Concerns Related to Disabilities and Equal Access to Taxicab Services in Senate Bill 14-125
Disability Concerns re SB 125:
SB 125 allows the PUC to regulate what are called Transportation Network Companies but says that they are not typical transportation, not a taxi, not public transportation, etc. It is described in the bill as somewhat of matchmaker service where riders are matched with people who give rides using digital communication. One company has people giving other people rides in their own vehicles; another has vehicles provided for these purposes (black cars).
These companies that are involved are called “transportation network companies” or TNCs: These companies are sprouting up in cities across the country, some areas like Boston do not allow them, Houston started recently and they are used in several places in California where they were started. The main companies in the business are Lyft and Uber.
This bill defines TNC and states that a TNC is not a taxi. The bill provides for very basic and minimal regulation through the PUC, The bill would have PUC regulate and would impose some basic requirements around safety, and the bill does not impose service requirements.
- If they are not a public utility why would PUC regulate them?
- If they are a public utility they must be required to serve everyone.
- If a new class of providers are allowed to come in and “give people rides” using technology will this skim the more profitable patrons from the taxi industry? If this happens what is the effect on accessible taxi service?
- The network companies increase exclusivity by only allowing reservations via a smart phone, payment by credit card, and allowing each driver who is neither an employee nor a contractor to decide who they want to serve. As long as they are just a network and not a provider they could potentially refuse to serve people with animals, refuse to serve certain zip codes, etc.
- California law is close to what Colorado is proposing by having the PUC do light regulation. The result has been reduced availability of accessible cabs because drivers leave cab driving for more lucrative TNC driving.. The para-transit advisory committee in SF has asked the legislature to increase regulation on these companies.
- San Francisco is where these companies originated and where there is the most experience with these companies.
- SF currently has a little more than 5% of the taxi fleet accessible. Colorado does not require a specific percentage of cabs to be accessible. We do not know the # of accessible cabs compared to all cabs.
- The Denver metro area has four companies that operate cabs.
· Two of them have wheelchair accessible cabs: Yellow and Metro.
· Freedom and Union DO NOT have accessible cabs.
· The failure of these two companies to serve the disability community strains the entire system.
· Even though Yellow and Metro have invested and purchased a decent number of accessible vehicles complaints about excessive wait times (4 or more hours), no shows causing people to be stranded overnight, and other problems continue to plague the disability community.
· Problems may be more pronounced when there is a third party payer such as Medicaid or Access A Ride but we do not have data on this point.
1) Any company that provides transportation, especially a public utility, should be required to serve all people and should play under the same rules.
2) All demand responsive transportation should have at least 10% of the fleet accessible and should not require people to wait more than twice as long for an accessible vehicle as they would for a regular vehicle. The city/state/PUC/companies should give incentives to drivers who take accessible vehicles including airport line jumping/access; reduced price medallions, or other incentives.
3) The TNCs need to be able to take reservations by phone and accept cash.
4) Any driver that serves the public should have basic training on disability etiquette and anti-discrimination laws (e.g. why you cannot refuse to transport a service dog).
In California the proliferation of TNCs without strong regulation requiring has led to a reduction of paratransit and accessible taxi service for people with disabilities, particularly those who have mobility impairments. Please see the two attachments related to California.