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Monday, August 11, 2014

Wheelchair Taxi Inequity in Chicago Ends at Mobility Direct; Riders Still Complaining About Paratransit

Getting around in Chicago, DC,  NY and most major cities is fairly easy for those who can ride public buses and trains or have a good paratransit service that accommodates riders who have wheelchairs and joint, muscle or spinal problems.

Not so in Chicago Paratransit Zone 3 for taxi subscription riders of Mobility Direct, an affordable wheelchair taxi subscription service for paratransit riders certified by Pace.

However, due to complaints and non-availability of enough drivers to service the subscription riders, Flash ended the service in late July 2014.  This is unfortunate for good drivers who services and rescued riders daily, but is esp. unfortunate for the subscription riders who live in Zone 3 of Pace and cannot ride the MV minibuses without pain, injury or total discomfort.  MV, which is the Zone 3 carrier, has vans with ramps that are more comfortable esp. for people with bone, joint, spinal issues, but Pace and FTA will not mandate as an ADA accommodation that MV provide the vans to such customers.

Instead, the vans are mainly sent to VA Hospital and minibuses with almost non-existing suspension are sent to paratransit riders no matter how painful to them. A few have stopped riding, thus staying in (so much for transit independence) or for health trips, if Medicaid approves them and they can find good carriers with w/c-accessible vehicles, are now riding free with Medicars,  or paying taxifare if they can:

 1. afford it and
 2. find a taxi driver willing to take their shorter trips or trips in evenings or weekends through Open
     Taxi WAV (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle) system.

Mobility Direct used to be tops-it was faster, and for only $3 to the rider for each subscription trip 10 miles and under, the ride used to be mostly in CNG vehicles, so no diesel or gasoline fumes and drivers took them to their destination directly without picking up other riders along the way.

However, an unverified report from a private source said that Uber has accessible cars now.  Uber is the nationwide and international  taxi company of which  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's brother is a major investor that is undercutting the regulated taxis (Yellow, Checker, Flash, Chicago Carriage, Globe, City Services, etc,) using part time drivers who use their own cars and give discounted fares. Interesting with one group of affiliates suing the city in federal court and refusing to participate in Open Taxi while Pace works to find subscription rides with its paratransit carriers for Mobility Direct customers.

Pace has the largest paratransit service in the nation,  which cleaned up its on-time performance and circuitous trips (out of the way routing) in 2012 after paratransit riders led by members of IMPRUVE, Independent Movement of Paratransit Riders for Unity, Vehicles. Equality, filed a federal complaint in the district court. Five years led to a settlement and in one of the original plaintiff's mind, Dr.  Ayo Maat, restoral by Pace of rider-focused professional service with a goal of on-time performance and customer satisfaction.

However, two years later, riders are complaining again of late trips, circuitous trips and sexual harassment, but sexual harassment is not true across the board (not true of all 4 carriers nor all drivers):  CDT, First Transit, MV and SCR.

The taxis are regulated by City of Chicago Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), but for Mobility Direct, it just did not happen as it should have.  BACP did not regulate Mobility Direct drivers to ensure they were picking up enough wheelchair riders

Another issue that is mainly kept under wrap is sexual harassment. Some  young women who have accused CDT drivers of sexual harassment (nothing serious enough to warrant police attention),  have not come forth to CDT management or Pace yet  for fear of retaliation.  IMPRUVE will work with AYLP, which will encourage the women to go to Pace first, then if no results, more action will be taken.

Meanwhile, IMPRUVE, NPPMA, and the Green Think Tank for the Disability Community continue to partner with others for transit justice as part of economic justice.  Periodic posts will be made at Green Paratransit for Jobs and Soular Cars, too.


  1. Now a day, most of the American people booked wheelchair transportation services instead of ambulance transportation, with this it reduces the financial burden from the federal government of America. Wheelchair transportation service is one of the affordable Non emergency medical transportation services. If you have an appointment with your doctor and you are unable to use your own transportation then you can book these services by reservation or by call. There are some organisations who arranged this service at very reasonable rate.