accessible taxis to the fleet and require that 20 percent of a new class of 18,000 livery cabs – non yellow cab taxis that normally serve the city’s outer boroughs – be wheelchair accessible. However, the district court said the city could sell permits for disability accessible taxis in the interim.
On March 21, the Second Circuit temporarily lifted this freeze, allowing the city to sell permits for non-disability accessible taxis while it hears the case, according to a Reuters article.
This week, the city argued it is not mandated by the ADA to make its taxi-cab fleet disability accessible because the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission is technically run by a private contractor.
“The TLC has the power to impose regulations and restrictions, including imposing accessibility requirements. The question is, ‘Must they?,” argued city corporation counsel Michael Cardozo in front of the court at Wednesday’s hearing, according to an article in DNAinfo, a Manhattan news website.
Disability Rights Advocates argued that the commission is private in name only, and that the city’s extensive regulatory role in overseeing the taxi fleet makes it liable for ADA regulations requiring that public accommodations be accessible to people with disabilities.
“The TLC controls every single aspect of taxi cab service,” DRA attorney Sid Wolinsky said, from the “stitching on the seats to the decals.”
Just 232 of the more than 13,000 vehicles in the city’s current fleet of yellow cab taxis contain ramps, lifts or other tools making them wheelchair accessible, according to an article by Capital New York.