NYC has—or more accurately, had-been an advocate for disabled passengers.
A few years ago the city mandated that at least 50% of all taxis be accessible for the disabled by 2020. Then along came the disrupter Uber, with 33,000 non-accessible cars that threatens both the livelihoods of thousands of taxi drivers, and the life savings of thousands of predominately immigrant medallion owners.
NYC shivered and shook under the onslaught of Uber’s billions instead of taking a strong stance on behalf of immigrant taxi drivers and medallion owners to enforce a mandate that Uber provide the same percentage of accessible vehicles. The TLC blinked, and Uber continued to expand—ignoring the regulations with impunity.
Now however, under the withering glare of advocates for the disabled who launched an advertising campaign to shame the city into action, Uber has come up with its own brainstorm:
“Uber is tackling one of its biggest New York City headaches, head on. In an attempt to neutralize one of the chief complaints lodged against it, Uber is developing a proposal to make itself more accessible to people in wheelchairs.
In discussions with taxi industry stakeholders, Uber has suggested that the city levy a small per-trip fee on “for-hire” vehicles, a classification that includes Uber. The money would go to a fund that the city would administer. (http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/04/8597250/uber-and-de-blasio-aides-quietly-push-dueling-accessible-taxi-prop)
As NYETA spokesperson Brad Gerstman points out:
“Uber is once again looking to end run any accountability for directly supplying accessible vehicles for New Yorkers. Instead, the $51 billion company is cooking up a complicated scheme that allows it to avoid complying with regulations that now govern NY taxis-thus allowing Uber to maintain the fiction that it’s not a cab company.”
But let’s be clear.
Uber’s just doing what’s right for Uber: The tech behemoth is not to blame for the company pursuing its own self-interest. The blame needs to be placed directly on the city elected officials and regulators who have over the past 70+ years, created a system that has embraced and nurtured entrepreneurism for immigrants, but now throws these hard working New Yorkers unceremoniously under the taxi.
It is time for leadership in NYC.
A quintessential New York industry is under threat by an interloper that cares not a whit for this city or its citizens. Let’s put the blame where it truly belongs: to the politicians who are afraid to stand up to the billion dollar bully.