Good morning, Chairman Yassky and Members of the Commission. I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
My name is Micah Kellner. I am the Member of the New York State Assembly representing the 65th District, which includes the Upper East Side, Yorkville and Roosevelt Island. But today I am here as an avid connoisseur of a quality taxi ride and more importantly as an advocate for people with disabilities.
As you are aware less than 2% of the yellow taxi fleet is wheelchair accessible. I have spent a lot of time trying to push, prod, cajole, entice and even legislate the other 98% of the industry into using wheelchair accessible vehicles. What I hear in response is the constant refrain that, ‘the current accessible vehicles that are available just can’t hack it (No pun intended) as a 24/7 New York City yellow cab.’ This morning, the Taxi and Limousine Commission has the opportunity to change this by adopting a new rule that amends the specification of a wheelchair accessible taxi.
With this rules change, the TLC will open the door for a new – American manufactured – vehicle called the MV-1 made by Vehicle Production Group (VPG). The MV-1 is based on the principle of universal design and exceeds the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This gives all people, whether they have a disability or not, the opportunity to catch a ride. It has a retractable 1,200-pound capacity wheelchair ramp, a spacious 36-inch wide entryway, more than 190 cubic feet of interior space. And the MV-1 is ADA compliant right off the assembly line.
What really puts this vehicle over the top is the fact that riders in wheelchairs will no longer be forced to sit in the trunk of a cab like second class citizens. The MV-1 gives them the unique experience of being able to ride shotgun and get the same view of the Big Apple as their able-bodied friends. Plus, it is safe and durable. VPG built this vehicle to specifically handle the tough streets of New York City; and I’m told it has a really strong suspension. The MV-1 meets all the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards, as well as the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Many taxi owners are already willing to incorporate these vehicles into their fleets and they have been given plenty of reasons to do so. Governor Cuomo has indicated that he will sign my taxi tax credit, which gives owners a $10,000 tax rebate as an incentive to purchase wheelchair accessible vehicles like the MV-1.
I believe the MV-1’s has proven itself worthy of becoming a New York City taxicab. The adoption of this rules change will give this new accessible vehicle the opportunity to become the industry standard, thus giving a whole community of riders, currently left on the curb, an opportunity to hail a taxicab.