Getting around Atlanta can be a pain in the butt, we can all agree on that, right? Now, what if you don’t drive? Even bigger. What if you’re fortunate to live in Dekalb or Fulton county? A little better, but relying on MARTA isn’t necessarily convenient, despite their claims that it’s “smarta.” Deciding the most effective and affordable means of transportation is something that people with disabilities are often contemplating. Come by the disABILITY LINK office and you are likely to hear or see “transportation is the number one reason that people with disabilities are ‘stuck’ at home.” Nobody wants to be “stuck” at home, nor do they want to be “stuck” somewhere else.
Paratransit is great, curb to curb service is wonderful (when they finally show up at your curb), as long as you plan ahead, no last minute excursions for paratransit users, though. You better plan every outing down to the last minute (along with a thirty minute window). It may not be glamorous to hop out of the Marta Mobility bus at the bar/club, but who cares? You’re there and ready to commence with a good time. But what about afterwards? What if the party isn’t over before paratransit or fixed route service closes for the night? Are you screwed? Probably. See, if you’re a wheelchair user there are only a handful of accessible taxis in Atlanta, so I hope you live nearby and the battery on your power chair is fully charged.
The taxi dilemma can happen with anyone. Wheelchair users can request that one of the small number of accessible cabs come to pick them up. Hopefully, they will be prompt. Other potential taxi users have some other decisions to make, however. First, which company to use, then how to get the cab and, finally, how to deal with shady cabbies. Sometimes a venue will have a taxi area where you can hop in a cab and go with no wait. Other times you have to call and be on hold for forever, summon a taxi by text or app (when you generally don’t get a say in which company will come) or (and this is the funniest/most futile option) try to hail a cab. Taxis in Atlanta, unlike most cities, cannot be hailed from the sidewalk, you have to call and book it (kind of like paratransit only you can do it on short notice).
Dealing with the shady drivers is another fun obstacle to deal with (and by “fun” I mean completely irritating and frustrating). I’ve had great experiences with cabs, but I’ve had more than a few drivers who will try overcharge me, or charge a “flat rate” which is three times more expensive than being charged by the mile. I don’t know if they assume that, since I use a cane, I can’t see that the meter says $9.75 when they say “Okay, sir, $12.00!” And when I correct them they’ll usually accept that they were caught and I’ll pay the metered amount, and (since they tried to gouge me) get no tip. It has been known to happen that they will try to argue that the extra charge was for something else, yet it never comes up on the meter. I will hand them the amount I saw and then exit the vehicle, daring them to argue with me.
All those barriers can make or break a decision to use a cab, the final barrier that I often encounter is the (unfair) fare. Atlanta cabs are expensive! I only rarely take cabs because of the cost. There is an establishment that I frequent that costs me $15 to get home from (that’s without being price gouging), and it’s only four miles away.
The main point I’m trying to get across is that we should never stop advocating for accessible, affordable transportation. We have social lives that should have to be cut short because our transit options are limiting both financially and in frequency of service.