ACTIVIST Newsletter logo with ACTIVIST word displayed diagonally from bottom left to upper right
July 2005
by Edith Prentiss

DIA members give testimony at City Council hearings, NY State legislative hearings, City agency hearings such as the TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission), and MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) hearings. Edith Prentiss, a DIA board member, has often given testimony on a variety of issues, including healthcare issues, senior issues, human rights, and transportation issues. Here follows a sampling of her testimonies on transportation and human rights issues.


February 24th, 2004 City Council Committee on Transportation, Oversight - Local and express bus service in New York City: What is the responsibility of the MTA and has that responsibility been fulfilled?

In the most simplistic terms, the MTA’s responsibility is to provide equitable service throughout their entire service area with all riders paying the same proportion of the expense. I believe the MTA has failed.

Disabled franchise bus riders receive totally disparate levels of service. For numerous reasons, many elderly and disabled passengers prefer surface transit rather than the subway. The MTA has failed miserably in providing surface riders with service equitable to subway riders.

At a time when more disabled people are using mass transit, reducing the number of wheelchair slots seems stupid. Upper East Side wheelchair users rarely if ever encounter not being able to get on a bus, but those of us at the far terminus of any of those lines have experienced buses that can’t pick them up.

Franchise passengers envy our route map/schedule poles. Have they ever read them? Most are illegible, faded or rain damaged. Try reading the schedule on the pole way over your head.

Many times when bus stops are obstructed, drivers don’t bother curbing and drop us on the street. We’ve heard about the NYCT/NYPD pilot program on Lexington photographing and ticketing. We’ve also seen how efficiently Fifth Ave gets towed weekday afternoons. How about the rest of us?

Sanitation and DOT plows throw snow in curb cuts, along and on sidewalks. No one, not even the MTA, cleans their sidewalks and curb cuts, The MTA cleaned a 12-inch path off the curb cut for people to cross the street. When a bus stop is cleared, it’s usually a small area near the pole or in the shelter, not where the back door will open.

Is this any way to run a transit system?


February 18th, 2004 - MTA Riders Council Subway Forum

Before getting to the subway elevator, I usually call the Elevator / Escalator Service Outage line). Why does the tape tells you to press one but then drones on for 68 seconds?, Not being listed on the tape is no guarantee that an elevator will be working, even though the tape says its updated during the day. [Editor: The MTA now says it updates the elevator hotline 4 times a day: 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 3 p.m., and 10 p.m.]

You quickly learn alternate routing, if any. The real problem is when you’re stuck in a station where there is no next accessible station.

The agent answering the intercom often has no idea where or how you can exit the system. At one time, the MTA posted paper signs by every elevator that listed an alternate route. It would be helpful if that information could be permanently mounted at the elevator and in the booth. The cuts to the MTA NYC Transit Information Line to 6 AM to 10 PM leaves you without access to information on what bus if any would get you where you’re going from 10 PM to 6 AM.

What happened to AutoGates? It seems as if few stations have them. And those that do are often poorly designed so that the agent is unable to see us swiping our card. Some agents insist you wait in line and then we do the swipe the card routine. Then there are the one that eat cards, forget trying to get an autogate card replaced! [ Editor: Call 646-252-4703 to have a card replaced.]

Why does it seem the LIRR & MetroNorth elevators break down less frequently and are repaired faster? Why is the MTA so dependent on elevators? There must be places where a ramp/elevator combination, would be appropriate.

The MTA’s publication, Accessible Connection, advises us to board in designated areas and states that such signs are posted in all accessible stations, but we all know they don’t. I never mentioned the gap, which make all travel and transfers problematic. If you use a station often enough, you learn its gaps, ignoring the boarding area. But unknown stations can be a problem. Getting off is easy, just plop down to the platform, but good luck getting on a train. The first hurdle is that the time is against you as you try to enter the train without running over passengers who step in and stop, while you’re jumping the gap.

Is this any way to run a subway?


August 25th, 2004 - New York City Taxi And Limousine Commission

Taxis are part of New York City’s transit continuum, except for those of us whose chairs or scooters do not fold or who cannot transfer into a cab. At recent meeting, it was said that yellow cabs focus on airport and midtown, both places disabled New Yorkers and visitors go!

As a disabled New Yorker, whose chair does not fold, I am mostly limited to long hours waiting for and riding buses, as every subway trip is fraught with the possibility of getting stuck when elevators break down. Not being able to simply go out onto the street and hail a cab is a major problem. The lack of accessible transit options affects all aspect of our lives, including professional, recreational, religious, and medical.

It is unacceptable that it is close to impossible to travel without advanced planning and sometimes even with advance planning. The solution is a requirement that medallions may only be affixed to accessible vehicles. At the present rate of turnover of cabs, it would rapidly jumpstart an accessible fleet. This would transform New York City from an inaccessible one-option transportation wasteland.

At the same time, it is essential that the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) rigorously enforce the "accessible vehicle rule" in all for hire vehicles and post the information on their web site. There are 12 livery bases in my community, Washington Heights & Inwood. Why do I need to call all 12 when I need a car?

It is ironic that while the TLC drags its feet on accessible cabs, they’re mandating credit card machines and put out a RFP (request for proposal) for high tech usage in cabs. They propose GPS (global positioning system) for driver and passenger and text messaging in the back seat. Please, if you need money - stop at the ATM, to figure out where you are – look out the window, if the driver can’t figure out where they’re going – look in the map book and go back to training, if a passenger needs to text message – use your phone.

Neither Access-A-Ride nor a Ride for All (an accessible car service) are the sole solution to the problem. Like many disabled New Yorkers, I am not registered for AAR, as it did not meet our needs for spontaneous travel. With only 3 or 4 vehicles, it is unrealistic to expect A Ride for All to be able to fill New York City’s need for accessible transportation. Separate but equal is unacceptable in education, so why is it okay when transporting the disabled?

Only by requiring all new medallions and existing medallion replacement only be sold or placed on accessible vehicles and by rigorously enforcing the ‘accessible vehicle rule’ will disabled New Yorkers have transit options as required by law.


September 22, 2004, New York City Council Committee on General Welfare - Intro 22 Human Rights Laws

By passing Intro 22, the Council has the opportunity to make a substantive contribution to redeem the promise of New York City’s Human Rights Law. With the exercise of leadership, there is simply no reason why this measure should not become law promptly.

The Human Rights Commission does some work in seeking accommodations for people with disabilities. But there were only 144 accommodation cases reported in the latest Mayor’s Management Report for an entire year, in a city where hundreds of thousands of housing units and commercial establishments continue to have barriers to accessibility. No agency is going to be able to go after all violators of the law. It is only if people understand that there are consequences to violating the law that more landlords and businesses will voluntarily make the accommodation that are necessary.

The City Human Rights Law offers a means independent of federal law by which to vindicate the rights of qualified applicants. But it will only work if the law is amended, as is proposed by Intro 22, to require courts to interpret the local law independent of federal law, with a view towards liberally interpreting the statute to accomplish its broad objectives. Intro 22 is designed to make sure that we have the tools necessary to wage an effective fight against discrimination. It should be passed without delay.