BY EILEEN KELLY
In 1914, William Kelly applied for a hack license. Working side by side with his wife, Wanda, they put in long hours, seven days a week, to run a small private car service in Bayside. For almost 100 years, generations of Kellys have run the business.
Bayside was barely a town when William and Wanda started. They took people from the Long Island Rail Road station to wherever they needed to go. Not a lot of people had their own cars back then. The nearest subway is at least three-and-a-half miles away. When you wanted a safe, dependable ride, you walked in to Kelly’s, in the small wooden shed next to the railroad.
Our best customers are people who cannot drive their own cars. They are our repeat customers. They know us. We know them. We take them back and forth to doctor’s visits and to do their regular shopping. That certainly includes people who use wheelchairs, walkers and other accessibility aids.
We join the Taxi and Limousine Commission in its desire to provide better service for wheelchair users.
Every one of our customers deserves prompt, courteous, affordable service. Right now, there are not enough wheelchair-equipped for-hire cars available. It is a crying shame that wheelchair users get stranded places in every kind of weather or that they have to wait unreasonable amounts of time for pickups. The for-hire car industry has a plan that will guarantee that every wheelchair user will be picked up anywhere in the city, any time of the day or night within an average of 15 minutes. The industry is guaranteeing that it will be implemented within 18 months. The industry will invest whatever it must to make sure it happens.
But the Taxi and Limousine Commission has its own plan. It is impractical and too expensive, and the commission is not even thinking about getting it done until 2020. If it truly intends to improve travel for wheelchair users, then why wait until 2020 for a fiasco when you can have a success in 18 months?
It’s tough to run a business like ours. The traffic on Bell Boulevard is enough to turn your hair white. There are many costs that our passengers don’t see. We have to pay for parking spaces for the cars at the railroad station while they wait for the trains, and to store the vehicles overnight. We have to pay to maintain vehicles that travel an average of 70,000 miles per year over streets with potholes and construction debris when driving is good, and through ice and snow when driving is not good. Insurance is astronomical.
Workers’ comp and other driver protections are astronomical. Fuel prices are unpredictable. We simply can’t sustain added overhead. We cannot pass rising costs to our passengers either.
We urge the Taxi and Limousine Commission to try the industry’s plan for improving access for wheelchair users—the sooner, the better. It will keep for-hire cars on the road for all passengers, when and where they are needed. Isn’t that what we are trying to accomplish?
Eileen Kelly is an owner of Kelly’s Car Service in Bayside.