City council to discuss the future of accessible taxis in Columbia

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COLUMBIA – Columbia currently has no taxi services that offer lift-equipped vehicles for people in wheelchairs, but the city council will discuss the issue at its meeting Tuesday.

Columbia Disabilities Commission Chair Chuck Graham wrote a letter to the council requesting it research and provide solutions for the issue. He wrote that the current transportation options for people who use wheelchairs limit their mobility to public transportation’s operating hours, which is never after 7 p.m. and never on Sundays.

One solution Graham suggested “is to encourage taxi providers to offer lift-equipped, accessible vehicles to provide 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, on-demand transportation.”

One way for that to happen, he wrote, is to provide incentives and grants to companies, since the cost of a lift-equipped vehicle is the main reason many do not have one.

Terry Nickerson, owner of Taxi Terry’s, said he has always wanted his services to be wheelchair accessible, but it has not been possible.

“We definitely want a wheelchair van,” Nickerson said. “Right now it’s just not cost-effective for us to get one.”

Nickerson said customers would request a lift-equipped van about once or twice a day, meaning it would take a few years for the company to make a profit off of it. He said his company has looked into getting one and estimated the cost for a new lift-equipped van to be about $80,000.

“If we had assistance from the city, the county, the state, anyone, we would buy one tomorrow,” he said. “Without some way to offset the costs, it’s just a lot to bite for a small company.”

Nickerson said he hopes the council acts soon so his company’s services will be available to everybody in Columbia.

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