Kansas City Council paves way for new discount taxi for the elderly and the blind

02/06/2014 4:53 PM

02/06/2014 5:59 PM

Kansas City’s limited public transportation options can make it hard for elderly drivers to ever give up their cars, and blind residents also frequently struggle to get around.

But the Kansas City Council approved an ordinance Thursday that paves the way for a discounted, nonprofit taxi service to address that challenge.

“I can’t wait to use it,” said Jose Lopez, a visually impaired Northland resident.

Lopez said he often has trouble getting a cab in the Northland and this new service would alleviate high demand on the bus system’s Share-A-Fare service.

“This transportation would be such an invaluable option,” said Sheila Styron, public policy specialist for The Whole Person, which assists people with disabilities.

Styron, who is blind, said she trudged through huge mounds of snow to the bus stop to get to Thursday’s City Council meeting and she would have loved the choice of a door-to-door taxi service for the blind.

The service would be provided by ITNAmerica, which bills itself as an independent transportation network for seniors. Local board member Kimberlee Johnson said it operates in 24 cities in 21 states, including St. Charles, Mo. The local affiliate plans to begin service in a few months in Raytown and Independence, and it hopes to expand later this summer to Kansas City.

The organization, which uses mostly volunteer drivers, needed City Council approval because Kansas City regulates taxi services. The ordinance sets out stringent insurance requirements and background check requirements for drivers.

The service is expected to provide transportation at a discount not only to doctor appointments but also to the hairdresser, social events, church or wherever else the passenger wants to go. It is intended for people 65 and older and the visually impaired.

“There’s a great need for this,” said Councilman John Sharp. “It will be a great asset to our older citizens.”

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