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Half Of City's Taxi Fleet To Be Wheelchair Accessible Under Settlement

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Advocates for greater handicapped access to taxis have scored a major victory after a new settlement proposes that half of all medallion taxi cabs in the city will be wheelchair accessible by the year 2020. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.

Edith Prentiss says it's unfair.

"We want transportation," she said. "We're tired of this."

Many New Yorkers complain that it's hard to find a cab, especially when it rains. For the disabled, it's all but impossible every day.

Fed up, advocates sued the city in 2011. Losing once, there's now an agreement: pending court approval, half of all yellow cabs will be accessible by 2020.

"The New York City taxi system is the best in the world, but this has, for decades, been a flaw," says New York City Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky.

A flaw defended by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who once suggested that it starts to get dangerous for those in wheelchairs to hail cabs.

"The advocates for the handicapped have always wanted 100 percent," Bloomberg said. "This is a deal that's good for everybody."

It's also a deal to be inherited by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who says he's reviewing it, but is committed to more accessibility.

He's received millions from the taxi industry. Their trade group says that it also supports increased accessibility, but criticizes a lack of details in the deal, noting that costs may be passed on to customers.

It currently costs about $14,000 a vehicle to retrofit a taxicab for wheelchair use. As for who's going to pay for it, that has to be hashed out between the taxi industry and the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Advocates say that a recent medallion auction showed that there is money.

"Wheelchair-accessible medallions went for about $1.3 million," said Paul Tobin of the United Spinal Association.

Increasing accessibility may ultimately save taxpayers. Bloomberg said that taxis could replace Access-a-Ride trips.

Just 20 percent of the green taxis are accessible, but those can be called as well as hailed.

While hailing the agreement, Bloomberg does leave some unresolved taxi matters. The new "Taxi of Tomorrow" is so far blocked in court, subject of another legal battle.

If this agreement holds, accessibility will phase in over the next seven years as old taxis are exchanged for new ones.

Prentiss says it can't come soon enough.

"We need to have the same options and alternatives as every other individual," she says.

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