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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: City of Seattle conducts lottery for 15 wheelchair accessible taxicab licenses

12/2/2009  12:40:00 PM
Craig Leisy (206)386-1296
Denise Movius (206)684-9259
Cyndi Wilder  (206) 684-0909
Julie Moore  (206) 684-0909

City of Seattle conducts lottery for 15 wheelchair accessible taxicab licenses
723 eligible Seattle taxicab drivers submitted applications for lottery

SEATTLE — The city of Seattle conducted a lottery for 15 wheelchair accessible taxicab (WAT) licenses at the Seattle Center on Nov. 30. The lottery was open to the 2,577 licensed Seattle taxicab drivers – 723 drivers applied. Before the licenses are awarded, the city will verify that the winning drivers meet strict eligibility standards. The top 25 applicants were notified of their status on Monday and asked to complete a form indicating their experience as part of the verification process. Seattle expects to finalize WAT license awards by mid-December. A list showing the ranking of all 723 applicants is available online at:

Drivers who are awarded the new WAT licenses must place the wheelchair accessible vans into service within 60 days. It is anticipated that the 15 new WAT will be in service by February or March 2010, when there may be increased demand from visitors to Seattle who are attending the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in nearby Vancouver, B.C.

“It is gratifying to be issuing new taxicab licenses for the first time in nearly 20 years,” said Craig Leisy, consumer affairs manager, who oversees Seattle’s taxicab licensing program. “Taxicab passengers in wheelchairs will have shorter service response times for accessible taxicabs and 15 outstanding taxicab drivers will be rewarded with opportunities to become new taxicab businesses.” 

Approximately 90 percent of Seattle taxicab drivers are first-generation immigrants from more than 60 different countries.  Most started driving taxicabs five to 10 years after arriving in the United States.  “These new taxicab licenses are the realization of the American dream for some drivers,” said Leisy. 

Drivers awarded the new WAT licenses must personally drive the wheelchair accessible taxicabs a minimum of 30 hours per week and 40 weeks per year for five years before the license awards become permanent.  WAT drivers must complete special training in safely transporting disabled persons and must pick up passengers in wheelchairs before any other trips.

During 2007-08, the city of Seattle and King County jointly conducted a demonstration project with 16 temporary wheelchair accessible taxicabs. The goals of the project were to:

  • test the economic viability of privately-owned and operated wheelchair accessible taxicabs providing on-demand service to private-pay passengers at taximeter rates; and
  • assess the demand for accessible taxicabs in order to estimate how many WAT may be necessary to provide responsive service.

In July 2009, the joint Seattle-King County staff prepared a draft report recommending that 30 dual-licensed WAT licenses be issued. Dual licenses allow drivers to pick up passengers in both Seattle and King County. The report recommended issuing 30 WAT licenses to provide service response times comparable to standard taxicabs.

The existing 16 temporary WAT licenses currently operated in Yellow Cab by Washington Accessible Taxi will continue in service until King County has modified its taxicab code so that 30 permanent dual-licensed WAT licenses can be issued to replace them.

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Department of Executive Administration

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