By Whitney E. Gray
To meet the transportation needs of all residents, communities must consider a variety of options and taxis can be an important part of that mix. Taxis can not only provide support as part of paratransit services but also increase services to all community residents regardless of ability. Many cities and towns across the country are looking to expand their taxi services for these reasons but may need help with acquiring accessible vehicles. With perseverance, community partnerships, and technical assistance from Easter Seals Project ACTION, Journey Transportation of Greenville, North Carolina purchased its first accessible taxi this summer―and their story is an example for other areas of how to work with taxi providers and the city to accomplish this goal.
In March 2005, a team of people from Greenville, N.C. traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in ESPA’s Mobility Planning Institute (See Retrospective from the event). Mr. Bob Thompson, Advocacy Coordinator for Disability Advocates and Resource Center and chairman of the Pitt Area Transit System, was part of the group as was Rhonda Phillips the manager of Pitt Area Transit System (PATS), Nancy Harrington, the manager of Greenville Area Transit System (GREAT) City of Greenville, and Mickey Boykin, another advocate. At MPS Institute, advocates and service providers from Greenville worked together to see what their community’s needs were and how they could work to meet those needs.
Bob Thompson, Advocacy Coordinator for
Disability Advocates and Resource Center and
chairman of the Pitt Area Transit System, and
Monica Hunter, owner and manager of Journey
Transportation Services (2013)
Taxis and ADA compliance remained an issue for Greenville, N.C., however. In 2009, a man who used a wheelchair called Mr. Thompson to report that he had been charged $150 to take a taxi to work roundtrip on a Sunday. He could have easily rolled to work if the street had a sidewalk, but it didn’t. At different points, Mr. Thompson himself had been charged around $25 for a 3-mile trip. These high prices most likely included extra charges that are not allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
With great determination, Mr. Thompson started working to get an ordinance passed for ADA compliance. Bill Little, the city attorney, provided him with legal assistance and Ken Thompson, veterans transportation community living initiative and technical assistance coordinator at ESPA, helped by providing technical assistance. In 2010, the ordinance was successfully passed, and the local police department now inspects taxis and looks for compliance issues. Going one step further, the city of Greenville hosted a mandatory meeting on March 26, 2013 and required transportation providers to attend or else forfeit their licenses. At the meeting, ESPA technical assistance specialists Kristi McLaughlin and Krystian Boreyko presented on ADA and taxi service via webinar. ESPA also provided packets on ADA and taxi service, helping to clearly explain how taxi drivers should interact with customers with disabilities.
Mr. Thompson enters Journey
Transportation’s accessible taxi (2013)
In 2013, the city started working to apply for a grant to get accessible taxis. Not wanting to wait to obtain the grant, Journey Transportation went ahead and purchased an accessible van. On July 21, 2013, the day of Greenville’s ADA celebration during “Sunday in the Park,” Mr. Thompson took the first ride in the new vehicle. Acquisition of the accessible taxi was monumental for the city and its residents with disabilities.
Now those who use larger wheelchairs and other mobility devices from which the user is not able to transfer to the seat of a vehicle can get wherever they need to go in Greenville at any time of day. Thanks to an ADA advocate’s perseverance, the city’s efforts to work with providers, and a private company’s initiative to purchase a vehicle, the community of Greenville has become more inclusive for all. Partnerships and a willingness to work together were key to the success of improving taxi service in Greenville. The city and Journey Transportation are working to attain more accessible vehicles in an effort to make transportation in Greenville inclusive for all.