Monday, September 18, 2006

Where the Cabs Are -- part IV

Yes, I'm getting bored with this, too, but in the interest of fairness, I feel compelled to continue the story...

Mr. Frances has a Change of Heart

After my last email, I got this response from Don Frances of the MountainView Voice:

"Ms. Adams,

I appreciate your position here. I didn't mean to say that your knowledge of the parking situation is inadequate, only that the specific submission you sent is inadequate. Especially in this case -- and especially from you, who are an expert on this issue -- something a little more profound than "it pisses me off" is in order.

I've seen plenty of blogs and can say without question that the language, style and tone used in them is not what's called for in news print. That's the beauty of blogs -- no rules -- but it's the rare blog entry that can be cut and pasted onto an op-ed page.

Meanwhile, your concern definitely has merit. In fact, the publisher has asked us to look into why and how those spaces were turned over to taxis so suddenly. We'll be looking into that in a future edition.

That said, maybe we could try a "do over," if you're up for it, with the intention of running a response from you on the taxi story. I think that, given your expertise, you are better qualified than anybody at putting the need for handicap spaces, including their location and number, in context -- and at providing interesting details that others may not know, such as the fact that taxis aren't required to be handicap-accessible.

Deadline for each week's paper is the previous Monday -- so for example today is the deadline for this Friday's paper. Our maximum-space guidelines for the op-ed page are: about 250 words for a letter to the editor, or no more than 600 words for a "guest editorial," meaning a full-length column.

Please let me know your thoughts on this.

Don Frances"

Six hundred + words:

The View from Where I Sit

The July 28th Voice story, "Never a cab when you need one" by Daniel Debolt, described the lack of taxi access to the Mountain View Caltrain parking lot as viewed by neighborhood resident, Scott Neuman.

In addition to this story, the Voice also contacted the Joint Powers Board, which oversees Caltrain, about the problem. Apparently, after viewing the scene one time, a Joint Powers Board staffer, Joan Jenkins, expedited changing several parking places previously designated as disabled persons’ parking to taxi parking.

As a person with a disability who uses a power wheelchair for mobility, and who has sometimes parked in the disabled persons’ parking at the Mountain View Caltrain station, I was dismayed at how quickly and thoughtlessly the disabled (“handicap”) parking spaces were reallocated for taxis waiting for passengers – by mid-August!

The taxi parking could have been placed elsewhere and still be convenient to travelers arriving at the station by Caltrain or Light Rail – at a right angle to where they are located now for example, without eliminating any of the disabled persons’ parking. How was it determined that five taxi spaces were needed? The taxis seem to be congregating and waiting for radio calls, too. Is it necessary that all the cabs be in the same place? I thought that cabs needed to be spread about, by the very nature of their service.

The original design and placement of the disabled persons’ parking at this station was great. All of the spaces were adjacent to the platform and the asphalt is flush with the platform surface so no ramps or curb cuts are needed. This is easier and safer for both wheelchair users and for persons with other types of mobility impairments to navigate. The location is also closest to the waiting area designated for Caltrain passengers using wheelchairs – we are supposed to wait in a very specific designated area so that the conductors can spot us waiting. Unfortunately, unlike both the Light Rail and BART, wheelchair-using Caltrain passengers cannot board independently and conductors must assist us with either a lift built into one car on each train, a ramp for the Baby Bullet trains, or the older, manually cranked lifts, failing other methods.

Five disabled parking spaces were converted to taxi spaces at the north end of the platform and two disabled spaces were added at the southern end of the platform – for a net loss of three disabled spaces. The new spaces are significantly farther from the Light Rail, and from the designated wheelchair waiting areas for Caltrain, regardless of which direction you are traveling. Because there is a curb at that end of the platform, an asphalt “ramp” was poured to provide a transition to the parking lot – a transition that could be somewhat dangerous in the dark.

Taxicabs are not wheelchair accessible

Taxis are not required to be wheelchair accessible. Taxicabs are defined as on-call transit under the law, and as such, do not have the same mandates for accessibility as other types of public transit. (They are required not to discriminate against disabled passengers who have equipment that can be stowed in the trunk, such as folding manual wheelchairs, walkers, and canes.) Occasionally, a cab company will have one wheelchair accessible cab, but have to arrange the ride far in advance – which is antithetical to how taxicabs are intended to be used, i.e., as needed.

There is no doubt in my mind that this change occurred without serious or educated thought to how it would affect disabled users of the Mountain View Caltrain station. I hope that this decision will be revisited and amended. It would be an easy to restore the disabled parking to its original configuration and move the taxi spaces – however many are actually needed – to an adjacent location."

I'll let you know if 1) it gets published; and 2) if anything actually changes at the station...


Anonymous said...

I have found a fantastic website at Gives so much information for Disabled People. Information and an assessment tool that tells you what equipment can help. All you have to do is say you want to be a tester and you can get a preview of it while it is still being tested. Try it........its wonderful!!

Becs said...

Hm. Still waiting to hear what, if anything (ho ho) has happened...

Anonymous said...

Fight the good fight.

Charlesdawson said...

Great post. Hope your broadside has some effect, but am not counting on it, judging by what goes on over here.
Am putting a link to this blog on mine, hope that's all right.