UPDATE: My terrible accessible taxi fail at Boston Logan Airport

Last week, I wrote about my experience trying to get my daughter, Marianne, home from the airport after our family vacation.

(See my previous note here: http://www.travelbywheelchair.com/my-terrible-experience-getting-an-accessible-taxi-at-logan-airport/)


Marianne from our vacation

Marianne from our vacation

I naively assumed that I could catch a cab from Logan that was accessible to make the short trip home to Newton.  6 cabs and about 2 hours later, I realized that was a problem.

During my adventure with Marianne, I tweeted my experience to Mayor Tom Menino, assuming that I would get an immediate reaction.  It took some nudging, but I did eventually get a response from the Mayor’s Twitter account a week after the incident.  I was put in touch with the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Kristen McCosh.  Ms. McCosh was generous with her time and uniquely sensitive to the challenges of traveling with a power wheelchair since she herself uses that form of transportation.  To my surprise, she has experienced almost exactly the same kind of (non) service when trying to use a taxi in Boston.

Kristen McCosh, Commission for Persons with Disabilities, City of Boston

Kristen McCosh, Commission for Persons with Disabilities, City of Boston

While I was extremely pleased with Ms. McCosh’s conscientious follow up, I was concerned with the underlying problems that I discovered with the accessible taxi service for the City of Boston.  According to Ms. McCosh, there are approximately 1,800 licensed cabs in Boston and approximately 100 of them are “accessible” vehicles. She further explained that many of the taxis were modified incorrectly, rendering them unusable by power wheelchair users.  It turns out that the vendor who made the modifications was not qualified (per Kristen) to make accessible modifications.  I was even more frustrated to find that nobody from the City of Boston (per Kristen) verified that these taxis were modified correctly.

Since Ms. McCosh started her tenure, she has personally inspected the voluminous issues with the current “accessible” fleet and is making some specific recommendations for changes.  She warned me that the current fleet will not be modified or taken out of service because they are usable for certain riders in manual wheelchairs.  With the life expectancy of a taxi between 6 and 7 years, it may be a very long time before reliable taxi service is available to power wheelchair users in Boston.

In my view, the city should never have accepted those taxi modifications and the city should be reimbursed for the faulty work.  Those funds should be used to accelerate the deployment of truly accessible taxis in Boston.  More than 20 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is neither fair nor right that some citizens do not have access to basic public transportation.

Ms. McCosh is releasing a report on the accessible taxi service in September.  I look forward to seeing the report and I hope the mayor supports her efforts to turn this untenable situation around.

My (terrible) experience getting an accessible taxi at Logan Airport

After a wonderful vacation with my family, it was time to head home.  Our flight landed at Logan at about 11:45pm and it took approximately 30 minutes to wait for the plane to empty out, wait for the aisle chair to get my daughter out of the plane and wait for her wheelchair to be brought up from the belly of the plane.

Our plan was to take 2 cabs home for the 20 minute ride from Logan to Newton Centre – one of my wife, two of the kids and the luggage and a second for me and my daughter Marianne with her wheelchair.

I did my research in advance and found that it was in fact possible to get a wheelchair-capable taxi at Logan:


The taxi line was very short and the wheelchair taxi showed up at the same time the rest of my family piled into their taxi to go home.  This is when the excitement started:

Taxi 1.  The first taxi the came was advertised as a wheelchair-capable taxi, but the driver looked at us and informed us that it didn’t “pass its inspection” and he wouldn’t be able to accommodate us.  The Massport dispatcher gave the driver a piece of her mind and sent him on his way.

Taxi 1 - the first one that didn't fit.

Taxi 1 – the first one that didn’t fit. 

Taxi 2.  The second taxi showed up about 10 minutes later – it was a new minivan with the accessible ramp cut into the back.  The driver looked like he never used the feature before and spent about 10 minutes trying to move the rear seat out of the way and ended up removing both rows of seats to get them out of the way.  He took out the small extension ramp and loosely propped it up against the back of his van so Marianne could drive in.  She got in the van as far as her chair would allow and it did not leave enough room to close the back door of the van.  By this time, she was very tired and frustrated, but she backed out of van ad the dispatcher called another one.  The person on the other end of mentioned that a Toyota Sienna accessible taxi might be the best solution.

Marianne is pretty tired by now

Marianne is pretty tired by now


Taxi 3.  Within a few minutes, an accessible Sienna approached…and then sped by us without stopping.

Taxi 4.  The person on the radio said they found another Sienna, but then I heard a minute later that the ramp on that one was not working.

Taxi 5.  After a long wait, a fifth taxi showed up — and it was exactly like the first one that didn’t fit Marianne’s wheelchair.

Taxi 5 - same problem as Taxi 1

Taxi 5 – same problem as Taxi 1

Taxi 6.  Just as Taxi 5 was leaving, Taxi 6 showed up.  It was a Toyota Sienna and as advertised, Marianne’s chair fit in the back.  The driver was extremely helpful and eager and carefully helped her into the car.  When she got in, I saw that the taxi did not have wheelchair tie-downs or any seatbelt for the wheelchair passenger (I would never drive her in my personal van without the 250 lb. chair safely secured).  We decided to press on without the safety features since it was so late.

We arrived at home around 2am safe and sound and I was reminded yet again how difficult it is for people in wheelchairs to accomplish the basic things that all the rest of us take for granted – even if they are promised as a basic right.

Delta experience from Boston’s Logan Airport to Salt Lake City Airport, UT (and back)

The five of us flew from Logan to Salt Lake City on a direct flight with Delta late afternoon both on the way to UT and the way home to MA.  The flight out was a little longer, at 5.5 hours (note: it’s two hours earlier in UT than MA).   Last year we had a horrendous experience on the way home with Delta (see Rants), but this year things went more smoothly.  It helped that Peter has Sky Priority miles with Delta, so we were able to use the shorter lines when checking in and when going through security.  Still, if you request assistance from the airline in advance, as we did last year (see: www.delta.com and search for “special-travel-needs/disabilities”), the security process is faster than it is for most other travelers.

Both this year and last, and in both airports, I found the security staff to be courteous and respectful when searching Marianne’s wheelchair.  They were also thorough (I think, although not being in security, it’s hard to know for sure), which I appreciate.

We boarded early on both flights and were able to get settled before the other passengers boarded.  Marianne was transferred to an aisle chair at the plane door, and Delta staff took her wheelchair (now on manual mode) to the tarmac.  It was a little unnerving to look from the plane window at the chair sitting on the pavement all by itself, and I had visions of them forgetting to load it (I’ve read somewhere this has actually happened).  The airline attendant was great when I relayed this story and had the pilot radio down to make sure it got on the conveyor belt. This YouTube clip shows the chair being unloaded from the plane in Salt Lake City:

Note on airplane seats:    we paid extra for economy-plus size seats so that we would have some wiggle room when doing Marianne’s catheter on the plane.  Not sure we needed them, but it was nice to have extra leg room.