People who use wheelchairs face barriers to daily living activities, social outings, and fully participating in what the City has to offer, because of inadequate accessible transportation options. New grant funding will help close the gaps.

Due to the efforts of former Alder Erik Paulson and Alder Charles Myadze, the Transportation Commission, the Disability Rights Commission, and City staff, $250,000 in grants will be available to Madison cab companies for the purchase of accessible taxi cabs later this year. Accessible cabs cost between $50,000-60,000 each.

Madison currently has two taxi companies, Madison Taxi and Union Cab, but Union Cab has been the only company providing accessible taxi service, and their accessible vehicles are nearing the end of their useful lives. Both companies are eligible for the grants, according to Paulson.

Limits to the Current System
All Metro busses are accessible, and Metro provides a great number of rides to wheelchair users. In addition, Metro offers paratransit service. Paratransit is available to people who are unable to use public transportation due to their disability.

Paratransit runs only during Metro service hours and requires advance reservations. Paratransit cannot provide exact timing of pick up and drop off, but instead provides a window of time. That time needs to be built into the planning on both ends of the event. People may need to coordinate with employers, caregivers, family members, and others, and exact timing is a challenge.

The paratransit service area is most of the Metro bus service area, which does not include some parts of the surrounding communities. Transportation for Madisonians who need to reach the greater metropolitan area is especially difficult for those who need accessible transportation.

Accessible taxi services help meet the needs of residents with disabilities in a variety of ways. If you have a friend in town for the evening, for example, your best option is to call a taxi, according to Joe Frost, Disability Rights Commissioner. “We all want those same experiences with family and friends,” he said. Current limits on transportation put a strain on relationships and affect the wellbeing of disabled people.

Frost reflected on a time he was in New Orleans. He rented a cab for the afternoon—the ONLY accessible cab in the area—and was left wondering who else needed it that day and couldn’t get it? 

“Taxis are on demand, and they’re door to door,” Paulson said. That makes them a key part of the transportation picture.
Uber and Lyft do not have vehicle fleets, and offer few if any options for wheelchair users. Rideshare companies are not eligible for the accessible taxi grants.

How it works                                                                                                                                 
The cab companies who get the grants would own the vehicles but the City would maintain a lien on them so the City could reclaim them if the cab companies stop using them. “There are otherwise very few strings attached, in part not to put too great a burden on the cab companies and in part not to put too great a burden on City staff to administer the program. No matching funds are required,” according to Paulson.

Accessible cabs can be used by anyone and everyone, regardless of their needs. As the population ages, the need will only increase. “Access is something we should all care about,” Paulson said.

“Transportation is a pathway to employment, enjoyment, and inclusion,” Frost said.