Updated 01/10/2012 02:42 PM
Officials Unveil New Wheelchair-Accessible Cab
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The first vehicle designed from the ground-up to be wheelchair accessible and was recently approved for use as a taxi was unveiled Tuesday in Midtown.
Known as the MV-1, the five-passenger vehicle is being tested by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for use in its Access-A-Ride program.
It has also been approved for use by the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission.
The car's maker, Vehicle Production Group LLC, says it comes outfitted with a deployable ramp and can fit wheelchairs and motorized scooters.
Advocates for the disabled say the new taxi will make it easier for disabled individuals to get around more easily.
"Come to New York. We'll have no more embarrassing incidents like when the mayor of Vancouver arrived to be picked up and put in the back of a police van because he used a wheelchair," said Edith Prentiss of the Taxis For All Campaign.
"If you're in a wheelchair right now you do not have effective access to the New York City taxi industry. That is a shame. It is not right and we are determined to fix that," said TLC Commissioner David Yassky.
The MV-1 unveiling comes as the city deals with a judge's order to provide "meaningful access" to the disabled.
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently agreed to allow the city to issue 2,000 more taxi medallions as long as they all go to wheelchair accessible cabs. Eighteen thousand hail permits will also be issued to livery drivers to pick up street hails in Upper Manhattan and the other four boroughs.
Twenty percent of those permits also have to go to accessible taxis.
Meantime, the city is working to modify the Nissan NV200. When it was unveiled last May as the "Taxi of Tomorrow" critics complained it was not wheelchair accessible.
Currently, fewer than two percent of the city's 13,000 cabs are accessible.
Advocates say in addition to expanding access, having the new taxis on the streets will save taxpayers money.
"Less people will call Access-A-Ride, very expensive subsidized program. Over $500 million this year MTA is spending on Access-A-Ride. Less people will call because it's an advanced reservation system and doesn't allow spontaneous travel. Taxis allow spontaneous travel," said Jim Weisman of the United Spinal Association.
Officials say the MV-1 costs around $37,500, but floated incentives could bring it down to around $15,000 for cab drivers and companies interested in buying one.
The MTA says the MV-1 pilot should have 30 vehicles in service by mid-February.