Pilot program a rousing success, more licenses available for taxis serving disabled passengers
StoryThe Metropolitan King County Council today expanded the transportation options for people with disabilities in King County will its adoption of legislation allowing for an increase of wheelchair accessible taxi cab licenses.
“The pilot project with the city of Seattle clearly showed that there’s a big need for accessible transportation, so it’s good to see the county and the city continue this successful partnership and bring better service to people with disabilities in our community,” said Councilmember Jan Drago, prime sponsor of the legislation.
“I am pleased that King County and Seattle are working together to improve accessibility for those with limited transportation options,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, chair of the Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. “This expansion will make more rides available for the disabled and will shorten the waits for rides, which have been too long in the past. Accessible taxi service makes a huge difference to enable citizens to go more places in the county.”
“Increasing the number of wheelchair accessible taxis available will ensure wheelchair users have more options for traveling around King County,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee. “The pilot program for wheelchair accessible taxis was a success that showed a high level of demand for the service.”
Because of the need for accessible transportation, the wheelchair accessible taxis, or WATs, will have a special dual license to operate in both King County and the city of Seattle, and are not subject to the County’s cap of 561 general taxi licenses. While wheelchair accessible taxis can pick up customers that do not need wheelchairs, their first priority must be customers with a wheelchair or motorized mobility device. Initially, Seattle and King County plan to issue 45 WAT licenses.
For the past two years, the city of Seattle and King County conducted a pilot project for wheelchair accessible taxis, with dual city-county licenses issued for 16 specially-equipped vehicles—a number that proved to be too few to meet demand. By making the program permanent, the King County Council has also provided the Department of Executive Services the flexibility to issue enough WAT licenses to keep response times comparable to non-accessible taxicabs.