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50 New Uber, Lyft Wheelchair-Accessible Cars Set To Hit City Streets: Rahm

By Heather Cherone | May 8, 2017 12:45pm | Updated on May 8, 2017 4:11pm
 Fifty new vehicles that are accessible to those who use a wheelchair will hit Chicago's streets during the next six months, the mayor's office announced in a statement.
Fifty new vehicles that are accessible to those who use a wheelchair will hit Chicago's streets during the next six months, the mayor's office announced in a statement.
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CHICAGO — Chicagoans who use a wheelchair will have an easier time hailing a ride, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Monday.

Fifty new vehicles that are accessible to those who use a wheelchair will hit Chicago's streets during the next six months, the mayor's office announced in a statement.

"Every Chicagoan deserves access to safe, reliable transit," Emanuel said.

The plan from Uber, Lyft and VIA to add wheelchair-accessible vehicles comes after the City Council approved new regulations in June for ride-hailing services that required the companies to submit a plan to "enhance service to customers with disabilities."

Uber spokeswoman Molly Spaeth said the San Francisco-based firm would add a total of 50 new wheelchair-accessible vehicles to its fleet.

"Developing and implementing new solutions to this ongoing mobility challenge is an issue we take very seriously, and our plan will increase the total number of wheelchair accessible vehicles on the road by nearly 20 percent in the first three months," said Marco McCottry, general manager of Uber Chicago. "We are eager to continue working with leaders and advocates across the disability community to support everyone’s ability to push a button and get a ride."

Representatives of Lyft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The regulations — criticized as "watered down" — were approved after a fierce fight during a City Council meeting after allies of Emanuel moved to block a law that would have required Uber and Lyft to provide wheelchair access.

The measure also called for ride-hailing companies to study whether drivers should be fingerprinted. The announcement Monday made no mention of that issue, which was vigorously opposed by the firms.

The number of wheelchair-accessible taxis and ride-hailing vehicles on Chicago's streets has tripled since 2011, when Emanuel took office, the mayor's office said.

Taxis and ride-hailing services recorded approximately 77.5 million trips in 2016 — a 287 percent increase over 2013, according to the mayor's office.