California Opens Rulemaking to Address TNC Accessibility

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued a new Order Instituting Rulemaking to develop rules implementing the TNC Access For All Act. The Act (SB 1376) was enacted last year to require transportation network companies (TNCs) like Lyft and Uber to serve disabled persons, including wheelchair users.

Recognizing the Act’s intent that “California be a national leader in the deployment and adoption of on-demand transportation options for persons with disabilities,” the CPUC rulemaking will pilot a surcharge of at least 5 cents per trip to fund an access fund that will be used by TNCs providing wheelchair accessible vehicles. The order issued this week kicks off the rulemaking process, which will include consideration of how to:

  • Establish and enable adjustment of the minimum 5 cent fee mechanism, which will apply in a geographic area designated by the CPUC;
  • Establish the TNC Access For All Fund (Access Fund) for distribution on a competitive basis to TNC access providers;
  • In consultation with accessibility rights groups, create a process for designating geographic areas to be served by the TNC access programs or partnerships enabled by the Access Fund;
  • Authorize and set parameters pursuant to which TNCs can offset their Access Fund funding obligation by amounts spent to improve wheelchair access service on their platforms;
  • Establish criteria for expenditures from the Access Fund, and identify access providers;
  • Set reporting and benchmarks.

The rulemaking calls for a minimum of 5 workshops to be held across the state to enable stakeholder input, and establishment of a stakeholder working group to provide implementation assistance. The new rules will also allow accessibility advocacy groups to apply for intervenor compensation if they participate in the rulemaking and meet the CPUC’s requirement to provide a “substantial contribution” to the proceeding.

The rulemaking includes a list of questions on the above issues, and requires the TNCs named as respondents in the case to provide comments with detailed answers to the questions no later than March 3. Any other interested party may also file comments on the CPUC’s questions. Reply comments are due 15 days later.

The rulemaking will be of interest to TNCs, potential providers of disability access transportation services in California, disability rights advocates, local government and government agencies.

Author: Lynn Haug, Jeff Harris