IATR Accessibility Committee: Model Regulations for Accessible Taxicabs and For-Hire Vehicles

Notice of Public Hearing and Opportunity to Comment on Proposed Regulations

What are we proposing? The IATR Accessibility Committee is proposing Model Regulations for Accessible Taxicabs and For-Hire Vehicles. A copy of the Model Regulations can be found below.

The proposed Definitions and Model Regulations set forth below attempt to address the fact that while many jurisdictions address accessibility to some degree within their local Taxicab and For-Hire Vehicle regulations, there exists no all-encompassing accessibility regulatory framework that addresses each and every issue that is critical to ensure that people with disabilities are afforded equal enjoyment to fully take advantage of public transportation in this arena.

When and where is the Hearing? The Committee will hold an interactive international forum and public hearing on the proposed model regulations. The public hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. The hearing will be held at the IATR 27th Annual Conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel located at 601 Loyola Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70113.

How do I comment on the proposed rules? Anyone may comment on the proposed model regulations by:
  • Mail: You may mail written comments to: International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR) C/O Sarah Huque P.O. Box 20709 New York, New York 10023
  • Email: You may submit your comments in writing via email to: jmischel@iatr.org
  • By Speaking at the Hearing: Anyone who wants to comment on the proposed model regulations at the public hearing must sign-up to speak. You may sign-up or pre-register to speak before the hearing at the IATR Conference by emailing jmischel@iatr.org on or before September 19, 2014. You may also sign-up in the hearing room before the hearing begins on September 23, 2014. You may speak up to three (3) minutes.

Is there a deadline to submit written comments? Yes, you must submit written comments by September 19, 2014 in order to be considered at the September 23, 2014 hearing. After the hearing you may submit additional written comments on or before December 22, 2014.

What if I require an accommodation for my disability in order to attend the conference? If you require an accommodation for your disability, please contact Jason R. Mischel at the above email address, or Sarah Huque at shuque@iatr.org on or before September 16, 2014. You can also send requests via the above referenced IATR U.S. Mail address. All requests for accommodation must be received on or before September 16, 2014.

Source: http://www.iatr.org/

IATR Model Regulations for Accessible Ground Transportation
By Professor Matthew W. Daus, Esq.

President, International Association of Transportation Regulators
Distinguished Lecturer, University Transportation Research Center (City University of New York/City College)


I am pleased to report that the International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR) will be undertaking a very important and extensive project in the New Year that will involve wheelchair accessible service in the ground transportation arena.  This is a landscape-changing project that will be somewhat similar to, but even more expansive than, our work in the smartphone application regulatory arena.

The IATR board of directors has voted unanimously to commission a project to develop model regulations for accessible transportation.   It is anticipated that this project will achieve the same groundbreaking success as the recent two year initiative involving the IATR's creation of model regulations to address smartphone technology advancements and disruption.  The smartphone regulations have proven to be a true and valued membership service for the IATR's members, many of whom either participated in the IATR's App Committee to develop the rules, or who have already implemented them in whole or part.  As a result of this success, we are now currently undertaking a similar exercise for model specifications for partitions and in-vehicle safety cameras.

The initial stages of this project will involve the formation of a committee and working group to solicit ideas, draft regulations and research policy approaches taken in key jurisdictions in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe and beyond.  While participation on the IATR Accessibility Committee will be limited to regulators, there will be significant opportunities and formats for stakeholders, such as automobile manufacturers and retrofitters, accessibility advocates, tourism officials and others, to participate.  We plan to hold an international public hearing in September at the IATR's Annual Conference in 
New Orleans
,scheduled for September 21-24, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency, for interested stakeholders and regulators from around the globe to provide comment and feedback on the proposed regulations.  Updated surveys and data collection will be coordinated and will form the factual basis for many of the findings.

There have been many recent developments in the United States and beyond that have cast a spotlight on the accessibility issues that have been growing in importance for decades.  Many of the issues have centered on challenging the United States Department of Transportation's rules and regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the parameters of the so-called "taxicab exemption".  For example, in New York some of these issues have been, or are currently being, played out in the courts and on the legislative stage, including:  the 20% requirement of livery street hail permits to be accessible; the requirement of the submission of a long term disability plan to the state in order for the city to complete accessible medallion and livery street hail permit sales; the effectiveness of tax incentives for taxi owners who purchase an accessible, or retrofit an inaccessible, taxi; whether an Accessible Dispatch program provides equivalent service to wheelchair users who do not have access to a fully accessible taxi fleet; and if the so-called "Taxi of Tomorrow" must be accessible or not due to the fact that its design resembles a minivan.

There have been accessibility developments elsewhere, both domestically and internationally.  In Washington, DC, after introducing its first wheelchair accessible taxi service in 2011 under its "rollDC" pilot program, it was announced earlier this year that the program would continue with an increase in funding to provide more accessible taxis and service; in Ontario, Canada, the passage of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires municipalities to determine the proportion of accessible taxis needed in their communities; in Australia, the State Government of Victoria has commissioned its Taxi Services Commission to undertake major reforms for its taxi and for-hire car industry, including plans to introduce more accessible vehicles, driver training and a dispatch system; and in London, UK, where all of its taxis are accessible, Transport for London created an "Accessibility App" competition for smartphone apps that will soon be decided and will provide a critical resource with a host of accessibility needs for disabled passengers.

One of the primary issues that regulators have been dealing with, aside from the quantity of vehicles that are and should be wheelchair accessible, is the very meaning of the term "accessible" itself as it pertains to vehicle design, dimensions and specifications.  Further, other concerns facing passengers, industry owners, drivers and regulators alike include safety and standards associated with retrofitting vehicles to include wheelchair ramps, as well as the higher operational and insurance costs associated therewith.  As a result, a number of compelling questions have arisen from these and other issues surrounding this topic.  For example, how far should regulations go in terms of dictating requirements from a licensing point of view, as opposed to simply relying on, or seeking to change, federal anti-discrimination laws (e.g. the Americans with Disabilities Act) or laws relating to the safety and manufacturing standards imposed on manufacturers directly (e.g., the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration's regulations)?  Should other agencies with equipment, vehicle and engineering expertise be relied upon, or should ground transportation licensing agencies take matters into their own hands?  And should cities like New York and Chicago be in the business of using government-run or contracted central dispatch systems to deploy a limited or proportional number of accessible taxis and for-hire vehicles, or should we alternatively be taking a path towards 100% accessibility of all vehicles?  These are just some of the many challenges we will seek to find solutions to.

This project will analyze regulatory best practices worldwide, and will include not just the type of preferred or legally compliant vehicles, but also the broader role of other related transportation modes and how mass transit and private paratransit companies can integrate and work more closely with taxicab, sedan and limousine services.  The emergence of brokerage models by human resource agencies in the paratransit world, as well as mass transit agencies deploying and utilizing sedans and taxicabs as a cheaper, more efficient and environmentally conscious substitute for multi-passenger vans dispatched along irregular routes, is one such future approach that will be considered and discussed.

There is no doubt that there will be widely disparate viewpoints that will be expressed.  There were many who said that the development and drafting of model definitions for the terms "limousine" and "taxicab" were too difficult and controversial of a topic to touch; yet, last year, the IATR issued well regarded and almost universally applauded model regulations for smartphone applications that did just that, and are currently being relied upon extensively by our members so they do not need to recreate the regulatory wheel.  Our goal this year is to do the same for accessibility, an issue that seems to never go away and keeps being raised year after year, with no viable long-term solution or plan in sight that would satisfy all stakeholders.  We need to take control of the issue, put our hands on the regulatory wheel and place ourselves in the driver's seat as regulators, and not simply be back seat passengers watching the scenery unfold while issues are being framed or developed by others.  It is part of the core mission of our members' agencies to serve passengers and ensure equal, safe and efficient access to transportation for all, a mission that is shared at IATR.  We look forward to an inclusive, informative, deliberative and thorough process of identifying and supporting best practices and the development of model regulations for accessible transportation.  If you are interested in participating in this process, please contact me directly at 
mwdaus@iatr.org or mdaus@windelsmarx.com

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