Wheelchair-friendly cabs moving out of single digits in Philly

 A man climbs into a cab at the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo, file)

A man climbs into a cab at the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo, file)

Philadelphia is finally expanding its tiny fleet of wheelchair-accessible taxicabs.

Right now there are just eight.  The Philadelphia Parking Authority, the agency that regulates cabs in the city plans to auction off 45 special taxi medallions starting in October, said PPA attorney Dennis Weldon.

“It’s just a huge thing for us because we’ve been working on it for so long but more the disabled community and the city of Philadelphia which can now in terms of tourism and business and everything else can promote itself as being much more accessible,” Weldon said.

Weldon said the medallions will be sold with a permanent obligation to be attached to wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

“So in perpetuity those medallions will have to be used on a wheelchair-accessible vehicle,” he said

Advocates for people with disabilities are excited, since there are 1,600 taxis in the city and so few are accessible now.

“We’ve been fighting on this issue for over 15 years so it’s about time,” said Nancy Salandra, director of independent living services at the nonprofit Liberty Resources.

Shawn Tucker, a North Philadelphia resident who has been using a wheelchair for 43 years, agreed.

“I think it’s great and long overdue!”

Greater mobility 

Liberty Resources’ Nancy Salandra said for people like Tucker who get around in a wheelchair, the new vehicles will mean easier mobility throughout the city.

“You couldn’t pick up one at the airport, the train station, you couldn’t go to a grocery store, lot of times people can’t go to funerals — cause they can’t get a ride. So now it’s going to help out tremendously,” she said.

PPA lawyer Dennis Weldon said traditional medalions sell for between $500,000 and $550,000.

“We anticipate that these medallions may sell for less because there are some obvious up-front costs associated with them and then continuing operational costs a little higher than a typical medallion taxicab,” he said. “But it is going to be determined by the market so it’s difficult to anticipate at this point.”

The Philadelphia Parking Authority expects new wheelchair-accessible taxis will be on streets by the end of the year.

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