West Hollywood’s older and disabled residents will experience a major change in the WeHo Taxi Assistance Program beginning Jan. 1.
The program currently offers residents 62 and older and those of any age with documented disabilities discounted rides on five local taxi systems. On Jan. 1, the program will be managed by Ambiance Transportation. Instead of taxis, Ambiance will provide rides with its own vehicles and drivers. It will use the Lyft ride share service if a ride is requested outside Ambiance’s normal working hours or the Ambiance vehicle can’t arrive within 20 minutes of the request. The Ambiance call center, whose number is (310) 981-9303, will be available 24 hours each day of the week.
The city will continue to subsidize rides for those using the new system at the same rate used for the current taxi program. Those registered with the program can buy up to $100 worth of rides for $16. The minimum purchase is $50 worth of rides for $8. Existing balances on taxi subsidy cards will be transferred to the new program.
Another big change is that the program will be internet friendly. Beginning Jan. 1, users will be able to download a mobile app from which to request a ride for both iPhone (iOS) and Android devices. Ambiance also has a website, ambianceoncall.com, where users can request a ride and register their membership in the program. Those currently registered in the taxi assistance program have received letters from the city announcing the new program and providing individual member IDs.
Users can purchase ride credits on the website or the mobile phone app. The other option, which is currently in use, is to mail a check with one’s member ID to West Hollywood On-Call Transportation Program, PO Box 920427, Sylmar, CA 91392. The limit of $100 in ride credits per month can be increased for those who must travel to UCLA County Medical Center, Kaiser Sunset and Veterans Administration Los Angeles. Anyone seeking an increase must call (310) 981-9303 to request an application form.
The new system also offers on-call services for those who must use wheelchairs, something also offered by the city’s Dial-A-Ride program. Ambiance’s Lyft vehicles will be able to store wheelchairs in their trunks. Ambiance also offers its own vehicles with lifts or ramps for wheelchair users. Wheelchair accessible vans can be reserved 24 hours in advance for travel Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The City of West Hollywood has budgeted $900,000 for the Ambiance program. Those 62 and older make up roughly one-fifth of the city’s population, which is estimated at 36,148 people by the latest U.S. Census American Community Survey.