First wheelchair accessible Philadelphia taxis unveiled

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The first of dozens of Philadelphia taxis are now ready to transport wheelchair dependent passengers.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority and wheelchair advocates introduced specially designed wheelchair taxis Thursday.

Officials say this initial rollout is just the start of a much bigger plan.

"We expect to have 61 brand new WAV Taxicabs on the streets of Philadelphia by the end of this year," Vince Fenerty of the PPA said.

WAV is short for Wheelchair Accessibility Vehicle.

Tony Brooks of West Philadelphia tried out one for our Action News cameras.

He was rolled up the back ramp and that was followed by several minutes of being strapped in.

Once secured, he said he felt like he was sitting in a seat in the vehicle.

"I feel safe," Brooks said.

Accessibility advocates had to go to federal court in 2011 to force authorities to require WAVs.

The lack of accommodation can cause hardships for those in wheelchairs.

"My daughter has a heart condition. They had to put her in an ambulance and told me they couldn't take me in my power chair. That was one of the most terrifying experiences I ever had as a mom," Kathleen Holdsworth of Taxis for All Philadelphia said.

WAVs cost more than traditional cabs.

A new Dodge Van modified by local firm American Mobility Transportation cost $29,000.

AMT had to submit its cab to crash testing before it could get approval to operate as a Philadelphia taxi.

The PPA expects 150 WAVs by 2021, which would be about 8% of the fleet.

A rule being looked at, if approved, would mean all 1,600 cabs in Philadelphia would eventually have to become WAVs.

As the older units would age out, they would be replaced by new, modified WAVs.

The industry has said that would be way too costly and it could ruin some taxi operations in town.

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