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Commissioner Blog: Ensuring Disability Access to TNCs

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By Commissioner Liane M. Randolph

I am pleased to report that today we initiated efforts to ensure access for the disability community to the app-based passenger service offered by Transportation Network Companies (TNCs).  

My fellow Commissioners and I voted to open a proceeding to implement Senate Bill 1376 (Hill, 2018), in which we will set rules for the TNCs to provide the same level of passenger service to all Californians, including those who need Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs). These vehicles must be able to accommodate non-folding wheelchairs. Examples of equipment that a WAV would need to carry are a motorized wheelchair, a mobility scooter, or another mobility device. 

I am excited to continue working on this issue, as I will be the Commissioner assigned to this proceeding.  We have held two implementation workshops already-Senator Hill attended the first in December 2018, and we held the second in Sacramento on Friday, February 15, 2019. 

Among many other implementation details we need to decide, we will need to define specific geographic areas where WAVs will be made available as an on-demand service.  We are still taking comments from stakeholders on this issue, but my present thinking is that while we should work toward a goal of robust WAV-accessible passenger service everywhere, that will not be the immediate goal of this program.  TNC service is not available everywhere in California right now, and therefore WAV service provided as an app-enabled passenger service will likely not be available everywhere immediately.  I also think program success is more likely if we roll the service out in a well-planned way and learn as we go.

Our new proceeding will look into various options on how best to provide WAV service, including receiving proposals from local providers who are already experienced in this part of the passenger transportation market.  The program will be funded through a per-ride surcharge of 5 cents, which the TNCs will begin charging in July 2019 and which we will place in an Access Fund.  Proposals from providers will start arriving in 2020, by which time we'll have funds in the Access Fund and a set of criteria by which we will evaluate the proposals.  We're also going to use this proceeding to address other accessibility issues related to app-based TNC service that have been raised by disability advocates.  

The proceeding will move quickly and will demand a lot of work in the next year, but it is for the extremely worthy goal of offering people with disabilities equal access to the passenger service TNCs have brought to California.  

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