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
The Arc of King County
The Here and Now Project
Transit Riders Union
Washington ADAPT West
Washington Civil & Disability Advocate