Taxis with a double role


By Shafaat Ahmed

Taxis for people with special needs have been a feature on Dubai roads since 1998, but with the launch of new taxis and redesigning the old ones recently, the RTA has taken the concept to a new level.

Serving as an ambulance for hundreds of wheelchair-bound old as well as handicapped people, the RTA-managed Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) is the only company in the region to have such a service and the additional vehicles “will help people in a better way”, feels a senior official.

“It’s an RTA policy to review all its services regularly and it was high time we brought some changes to the special needs taxi service. We have been working on it for some time now and I believe we have made some useful changes to the interiors,” said Yousuf Al Ali, Director of Operations at the DTC, speaking on the sidelines of the launch last week.

The launch comes in the wake of the growing popularity of the vital service, providing mobility to people from across the country.

“According to the RTA’s strategic plan, we had to increase the number of taxis serving this segment of the society and we felt two taxis were not enough to cater to the growing demand. It was enough when it was launched 12 years ago, but now with the population almost doubled, it was insufficient. That is why we added two more taxis which will also double (up) as regular taxis when not serving the people with special needs,” said Yousuf.

With the doubling of the fleet comes another important policy change for the service. The taxis will be serving people from across the seven emirates, taking emergency calls to pick the customers from all over the country as well as drop them for normal metered fare.

“Our aim is to help the people as much as possible. Most of our customers are old people who are wheelchair-bound requiring visits to hospital regularly. With the new design and facilities, they will feel more comfortable,” he said.

With comprehensive upgrades to the interior of old taxis like more comfortable seating and extra wheelchair space, an LCD TV to keep the customers entertained and an advanced wheelchair lifting system, as well as a cooler to provide water and cold drinks, the new taxis are a safer bet.

Accommodating seven people along with a comfortable space for securing a wheelchair, the two new taxis — Toyoto Hiace and Hyundai H1 — would double up as both regular as well as special needs taxis, though the priority would be given to special needs people.

However, the old taxis, with a space to accommodate three wheelchairs along with a companion, will maintain their exclusivity by serving only people with special needs.

Special needs taxis can be booked in advance by dialing 04-2080808. Meter starts from Dh6 during daytime, while between 10pm and 6am, the minimum charge is Dh7. If hired from the airport, the meter starts at Dh25.