City of Chicago Offers Financial Incentives to Increase Number of Wheelchair-Accessible Taxicabs in Chicago
New Incentive Programs Will Benefit Chicago’s Disability Community with Rideshare Industry Funds
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) today announced new city incentives to increase the number of wheelchair-accessible taxicab vehicles by the end of 2016. The city’s goal is to add an additional 100 of these taxicabs by the end of 2016, and move the city closer to quickly reaching the mandate of putting 400 wheelchair-accessible taxicabs on Chicago’s streets by 2018.
“The city of Chicago is committed to working with advocates, consumers, and aldermen to improve the accessibility of the public passenger vehicles throughout the city,” Mayor Emanuel said. “I encourage the taxi industry take advantage of these incentives to quickly add more wheelchair-accessible vehicles on the streets.”
The following seven incentives will be supported by the City’s Accessibility Fund, which is funded by fees paid by the taxi and transportation network provider (TNP), also known as rideshare, industries. Similar to the taxis, TNPs pay a fee into the fund for all trips taken by non-wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
These incentives will encourage taxicab owners to convert to WAVs early and incentivize drivers to use the city’s WAV taxicab fleet by covering their gas costs for one year.
- Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicle (WAV) medallion holders will no longer be charged a fee for dispatch service: Centralized WAV Taxicab Dispatch is now being fully supported by the Accessibility Fund. As a result, WAV medallion owners will no longer be charged a monthly fee dispatch service. Anyone needing a WAV taxicab in Chicago can call 1-855-WAV-1010 or request a WAV taxicab via the Open Taxis app. The fee currently adds up to $2,500 annually.
- Monetary incentive for WAV conversion: The city is offering medallion owners a $15,000 subsidy for the conversion costs of a WAV and a $20,000 subsidy toward the purchase of a factory-built WAV.
- Supporting mandated WAVs: The monetary incentives listed above are now available to the medallion owners that are required to place WAV taxicabs into service.
- “Early Bird” financial incentives: The city is offering a $10,000 “early bird” incentive for medallion owners that place WAV taxicabs into service by Dec. 1, 2016, ahead of the deadline in 2018 (for the owners required to put WAVs into service).
- Voucher incentive: The city is expanding the current reimbursement program for WAV taxicab conversion costs to include a voucher that would not require upfront payment for medallion owners who cannot secure the financing or fund the upfront costs.
- Vehicle maintenance incentive: To keep their vehicles on the road longer, WAV taxicab owners will be eligible for an up to $5,000 vehicle maintenance grant annually.
- Incentives for taxicab drivers who demonstrate accessible service commitment: The city will offer reimbursement credits or subsidies for taxicab drivers that lease WAV taxicabs. These credits will help offset fuel costs for WAVs, which are generally less fuel efficient.
“The Mayor’s plan to increase the number of WAVs is just one of the steps we have taken to support the transportation industry,” said BACP Commissioner Maria Lapacek. “It will also benefit the disability community that relies on these vehicles day in and day out to get around.”
There are currently 170 WAV taxicabs in the city of Chicago. Companies that own 20 or more medallions are currently required make 5 percent of their vehicles wheelchair-accessible. On January 1, 2018 the mandate will increase to cover companies that own 10 or more medallions, who will be required to make 10 percent of their vehicles wheelchair-accessible. This will put more than 200 additional WAVs on the road.
“We continue to make progress in our efforts to expand transportation options for people with disabilities who live or visit the city, said MOPD Commissioner Karen Tamley, “Accessible taxis are critical to the independence of our community.”
BACP oversees the licensing of Chicago’s public chauffeurs and public vehicles including TNPs, taxicabs, liveries, charter and site seeing buses, horse drawn carriages, ambulances, water taxis and tour boats. The department also oversees the purchasing of taxicab medallions, vehicle inspections and rates of fare. Learn more about BACP’s at www.cityofchicago.org/BACP.