STILL LEFT BEHIND: Apps Continue To Fail New York’s Wheelchair Users Despite Raising Billions

May 16, 2019

Disability Justice, News

Despite raising billions of dollars in investments, for-hire-vehicle services Uber, Lyft, and Juno continue to violate federal, state, and local accessibility laws by failing individuals who use wheelchairs, according to “Still Left Behind”, a community report published today by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), a leading civil rights advocacy group for New Yorkers in need.

Update, 6:30 p.m: Please note, this report was updated at 6:25 p.m. on May 16, 2019. The original report contained information with respect to a fourth e-hail service, Via. Via has since provided us with updated information confirming that it provides wheelchair accessible service in New York City. We are currently evaluating this service.

Key findings in the report include:

  • The average estimated wait times for wheelchair accessible vehicles for Lyft and Uber were on average at least double, and sometimes up to five times longer than for inaccessible vehicles.
  • Juno fails to provide wheelchair users in New York City with any service whatsoever.
  • In dozens of ride requests, Lyft offered discounted prices for inaccessible vehicles, and did not offer those discounts to wheelchair users.
  • Lyft failed to comply with New York’s upcoming Taxi and Limousine Commission rule, which comes into effect on June 1, 2019, mandating that at least 60% of wheelchair accessibility rides be serviced in 15 minutes or fewer.

The report follows up on NYLPI’s “Left Behind” report of May 2018, which found Uber and Lyft had no wheelchair-accessible service available 70% of the time in New York City. Following publication of the earlier report, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) put the new rule into place requiring For-Hire-Vehicle (FHV) companies to either dispatch a minimum percentage of all trips using wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) or to respond to at least 60% of specific requests for WAVs within 15 minutes.

Nevertheless, NYLPI has now found:

  • Lyft, which recently raised $2.3 billion in its initial public offering, failed to locate or provide a WAV in 38% of NYLPI’s new round of trials.
  • Juno, owned by rideshare company Gett, which has raised $893 million in venture capital, does not offer any WAV service at all.
  • Uber, which recently raised $8.1 billion in its IPO, and continues to dominate the New York City market for FHVs, clocked estimated wait times for WAVs that are more than double those for inaccessible vehicles.

“While the multi-billion-dollar for-hire vehicle industry pursues ever greater capital and profits through Wall Street IPOs, it continues to leave New Yorkers with disabilities far behind, without giving them fair and equal transportation options,” said Justin Wood, Director of Organizing and Strategic Research at NYLPI.

In addition to detailed methodology and statistical findings, the report also contains reaction quotes from New Yorkers with disabilities who are available for press.

More information is available in the full report, “Still Left Behind”.

Politico covered the report in the story below.

Ride-hailing companies offer longer wait times for accessible service, report says

BY SAMANTHA MALDONADO

05/16/2019 12:18 PM EDT

An Uber and Lyft pick up area is pictured. | AP Photo

Westchester Disabled on the Move filed a class action lawsuit against Lyft in federal court for the company’s failure to provide equitable service to disabled people in all areas of the countryAP Photo

New Yorkers who need wheelchair-accessible transportation can’t rely on app-based ridesharing services to ferry them to their destinations, and often wait twice as long for a driver to show up, a new report shows.

The report, released by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest on Thursday, found that those hailing wheelchair-accessible vehicles from Lyft and Uber face waits up to five times longer than for inaccessible vehicles, and at least double the wait time, on average.

To determine this, NYPLI analyzed data from 448 total trip requests from Kings County Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, Manhattan’s Penn Station, and John F. Kennedy International Airport to Grand Central Terminal during different periods between April 1 and May 6.

“While the multibillion-dollar for-hire vehicle industry pursues ever greater capital and profits through Wall Street IPOs, it continues to leave New Yorkers with disabilities far behind, without giving them fair and equal transportation options,” Justin Wood, director of organizing and strategic research at NYLPI, said in a statement.

The report came down particularly hard on Lyft, which, the report indicates, does not provide discounted rates for accessible vehicles as it does for inaccessible vehicles. Findings show that Lyft’s app located a wheelchair-accessible vehicle 63 percent of the time, compared to Uber’s 96 percent.

Westchester Disabled on the Move filed a class action lawsuit against Lyft in federal court for the company’s failure to provide equitable service to disabled people in all areas of the country. Lyft tried to get the case dismissed by claiming “it is not in the transportation business” so it is not beholden to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I don’t know anyone who takes Lyft who uses a wheelchair,” Jean Ryan, president of Disabled in Action and a wheelchair-user herself, said in a recent interview. “It’s not fair for us not to get rides, not to be able to go anywhere spontaneously.”

By June 1, for-hire vehicle companies must provide 60 percent of requests for wheelchair-accessible in 15 minutes or less. Campbell Matthews, a spokesperson for Lyft, said the company is working on it and will comply with the new Taxi and Limousine Commission regulation.

“We’ve been actively increasing our wheelchair accessible vehicle service in New York City over the last several months in preparation for the TLC’s rules coming into effect,” she said. “We are looking forward to being in compliance and are always exploring ways to expand our offerings and partnerships to ensure increased access to transportation.”

For its part, Uber has said it’s been compliant with the rule six months ahead of it going into effect.

“We believe that ridesharing can improve mobility for people with disabilities, and we’re encouraged that as we’ve increased the availability of WAV vehicles and improved reliability, more and more customers have started to use the service,” Uber spokesperson Harry Hartfield said. “Thousands of NYC Uber riders take advantage of WAV service every week, but we recognize that we’re still at the beginning, not the end, of this journey.”

The report also pointed out that Juno does not offer on-demand WAV service in New York City, and found that the code to access Via’s wheelchair-accessible vehicle feature did not work. Via spokesperson Gabrielle McCaig explained that in order to get to that feature, the user must turn on the wheelchair-accessible vehicle setting in the Via app. She also defended the company by saying it has put hundreds more wheelchair-accessible vehicles on the road in New York City this year and provides incentives for those drivers.

A spokesperson for Juno did not respond to a request for comment.

With only about a quarter of the city’s subway stations being wheelchair accessible and on-demand paratransit options limited to a pilot program, those who need accessible transportation options have long depended on taxis and for-hire vehicles. The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission requires that for-hire vehicles must provide equivalent service to those in wheelchairs. But service often falls short.

City & State also covered the report:

Ride-hail still lags on accessibility

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest suggests various app-based ride-hail companies operating in New York aren’t doing much to make things accessible

By ANNIE MCDONOUGH

MAY 17, 2019

New York City is not an easy place to navigate in a wheelchair. Between hard-to-reach subway stations and an Access-A-Ride program plagued by problems, the city can hardly be called accessible. Now, a new report from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest suggests that the various app-based ride-hail companies operating in New York aren’t doing much to combat this lack of accessibility.

New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has rules for these for-hire vehicle companies, namely that they either dispatch a minimum percentage of trips with wheelchair-accessible vehicles or respond to at least 60% of rider requests for accessible vehicles within 15 minutes. For-hire vehicle companies can also partner with qualified accessible-vehicle dispatchers to meet that requirement. But despite all this, NYLPI’s report shows that Uber, Lyft and Juno provide far less reliable service for disabled riders than for able-bodied riders.

Business Insider also covered the report:

People in wheelchairs wait twice as long for Uber and Lyft rides, a new study found

  • Uber and Lyft could be at risk of not complying with new rules for wheelchair-accessible rides in New York City when they take effect on June 1.
  • A new report from the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest group found that wait times were often significantly higher for accessible rides versus inaccessible rides.
  • The group compared wheelchair-accessible rides to those without access on 224 trips at major transportation destinations and hospitals throughout the city for its new report, published last week.

Requesting a wheelchair-accessible Uber or Lyft in New York City is often times more expensive and slower than rides without access, a new report has found.

The New York Lawyers for the Public Interest made that declaration last week after comparing quotes, fares, and wait times for 224 ride requests (448 total) to and from major destinations in the five boroughs.

These included major hospital complexes as well as transportation hubs like Penn Station and JFK Airport.

Uber Lyft wheelchair wait timesNYPLI

Uber, which is by far the leader in the US’s largest ride-hailing market, had estimated wait times for wheelchair-accessible rides more than double that of rides without access, the report, published May 16, found.

Lyft, meanwhile, could not match researchers with a wheelchair-accessible vehicle on 38% of their requests.

“While the multibillion-dollar for-hire vehicle industry pursues ever greater capital and profits through Wall Street IPOs, it continues to leave New Yorkers with disabilities far behind, without giving them fair and equal transportation options,” Justin Wood, NYLPI’s director of organizing and strategic research, said in a press release.

The shortfalls could land the companies in hot water later this year when a new law will take effect in New York City mandating that ride-hailing companies fulfill 60% of accessible requests within 15 minutes.

Currently, NYPLI found that the average is about six times as high.

A Lyft spokesperson said the company has been working to increase its wheelchair-accessible service and plans to be in compliance with the law when it takes effect in 11 days.

“We’ve been actively increasing our wheelchair-accessible vehicle service in New York City over the last several months in preparation for the TLC’s rules coming into effect,” the spokesperson said.

“We are looking forward to being in compliance and are always exploring ways to expand our offerings and partnerships to ensure increased access to transportation.”

An Uber spokesperson echoed Lyft’s sentiment:

“We believe that ridesharing can improve mobility for people with disabilities, and we’re encouraged that as we’ve increased the availability of WAV vehicles and improved reliability, more and more customers have started to use the service,” the Uber spokesperson said. “Thousands of NYC Uber riders take advantage of WAV service every week, but we recognize that we’re still at the beginning, not the end, of this journey.”

Nonemergency medical transport, a major pain point in the US’s healthcare system, has been a focus of both companies for some years. In February, Lyft announced new tools for medicare advantage patients and facilities to book rides in its “concierge” booking product.

“Hospitals are also interested in improving the workflow or efficiency of their bed management,” Megan Callahan, Lyft’s VP of healthcare, told Business Insider last week.

“Patients often can’t leave the hospital because they won’t have a ride once discharged. Lyft helps hospitals in both those scenarios. There’s also interest in using Lyft to move caregivers around and even hospital employees around.”

 

Related Content

Take Action

Here’s what you can do right now for justice in New York…

Stay up to date

Get updates on our cases and campaigns, and join us in taking action for justice…

Stay Connected

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and opportunities to take action from our team.

Thanks! We’ll be in touch soon!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!