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December 15, 2009

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City short on accessible taxis

TAXIS for disabled people are in short supply in the city, with only about 120 among its total 40,000 taxis having been equipped with accessible facilities since 2007, taxi companies said yesterday.

High costs and maintenance fees have held back wider usage, despite some government subsidies, officials said.

The shortage makes it tough on the people who need them.

With relatively few accessible taxis on the road, people have to reserve well in advance and companies have to run the cabs on tight schedules.

"People feel inconvenienced when they have to book a taxi for the handicapped usually days ahead," said Chen Lin, an official with Qiangsheng Group Co, one of the city's leading taxi companies.

The city first saw such cabs in October 2007, when the Special Olympic Games was held in Shanghai, and planned to have more than 300 taxis before the 2010 World Expo.

To date, Qiangsheng has 90 cabs with a whirl seat for the slightly disabled or the elderly. The company has a total of 7,000 cabs.

The Dazhong Group Co, another local giant cab company, operates 30 vans for passengers who are more severely disabled. The vans are equipped with an elevator to lift a wheelchair.

The cabs can also be used in normal operations.

Both kinds, however, are not cheap.

Electric whirl seats, exported from abroad, cost about 14,000 yuan (US$2,050) apiece. Qiangsheng has cut that cost to 7,000 yuan by developing a manual version, said Chen. The company covered all the cost, he said.

The vans cost much more - about 190,000 yuan - with the elevators priced at 50,000 yuan, said Wang Dong, a manager with Dazhong.

The vans are "in great demand," Wang said.

More than 40,000 disabled people have registered for discount cards to enable them to ride the vehicles.


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