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Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Debuts in Seattle

Published Jan 26th 2007, 9:16pm by

Standard Taxi unveils its prototype at a trade show in Seattle.

By Terry Moakley


The author rolls out of a Standard Taxi prototype during a trade show in Seattle.

I had the good fortune to attend the unveiling on September 18th [of last year] in Seattle of the first-ever, wheelchair-accessible, purpose-built taxi, known as the Standard Taxi.

What is a purpose-built taxi? It is a vehicle that has been engineered, from the ground up, specifically for use in taxi and paratransit service. For instance, to minimize service and repair costs, many of the Standard Taxi sedan’s exterior panels will be interchangeable, and replacement parts will be readily available at regional retail suppliers. In addition, the Standard Taxi incorporates an ergonomically designed upright driver’s seat to prevent back problems. For improved safety, the driver’s “office” at the wheel is behind a bullet-proof partition that encloses the driver at the left side in the front.

This design permits an empty space where there used to be a passenger seat on the right side in the front, and—you guessed it—this is the wheelchairseating location. This space is compliant with the vehicle standards issued under both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Canadian Standards Association, and it is reachable by wheelchair and scooter users via a manual ramp that is deployed by the taxi driver. The accessibility features will be incorporated in the manufacturing process to insure the Standard Taxi’s durability.

Beyond Expectations

Since my return from Seattle, a few people have asked what I thought of the Standard Taxi prototype. My response was simple: it greatly exceeded my expectations. It proved to me once again an old adage that “Accessible design is good design.”

I watched many nondisabled attendees at the meeting where the Standard Taxi made its first appearance step up into this cab through a rear door, and then remark, “It sure is easy to get in and out of.” The space provided to enable access for wheelchair users makes it so––it’s that simple! Our space gives the nondisabled tons of leg room, too. It will be as comfy as plopping down on the living room sofa. They are going to love it.

Seattle cabbies kept stopping by, too, to check out the driver’s area. Many did not want to relinquish the seat because they found it so comfortable. In my day and a half with this vehicle outside the Renaissance Hotel, I did not witness a single negative driver response.

The Standard Taxi’s innovators hope to retail it at a price that is competitive with vehicles used as taxis today, and they hope to start manufacturing it in the last quarter of next year. To “stay tuned” to its progress, sign up at www.taxisforallNA.org, or visit www.standardtaxi.com.

Terry Moakley is director of Special Projects, chairman of Taxis for All North America, and president of the Association of Travel Instruction.



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