Quest to hail disabled cabs

The city of Philadelphia has been without cabs accessible to the physically disabled for 20 years. One man is trying to reach out to those who haven’t been able to hail a taxi.

Everett Abitbol is no stranger to the taxi industry. As a partner of PHL Taxi company, he has previously overseen 200 vehicles on the road and successfully brought Freedom Taxi to Chicago and New York.

Abitbol’s goal is to bring an accessible and environmentally friendly fleet to the city.

Freedom Taxi is an on-demand service. Other companies that assist people with disabilities have a long lead time. “It typically takes three to four hours of transportation time to start their day,” Abitbol said.

And Abitbol said the name, Freedom Taxi, has a special meaning for passengers as well as the city.

“[My company] provides disabled people the ability to be free outside their homes,” Abitbol said.

A disabled passenger will have exclusive use of the cab, but Abitol added that service will extend to other passengers, such as friends and relatives.

Why has it taken 20 years to get a handicap-accessible fleet on the streets of Philadelphia? Abitbol blames the cost. “You have to be willing to make a leap of faith and buy more expensive cars with up-to-date technology, instead of buying cheaper ones,” Abitbol said.

Hurdles for PPA approval

Currently waiting on approval from the Philadelphia Parking Authority, Abitbol believes the holdup has to do with fear of change and the fact that no one has ever approached the PPA with such a big demand. “Introducing new technology is a big hurdle,” Abitbol added.

By Sept. 30, Abitbol is hoping the Freedom Taxi petition will pass, but the PPA has not given an exact time line. “We are asking the PPA to allow us to have 100 cars on the road. If all goes well, we will hopefully get excess of 250 cars by 2012,” Abitbol said.

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