New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced a 90-day pilot program for Access-A-Ride customers who will use a prepaid Chase Visa card to pay for taxi service on regularly scheduled, pre-planned trips.
Four hundred Access-A-Ride registrants have volunteered for the pilot program that includes pick-up and drop-off locations in Manhattan below 96th Street. With the prepaid card, these customers will be able to hail any yellow cab to take them to and from their destination. The volunteers are all ambulatory customers on Access-A-Ride's subscription service, which means they do not use wheelchairs and travel to and from the same place on a regular basis.
The MTA expects to reduce the cost per trip by nearly 70% by using yellow cabs instead of transporting them on more costly Access-A-Ride vans. This effort could have wide-ranging benefit, as only about 25 percent of registered Access-A-Ride customers require the use of a lift-equipped vehicle.
"We are working every day to find new ways to help our disabled customers navigate the city, whether it's through our 85 accessible subway stations, fully-accessible fleet of 6,000 buses or our paratransit services," said MTA chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder. "This initiative recognizes that most Access-A-Ride users don't need a wheelchair lift, and by targeting service to the needs of different customers within the disabled community we're able to dramatically improve service and cut costs at the same time. For the first time, our disabled customers will be able to take regularly scheduled trips by hailing a yellow taxi and using a special, pre-loaded Chase debit card."
"We first proposed this idea on the campaign trail last year and later incorporated it into our joint effort with the City Council to make New York a more age-friendly city," said Mayor Bloomberg. "We are now ready to deliver on our promise to offer Access-A-Ride users more convenience and greater flexibility -- at a lower cost to taxpayers."
Working closely with NYC TLC, Transit was able to calculate the dollar amount of each customer's daily ride, including tip (up to 15%) -- an average of $15 per trip. An average trip on an Access-A-Ride van costs about $49 dollars. The MTA anticipates saving anywhere between $155,000 and $200,000 per month. The customers gain flexibility in their schedule because they are not locked into a specific pick up time. Also, customers do not have to worry about putting out large sums of money for a cab ride and waiting for reimbursement.
JPMorgan Chase worked with Transit to develop an electronic debit card for those customers. On December 9, Transit began loading value on the cards. Since then Chase has been processing the cards and mailing them out to customers.
Each card will have a different amount, depending on the customer's destination and frequency of use. The amount is calculated to cover two weeks of subscription service. At the end of that period, customers will send a check to Transit covering $2.25 for each trip they took. Transit then has the ability to automatically add more value to the customer's card.
At the end of the 90 days, depending on results, the program may extend for another 90 days or be expanded to include more customers.