The city’s plan for more wheelchair-accessible car service took a step forward Friday, when a group dropped its legal fight against it.
Arguing that the Taxi and Limousine Commission was overstepping its authority in setting accessibility requirements—and that their businesses would be devastated—black-car and livery operators had sought an injunction to block the rules.
On Wednesday U.S. district court Judge John Koeltl denied the motion, writing that it did not meet the two requirements for a preliminary injunction: the likelihood that the plaintiffs would eventually prevail in court and that they would be irreparably harmed in the meantime.
On Friday the group, which included the Livery Round Table, the Black Car Assistance Corp. and Carmel Car & Limo, abandoned the case. “We are pleased that the suit’s withdrawal removes a barrier that would have potentially hampered us in continuing our work to improve transportation options for persons with disabilities,” a TLC spokesman said.
The fight was over a recent commission mandate that for-hire-vehicle operators, starting in July, dispatch some of their trips in wheelchair-accessible vehicles. The operators would have until June 30, 2019, to hit a 5% target and five years to reach 25% of rides.
The for-hire-vehicle operators had argued that the mandate would cost them $250 million to $300 million in just the first year and would ultimately put them out of business. Koeltl dismissed those claims, writing in his 33-page opinion that the commission’s rules “offer flexibility” to the drivers and their bases, letting them meet requests for accessible vehicles “by using the resources of other FHV bases.” In other words, they could send some of their ride requests to competitors if they didn’t have enough accessible cars themselves.
App-based operators Uber, Lyft and Via don’t like the mandate either. They have filed a separate suit, in state court, to annul it.
There are signs that both sets of for-hire-vehicle operators are preparing to work with the city. Uber, Lyft and Carmel have been approved in recent weeks by the Taxi and Limousine Commission to begin work on an alternative pilot program that would use a centralized dispatch system to provide accessible service.
“We are hopeful [FHV operators] understand that the mandate is not only what the law requires but is also the proper thing to do,” said Ruth Lowenkron, director of the disability justice program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, which filed an amicus brief supporting the city’s side of the case. “And maybe they even realize there is a strong business reason to reach out to the community of people who use wheelchairs and offer accessible vehicles.”
- New York car services (and Uber) will have to invest in wheelchair-accessible vehicles.