As Lyft and Uber became part of the nation’s transportation systems, people who use non-folding wheelchairs felt left on the sidelines because the cars couldn’t accommodate them. That’s slowly starting to change. The two San Francisco companies on July 1 began collecting 10 cents on every ride in California to go to an accessibility fund established by the California Public Utilities Commission.
The agency has not yet said how and where that money will be allocated, but its purpose is to make sure that the apps offer sufficient vehicles with “ramps, lifts and adequate space to accommodate users who cannot leave their wheelchairs during a trip.” The fund grew out of a state bill passed last year, SB1376, requiring the companies to provide accessible services.
Meanwhile, Lyft, which so far has referred wheelchair users to call paratransit, taxi companies or other third parties, is starting a pilot on Tuesday in San Francisco and Los Angeles to offer five wheelchair-accessible vehicles in each market. Although the number seems modest, each will operate for 14 hours straight (with different drivers), a time frame spanning the most popular ride-request periods, according to Lyft.
The cars, modified 2019 Toyota Sienna minivans, will be driven by trained employees of paratransit provider First Transit. Lyft riders will be able to summon them via the app and will pay the same prices as for similar Lyft rides.
Lyft offers bonuses to independent-contractor drivers who happen to have wheelchair-accessible vehicles, though the company was unable to say how many people have them.
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