New York City and TNCs Settle on Performance Measures for Accessible Service Requirements

June 20, 2018

New York City is moving towards a performance approach to regulating TNCs with the goal of providing equitable access to transportation options. The lawsuit brought against the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) by Uber, Lyft, and Via on April 12, 2018 was quickly resolved with a settlement on June 13, 2018. The three ride hailing transportation network (TNC) companies sued the City in reaction to a rule that targeted them for not providing adequate service for people who use wheelchairs. The TNCs desire for a performance-based approach instead of asset or service provision metrics pushes New York City to focus on service equity and consider ride hailing in the context of mobility as a service.

The settlement addresses the provision of ride hailing access for people in wheelchairs by providing an alternative to the Rules of the City of New York Title 35 Section 59B-17(c) requirement that 25 percent of trips be made in wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) by July 2023. The settlement allows the TNCs to ensure maximum wait times for WAV request rides instead of adhering to the 25 percent of trips requirement.

The settlement requires that the ride hailing companies provide a certain percentile of WAV service with a specified amount of wait time for riders. Eighty percent of all WAV requests must arrive in under 10 minutes, and 90 percent of all WAV requests must arrive in under 15 minutes. The transportation companies must meet these requirements gradually, with annual benchmarks along the way to full compliance by June 30, 2021.

The 80th and 90th percentile wait times for non-WAV rides is currently unknown as Uber, Lyft, and Via do not report them, though some sources have estimated average wait times around three to five minutes in the last few years. If the goal of the New York City rule is to provide “equivalent service” for all users as stated, it is hard to evaluate the settlement without knowing what service exists and will exist for users who do not require WAV vehicles.

According to the settlement, the companies will have to submit the following data to the TLC monthly for all accessible vehicle requests:

  • Dispatching base license number
  • Date and time of request receipt
  • Manner of request receipt (app, phone, etc.)
  • Completed trip (yes or no)

And in the case of a completed trip:

  • Vehicle, base, and driver numbers
  • Pick up and drop off locations
  • Date and time of pick up arrival
  • Total passenger wait time

The willingness of TNCs to share data with the public sector seems to be increasing, and could help cities improve the efficiency and quality of their transportation planning moving forward. The requirement in New York City still does not include reporting of the above data for non-WAV requests, rendering an equity analysis impossible, but provides a first step.

Hopefully, New York City’s TLC will review the data and assess the service provided to all users to the best of their ability and adjust regulations as needed. However, now that the current settlement has been reached, the limited facet of data provision to the city makes analysis and revision to current policies more difficult. Pilot studies and trial periods are often a good mechanism to assess service provision, but these approaches were left out in legal and political haste to thoroughly address service issues for people with disabilities.

ETW’s previous coverage of the suit stressed the importance of pushing for performance measures to ensure equity in transportation options for people with disabilities instead of the trip number requirements outlined in the New York City rule. While the new alternative addresses a performance-based approach in its required metrics, the proper baselines and points of comparison among all riders need to be established.

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