Our region needs more wheelchair accessible taxis

Taxi signage with wheelchair symbol

September 13, 2019


Dear Mayor Durkan, 


Currently there are only fifty wheelchair accessible taxis (WAT) to serve our 2.2 million residents of King County. 


WATs are an essential piece of our transportation network, but customers often have to wait more than an hour because of the lack of vehicles. People who do not use wheelchairs have substantially faster access to on-demand transportation. Yet this problem is easily remedied with more WATs. 


Currently, there is a ten-cent Wheelchair Accessible Services (WAS) fee on all Transportation Network Company (TNC) rides used to subsidize WATs. This was created to support Wheelchair Accessible Taxicabs because Uber and Lyft do not provide wheelchair accessible transportation in King County. 


With the explosion of unlimited TNC vehicles, coupled with the extremely controlled supply of WATs, this fund has grown. We strongly believe the WAS fund should be used to increase the number of WATs on the road, to ensure there are sufficient vehicles during times of peak demand, and to increase service in non-peak times from 7pm-5am, when few WAT drivers are on the road. 


Last winter, a Request for Proposal (RFP) was released for 25 new WAT medallions – each complete with a hearing loop for hard of hearing customers – but those medallions have been delayed for five months. It is imperative to get those additional WATs on the road, and then to immediately begin the process for an additional 25. We recommend adding at least 25 new WAT medallions each year to ensure wheelchair users have access to essential transportation services.  


We look forward to your prompt action on this issue. 




Disability Rights Washington/Rooted in Rights

Hearing Loss Association America – Washington State


Seattle Adaptive Sports

Studio Pacifica

The Arc of King County

The Here and Now Project

Transit Riders Union

Washington ADAPT West

Washington Civil & Disability Advocate



Anna Zivarts is the program director of Rooted in Rights and a low-vision mom who can't drive. She joined the Rooted in Rights team from Time of Day Media, a digital media cooperative she co-founded in 2010. At Time of Day, Anna produced digital video for the Innocence Project and Fight for 15, and lead searches for the ACLU in Kansas and Wisconsin to find citizens disenfranchised by voter ID laws. Twitter: @AnnaZivarts

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