Rise of Uber = dramatic decline in wheelchair accessibility

The SF Examiner’s Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez reports on a dramatic drop in the number of on-demand trips taken by wheelchair users in San Francisco — based on how many trips are subsidised by the city (which isn’t a perfect data source, but a solid starting point).

By on-demand, the report means any impromptu trip. In the past, that meant a taxi. Now, it means Uber or Lyft—except, it doesn’t:

In 2013 there were roughly 1,400 monthly subsidized wheelchair-ramp taxi rides, but by 2018 that number dropped to roughly 500 monthly requests. That’s not because there were fewer wheelchair users, or because those wheelchair users requested fewer rides, according to SFMTA. There simply weren’t enough taxi drivers available anymore after the rise of Uber and Lyft, with people left stranded.

The ride-share services have launched a few initiatives to solve the issue, the article notes, but legislators are now pushing for more transparency. They want to know how long people with wheelchairs have to wait to get an Uber/Lyft when compared to “normal” trip wait times.

The now more robust “wheelchair accessible vehicle” program, a partnership between Uber and MV Transportation, a national paratransit provider, is “still in its early stages,” however, “and it is not yet clear whether availability and response times are consistent enough, and comparable enough to service provided in nonaccessible vehicles, for riders who use wheelchairs to depend on it.”