Editor’s note: This is the first in a multi-part series about accessibility issues with Norman’s transportation options.
“Any solution is better than what Norman has in place right now.”
That’s the view many in Norman’s disability community — including John High and Jeff Hughes, the executive director of Progressive Independence — have when it comes to the city’s accessible transportation issues.
“This transportation issue has existed for a long time,” Hughes said. “It doesn’t just affect people with disabilities either — it also affects people who are elderly.”
High, who uses a wheelchair, said because Norman does not have many options when it comes to accessible transportation for residents with disabilities, companies come from Oklahoma City and areas near Norman to provide those services. and it’s not cheap, costing no less than $100 for a round trip.
One of those companies, Go-Go Geezers, lists two different rates on its website: the regular rate, which starts at $60 for a roundtrip, and its wheelchair rate, which starts at $100. Those rates only include the first 10 miles. If the trip exceeds 10 miles, it costs an additional $2 per mile.
During a June community planning and transportation meeting, Ward 7 Stephen Holman and Ward 1 Brandi Studley hinted at the possibility of using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to address accessible transportation issues, a discussion they plan to have at the council retreat later this month.
High used his wheelchair as an example of the already astronomical costs associated with having a disability.
“My wheelchair cost me $26,000. That is a brand-new car,” he said.
While he understands why there is a difference in rates for those who use a wheelchair and those who do not, High would like to see that gap decreased.
“People like me cannot get a ride for under $100 in Norman,” he said. “I do understand why the costs go up. The equipment they need to accommodate people in wheelchairs costs a lot.”
Syndi Runyon of the Norman City Clerk’s office said taxi services are required to obtain a permit from the city before they can operate. She said the application requires the business’ address, phone number, email, a list of the vehicles, tag and VIN numbers, as well as the vehicle number if they have one. The application fee is $25 a year.
“They’re supposed to be inspected by our fleet maintenance division, post their insurance and rates with me every year, and they’re required to have a driver’s license through the police department,” Runyon said. “The penalty can be anywhere from $70 to $700. That would be totally up to the police department and municipal court.”
Runyon said the exceptions include companies that only drop people off in Norman, as well as companies with contracts through a medical facility or a hospital that are not open to the public.
Currently, three providers are licensed through the city: Airport Express, Postal Training Service Center and I-Drive Norman, Runyon confirmed. More information on city license requirements is available at normanok.gov.
Hughes described his own experience with Norman’s current options — about four years ago, he paid $800 so he and a few others could attend an event at the Norman library.
“It was a Sunday afternoon, and the city buses obviously don’t run on Sunday,” he said.
The company Hughes said he used, Reliable Medical Transport Inc., are in the process of selling the business, a representative confirmed last week.