On-Demand Accessible Transportation in Chicago
- Open Taxis
- Open Doors Organization
- Country of Implementation
- United States of America
- North America
- Start Year
- First published
“What you have done for this city is truly incredible. From a more personal element, it has allowed me to actually have a social life outside of work and allows me to travel more easily.” Lauren S., Open Taxis customer
The Open Doors Organization (ODO), a non-profit organization based in Chicago, Illinois, was founded in 2000 to teach businesses how to succeed in providing services for people with disabilities while simultaneously empowering the disability community. Since 2013, ODO has operated Open Taxis, the centralized dispatch for Chicago’s wheelchair accessible taxis. Open Taxis is a 24/7, 365 days a year operation with dispatchers on-site to assist with passenger ride requests and coordinate timely transportation among drivers, providing passengers with on-demand, accessible transport options in Chicago. In 2017 more than 300 accessible taxis were operating for Open Taxis.
Before the start of Open Taxis there were fewer than 150 wheelchair–accessible van (WAV) taxis in all of Chicago.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
In 2013 the City of Chicago centralized the dispatch of wheelchair-accessible taxis, and ODO was selected to operate Open Taxis. Passengers can now either call Open Taxis for service or use its smartphone app, which includes such key features as estimated wait time and an estimated fare quote. All drivers receive disability awareness training from ODO on how to communicate with and physically assist individuals with disabilities. Since 2014, ODO has worked with Uber Technologies, Inc., helping to develop two programmes for passengers with disabilities: UberAccess, which uses wheelchair-accessible vehicles, and UberAssist, whose drivers are trained in stowing assistive devices. Initially, it was important to overcome the lack of drivers interested in driving a WAV taxi. An incentive programme was put in place that rewards drivers with access to the short taxi lane at local airports, thus allowing them to skip the extensive wait (typically more than two hours) and quickly access potentially longer rides with larger fares. This programme successfully increased the number of interested drivers and the number of WAVs on the road, such that in 2016 Open Taxis had a total of 61,754 completed rides.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
Open Taxis has grown significantly since its start and now operates 330 WAV taxis with more than 400 drivers. The customer base has risen from a monthly average of just over 2,000 completed rides in 2013 to nearly 8,000 completed rides per month in 2017. With the city’s goal of 400 WAVs on the road by the end of 2018, Open Taxis expects continued growth as accessible transportation becomes even more available. ODO also supported the design of a purpose-built, fully accessible taxi now being built in Mishawaka, Indiana, and marketed as the ‘MV-1’ by the Vehicle Production Group. The MV-1 has been approved for use in paratransit fleets in major U.S. cities, including Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. The majority of the funding for Open Taxis comes from the City of Chicago and is spent on back-office operations, dispatcher salaries, and software maintenance. Moreover, Open Taxis is forming relationships with local rehab centres and hospitals to assist with non-emergency medical transportation – partnerships that are expected to bring in additional funding.