On July 11, 2018, the Accessible Dispatch team hosted a Focus Group to gain honest insight and opinions from 25 disability rights advocates and users of our service. The feedback was vital as we continue evolving the Accessible Dispatch program to better serve New York City residents and visitors with disabilities. The Focus Group commenced with a presentation highlighting key features of the program along with our future goals, including improved technology and faster service in the outer boroughs. We spent most of the meeting in an open discussion with questions and feedback from everyone who attended.
Below are the top 10 questions that were asked by advocates and passengers. We are sharing the dialogue here to allow everyone interested to see what we discussed and where the program is going. We would like to thank everyone who participated in our Focus Group and look forward to improving the Accessible Dispatch program with your feedback. If you were unable to attend the session and would like to share your comments and feedback at any time now or in the future, you can quickly give us your feedback online or call us at 646-599-9999.
Does the Accessible Dispatch program have a passenger’s Bill of Rights?
The TLC has a passenger Bill of Rights for all trips, available online and posted in all vehicles. All of these rights apply to Accessible Dispatch trips, including the right to not be refused service based on a disability or service animal, the right to not pay additional fees for loading, and the right to safe drivers and vehicles. The TLC and MTM, the operator of the Accessible Dispatch program, continue to work together to highlight these rights in Accessible Dispatch materials for both passengers and drivers.
What is the best way for a passenger to report any vehicle issues? What happens to such a complaint?
Filing a 311 complaint is the best way to ensure a complete record of driver and vehicle issues and ensure that the appropriate follow-up takes place. The TLC follows up on every complaint received via 311, so your feedback will not go unnoticed. If you file a complaint, you should expect a return call from a TLC staff member who will ask for the details of the issue and collect information required for follow-up, such as the date/time of the trip, vehicle medallion number, and driver license number. The complaints process is detailed on the TLC website. If you prefer, or if you have concerns with the 311 process, you can also leave feedback for MTM directly online. MTM documents all complaints and shares them with the TLC.
Is the New York Police Department trained on the Accessible Dispatch program, including the fact that passengers do not pay the Dispatch Fee? What happens if a driver calls the NYPD if he thinks the passenger must pay the Dispatch Fee?
Accessible Dispatch passengers pay the metered fare only and are never responsible for paying the Dispatch Fee. MTM trains drivers not to collect the Dispatch Fee, but there have been rare cases of driver confusion over the Dispatch Fee. TLC drivers are trained to contact NYPD regarding fare disputes to avoid conflict with the passenger. The TLC’s Enforcement team regularly communicates with the NYPD and has conveyed this concern to the NYPD. However, we cannot guarantee that every NYPD officer receives detailed training on the TLC’s accessibility programs. If you find yourself overcharged while taking an Accessible Dispatch trip, please call the passenger line at 646-599-9999 and explain the situation to the dispatcher. The dispatchers are trained on how to handle such situations and can assist you and the driver. MTM cannot guarantee but does make every attempt to recoup any overcharged funds and return them to the passenger.
What information do drivers and passengers receive during their trip?
Passengers receive a text update when their car is dispatched, and a phone call when their vehicle has arrived. Passengers who book via the app are able to track their cab using the app.
Drivers receive a notification on the tablet in their vehicle. They are given the pick-up address, passenger’s name, and a masked phone number in order for them to contact the passenger. Drivers can also call the dispatcher for in-trip questions. In addition, drivers are aware of the incentive (Dispatch Fee) they will receive from the TLC for driving to pick-up the passenger requesting an Accessible Dispatch trip.
How many vehicles are part of the Accessible Dispatch Program and how long does it take for a vehicle to arrive?
There are approximately 1,400 vehicles (including the Nissan NV200 and Ford Transit Connect) that can accommodate one passenger in a wheelchair and one passenger riding in the front, and an additional 1,000 vehicles (including the Toyota Sienna and Dodge Caravan) that can accommodate one passenger in a wheelchair and up to four additional passengers riding in the back and front seats. Dispatch time for these vehicles is usually dependent on the time of day, location, and current demand.
Can you provide preliminary stats on requests and how long a passenger waits for a ride?
Here are summary stats since Accessible Dispatch began citywide service on September 20, 2017, through August 7, 2018:
- Bronx: Median wait time of 32 minutes; 1,025 completed trips
- Brooklyn: Median wait time of 13 minutes; 1,880 completed trips
- Manhattan: Median wait time of 12 minutes; 54,002 completed trips
- Queens: Median wait time of 26 minutes; 915 completed trips
- Staten Island: Median wait time of 45 minutes; 36 completed trips
What kind of training does MTM provide for drivers?
MTM provides a weekly WAV refresher at our Brooklyn location, which is offered to all TLC drivers. The goal of these refreshers is to remind the drivers of the level of sensitivity needed to help people with disabilities. We also offer assistance in operating their vehicle ramp and securement straps, along with providing imperative program details. We have incorporated participation from our staff, some of whom are people with disabilities, to provide an in-depth training experience for the driver.
Does the Accessible Dispatch Program educate drivers on the differences between Access-A-Ride and the Accessible Dispatch Program, including the difference in fare payments?
The TLC is working closely with both the MTA and the vendors involved in the Access-A-Ride taxi program (Curb and CMT) to ensure drivers have the resources they need to understand these different trip types and their requirements. The TLC shares resources through our driver education providers and we work closely with our Prosecution and Consumer Complaints departments to address any complaints that come in on Access-A-Ride or Accessible Dispatch trips, including fare issues. MTM is also familiar with Access-A-Ride and regularly speaks to drivers and passengers about the distinctions between the programs, including terms of fare payment.
Do you tell passengers about driver incentives such as deadhead payments and the $1 incentive per trip in a WAV (the Taxi Improvement Fund)?
Our passenger-facing materials focus, among other important program features, on the fact that passengers are only required to pay the metered fare. Driver-facing materials focus on the amounts available in Dispatch Fee payments, and other incentive programs including the Taxi Improvement Fund for drivers (the $1/trip WAV incentive), and reiterate that passengers pay the metered fare only. We believe it is the passenger’s responsibility to pay the metered fare and the driver’s responsibility to know how the program works. However, we are happy to share driver-facing materials with interested passengers and advocates so that they see what the driver sees and help educate the driver population if they are interested in doing so. Click here to view some of these resources, including brochures we have developed for drivers that feature tips for successful WAV trips in the Nissan NV200, Toyota Sienna, and Dodge Caravan.
What can a passenger do if a driver is resistant to picking up wheelchair users during street hails?
While MTM cannot address issues on street hail trips, we hope that through our passenger awareness and sensitivity training, drivers will better serve people with disabilities. Passengers should continue to file service refusal complaints with 311, which is the best way to track this issue and ensure that the TLC can prosecute service refusal complaints. Service refusals are never acceptable, but we believe that driver culture is changing and accessible service will only get better.