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Optimizing Accessible Taxi Service to Augment Traditional Public Transit Services in Delaware

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DCT 222 Optimizing Accessible Taxi Service to Augment Traditional Public Transit Services in Delaware By DOUGLAS TUTTLE KRISTEN EATON Institute for Public Administration University of Delaware January
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DCT 222 Optimizing Accessible Taxi Service to Augment Traditional Public Transit Services in Delaware By DOUGLAS TUTTLE KRISTEN EATON Institute for Public Administration University of Delaware January 2012 Delaware Center for Transportation University of Delaware 355 DuPont Hall Newark, Delaware (302) The Delaware Center for Transportation is a university-wide multi-disciplinary research unit reporting to the Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and is co-sponsored by the University of Delaware and the Delaware Department of Transportation. DCT Staff Ardeshir Faghri Director Jerome Lewis Associate Director Ellen Pletz Earl Rusty Lee Matheu Carter Sandra Wolfe Assistant to the Director T 2 Program Coordinator T² Engineer Event Coordinator DCT Policy Council Natalie Barnhart, Co-Chair Chief Engineer, Delaware Department of Transportation Babatunde Ogunnaike, Co-Chair Dean, College of Engineering Delaware General Assembly Member Chair, Senate Highways & Transportation Committee Delaware General Assembly Member Chair, House of Representatives Transportation/Land Use & Infrastructure Committee Ajay Prasad Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering Harry Shenton Chair, Civil and Environmental Engineering Michael Strange Director of Planning, Delaware Department of Transportation Ralph Reeb Planning Division, Delaware Department of Transportation Stephen Kingsberry Executive Director, Delaware Transit Corporation Shannon Marchman Representative of the Director of the Delaware Development Office James Johnson Executive Director, Delaware River & Bay Authority Holly Rybinski Project Manager-Transportation, AECOM Delaware Center for Transportation University of Delaware Newark, DE (302) Optimizing Accessible Taxi Service to Augment Traditional Public Transit Services in Delaware written by Douglas Tuttle and Kristen Eaton January 2012 Table of Contents Executive Summary Page 1 Introduction Page 3 Accessible Taxi Services in Delaware Page 4 The Research Background Page 6 DART s Paratransit Service Policy Page 8 Delaware s Taxi Fleet Page 11 SCAT (Senior Citizens Affordable Taxi) Page 16 Accessible Taxis for Business Travel Page 20 Miami-Dade County, Florida Page 21 New York City Page 23 London, England Page 26 Universal Design Page 29 Rear-access van conversion vs. the London Taxi Page 30 Side-access van conversions Page 31 The MetroKing Taxi Page 32 The Vehicle Production Group MV-1 Page 33 Use of Advertising Wraps Page 36 Taxi Franchising Page 38 Conclusion Page 40 Appendix 1 The Principles of Universal Design Page 41 Appendix VPG MV-1 Taxi Brochure Page 45 Sources Cited Page 47 Table 1: Delaware s Taxi Companies and Fleet Size: Page 13 Executive Summary As one of the most rapidly graying states in the nation, Delaware soon will be faced with significant growth in the demand for public transportation services that meet the needs of an increasingly older population. This population, moreover, is more likely to require assistance due to one or more disabilities that may affect individuals ability to go outside their homes. Coupled with an ongoing shift of the state s population from the more urban north to the more rural south and a growing desire among older adults to age in place if at all possible, the impact this graying phenomenon on the state s already burdened paratransit bus system will become unmanageable unless programmatic changes are implemented. The purpose of this report is to explore the efficacy of raising Delaware s taxi industry from its current balkanized status to a level of accessibility and performance that will permit it to augment the state s traditional public transit services. The report s title employs the phrase optimizing accessible taxi service but, as quickly became clear in the process of inventorying the nature and extent of existing services, the term truly understates the magnitude of the change that is required. In Delaware, accessible taxi service really needs to be created, from the curb up. Change undoubtedly will not come easily, given the current characteristics of the state s taxi fleet. One of the keys to taxi accessibility is the design of the vehicle involved. The traditional approach of modifying vans for the purpose of transporting wheelchair users yields a vehicle that is effective for that purpose but so highly specialized that it is of little use for anything else. The result is longer waiting times while particular specially purposed vehicles travel to their appointed locations, as well as higher operating costs for the service providers. The fact that Delaware s 100-vehicle taxi fleet currently includes no such conveyances is on the one hand disappointing, but on the other hand a circumstance to be exploited. Current accessible taxi service may be a myth, but that also means no current investment strategies need to be abandoned. Accessible taxi service in Delaware truly is a blank slate. In terms of vehicle choices, the time during which this report has been in production has seen more than one prospect appear to present a path forward, only to drift away. Clearly, the best path forward is to embrace the philosophy of Universal Design, in which the removal of barriers for one segment of society does not simultaneously raise barriers for another. An accessible taxi vehicle should be one that anyone can use, in as simple a manner as possible. Taking that path, however, requires more than theory it requires available rolling stock. The new domestically constructed MV-1 is just such a vehicle. It is currently in production and available at a competitive cost. The question that arises is how to get the MV-1 off the dealership floor and onto the streets of Delaware in taxicab livery. Some possible strategies are suggested. This report closes with a recommendation that Delaware adopt something like the Santa Monica Model of regulating taxi services through a process of franchising. The result would be to reverse the current trend of a new taxi company every day and replace it with a higher quality, more professional, and more consistent system that 1 would better meet the needs of all users: visitors as well as residents, employed as well as retired, individuals with or without disabilities. When it comes to taxi service, size does matter. 2 Introduction The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and DART First State have recognized that Delaware s demographic trends, particularly the projected rise in its aging and Baby Boomer population, will impact the need to offer more mobility options and accessible transportation for residents. A Senior Citizen Affordable Taxi (SCAT) service, which offers a reduced fare to eligible seniors and disabled persons, has been available on a limited basis for many years. This report explores the possible implementation of universally accessible taxi-based transportation initiatives to augment traditional public transit services and expand mobility options for Delawareans at the most efficient cost. The original proposal for this project suggested the exploration of a possible expansion of accessible taxi-based transportation initiatives to augment traditional public transit services and expand mobility options for Delawareans at the most efficient cost during FY The first step in the proposed study methodology was to establish the current state of accessible taxi services in Delaware. Upon determining that none of the vehicles comprising Delaware s current taxi fleet are truly wheelchair accessible, the concept of expansion was replaced with that of creation, and the identification of an appropriate accessible taxi vehicle became a significant issue. This report examines contemporary initiatives in other jurisdictions and discusses the conditions that would be required to make taxi service an important component to enhancing mobility in Delaware. Given the complete absence of currently accessible taxi service within the state, the challenges are significant. The conclusion of this report has, quite frankly, been a long time in coming. On multiple occasions, dating back to the spring of 2009 when an optimistic multimedia presentation was prepared for the annual Delaware Center for Transportation (DCT) Research Showcase, it appeared that a solution to the vehicular piece of the puzzle might have been found. One after another, however, vehicles offering the promise of universal accessibility were withdrawn from the U.S. market or encountered production delays. Finally, a taxi vehicle embodying the principles of Universal Design at a competitive price is now available, and the prospect for its continued presence in the market looks good. The combined factors of the current availability of a domestically produced, purposebuilt accessible taxicab vehicle and the extremely small size of Delaware s statewide taxi fleet provide for some very promising policy options. The opportunity exists for the First State to truly become #1 in universally accessible transportation alternatives. 3 Accessible Taxi Services in Delaware The research proposal that led to the preparation of this report posited the following: Delaware s demographic trends, particularly the projected rise in its aging and Baby Boomer population, will impact the need to offer more mobility options and accessible transportation for residents. A Senior Citizen Affordable Taxi (SCAT) service, which offers a reduced fare to eligible seniors and disabled persons, is available on a limited basis. A possible expansion (emphasis added) of accessible taxi-based transportation initiatives to augment traditional public transit services and expand mobility options for Delawareans at the most efficient cost needs to be explored. The presumed first step along this path would be to establish the current state of accessible taxi services in Delaware. As noted above, a reduced-fare Senior Citizen Affordable Taxi (SCAT) service currently does exist in Delaware. This program, which has been in place for many years, is regulated and funded by DART First State. Upon certification of eligibility, Delaware s statewide SCAT program provides a 50% discount on taxi fares for senior citizens and persons with disabilities. To be eligible for the program, persons must be 65 years of age or older or have physical or mental disabilities that prevent them from operating a motor vehicle. Upon approval, a DART SCAT Photo ID card is issued to a certified applicant. DART SCAT Photo IDs can be obtained at DART s administrative offices at 900 Public Safety Boulevard in Dover or at 119 Lower Beech Street, Suite 100, in Wilmington. The application process is intended to be as barrier-free as possible. Persons who are unable to get to one of those two locations are asked to contact the DART office by phone so that individual arrangements can be made. 1 Persons who already are registered as DART paratransit customers do not need to fill out an additional application for SCAT. SCAT tickets that are valued at $10.00 each can be purchased for $5.00. The tickets are used to pay metered taxi fares. SCAT tickets may be purchased through the mail, at the two DART administrative sites where the SCAT Photo ID cards are issued, and at as many as 50 additional locations throughout the state, including many senior centers, banks, and grocery stores. 2 Once tickets have been purchased, customers are directed to contact the nearest participating taxi company to schedule their trip, informing the company that they will be using SCAT tickets. A link to the current list of participating taxi companies is maintained on the DART webpage. Customers are reminded that while DART-issued SCAT tickets may be used as payment, taxi fares are set by the individual privately owned taxi companies. DART/Delaware Transit Corporation does not guarantee the wheelchair accessibility of any taxis. Individuals who use wheelchairs are advised to inquire of the taxi company with which they are requesting service to determine the availability of wheelchair-accessible transportation. 3 A reasonable next step was taken toward the goal of expanding accessible taxi-based transportation service in Delaware by contacting all of the firms listed as then-current participants in the SCAT program by telephone. Responses varied but, for the most part, the providers taxi vehicles were initially described as being able to transport a wheelchair. Only upon more detailed questioning did it become clear that those answers meant that folding wheelchairs would be collapsed and placed in the vehicle, typically in the trunk. To ride in a taxicab, a customer would have to be able to transfer to and from the regular vehicle seat. This was true for all of the vehicles that were being operated by every participating SCAT taxi service provider. In the interest of completeness, and because it had been learned that DART s list of participating SCAT providers changed from time to time, the same question about being able to transport a wheelchair was posed by phone to the balance of the taxi firms that were licensed by DelDOT to provide taxi service in Delaware during the fall of After a significant number of call-backs to some of the smaller firms, it was conclusively determined that persons in wheelchairs were out of luck if they desired transportation by a taxi anywhere in the state of Delaware, no matter whether the method of payment was by subsidized SCAT ticket or cash for the full fare. With this information, the goal of this project morphed into something more consistent with one of the short-term strategies that had appeared among the action plan items recommended in the 2007 Institute for Public Administration (IPA) report, Framing the Issues of Paratransit Services in Delaware, specifically, to explore possible ways to activate an accessible taxi service in the state of Delaware. 3 5 The Research Background As was noted in the introduction to the 2007 IPA report, Framing the Issues of Paratransit Services in Delaware, A fully accessible transit system that connects individuals to jobs, goods, educational institutions, services, and social opportunities is critical to the quality of life of the disabled population and economic development of Delaware. 4 The purpose of that research project was to examine the scope and character of Delaware s statewide paratransit service in relation to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates, identify trends and policies impacting service demands, and recommend options to address operational challenges. It was, essentially, an exploration of what the right size of Delaware s paratransit system might be. Interest in exploring alternatives to the status quo has been spurred by the fact that, in recent years, ridership and costs associated with DART First State s paratransit service have increased considerably. At the same time, it has been established that there is a direct correlation between aging and disability. Sensory problems, physical capabilities, mental issues, lack of self-care, and difficulties leaving the home were the five categories of disabilities measured in the 2000 Census. Among these categories, physical disabilities were the most prevalent among people aged 65 and older. The percentage of the population who reported each type of disability increased with age. The 2007 report was not IPA s first examination of the nature of state-provided paratransit services in Delaware. As noted in the 2003 DCT report DART First State Delaware Paratransit Services Study: A Review of Service Characteristics, Policy Implications and Options, even though more variables than the presence of a go-outsidethe-home disability are involved in the certification of an individual as eligible for ADA paratransit services, trends within this population demographic serve as a reasonable proxy for the growth that can be anticipated in DART First State s potential paratransit customer base. The report included the following figure illustrating projections of the population of Delawareans over the age of 16 with a go-outside-the-home disability, by county, through Source: DART First State Delaware Paratransit Services Study: A Review of Service Characteristics, Policy Implications and Options The projected future growth of Delaware s senior population, and the corresponding increase in the population of persons with go-outside-the-home disabilities, will further stress the ability of DART First State to provide quality and cost-effective paratransit services in the future. Additional challenges to Delaware s paratransit system have resulted from the unique geographic service area and the vehicle- and labor-intensive nature of services. Since current DART First State paratransit service characteristics exceed the ADA mandates and create a relatively unique category of non-ada paratransit, it is important to briefly review the policy environment. 7 DART s Paratransit Service Policy As noted in IPA s 2007 report, Framing the Issues of Paratransit Services in Delaware, DART First State classifies and tracks the usage of two distinct categories of paratransit services, defined based on what is mandated by the ADA. The following summaries are drawn from that report. ADA Paratransit Paratransit services that are provided to accommodate passengers with disabilities who are unable to use fixed-route service, and meet specific eligibility requirements, are called complementary paratransit services under the terms of ADA. DART refers to its complementary paratransit service, which is required by law, as ADA Paratransit. DART First State classifies ADA Paratransit trips as those for which both the client pickup and destination are within the ¾-mile proximity buffer associated with fixed-route bus service and that operate during the regular service days and hours of the fixedroute system. The U.S. Department of Transportation has clarified that complementary paratransit service for ADA paratransit eligible persons shall be origin-to-destination service. The Federal Transit Administration website explains that, this term was deliberately chosen to avoid using either the term curb-to-curb service or the term door-to-door service and to emphasize the obligation of transit providers to ensure that eligible passengers are actually able to use paratransit service to get from their point of origin to their point of destination. 6 In practice, origin-to-destination service is provided by DART as door-to-door service in all cases, without screening for individual need through the paratransit eligibility determination process. Door-to-door service is more costly, as it requires a higher level of driver training, greater customer service, and increased response time. Non-ADA Paratransit DART First State categorizes Non-ADA Paratransit as those trips that are not required by law and, therefore, are not subject to the restrictions imposed on complementary paratransit services. DART First State Non-ADA Paratransit services exceed what is required under the law as follows: It operates without regard to the customers proximity to fixed-route bus service. This practice far exceeds the ADA mandate to address the transportation needs of disabled persons who are located within the ¾-mile buffer of existing fixed-route bus service. It provides extended service outside of the regular fixed-route service schedule (service areas, hours, and/or days). The typical DART First State paratransit customer is unaware of the differences between the two categories of paratransit services. Since DART First State 6 8 distinguishes between the two categories of services for administrative purposes only, many paratransit customers are oblivious as to the extent to which trips are scheduled beyond what is required legally. The distribution of origin and destination points for a typical month, as classified by the ADA-required or non-ada nature of the specific trip, was illu
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