CHICAGO (CBS) — You may have noticed a major change involving the kind of cabs that are out on the streets of Chicago lately.

As CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports, the average person has a mobility problem at one time or another during his or her life, and for those who use wheelchairs, there is some good news.

The number of wheelchair-accessible cabs on city streets is up 50 percent since the beginning of the year. The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection announced Wednesday that the city’s taxi fleet has added 47 wheelchair-accessible taxicabs in 2012.

A new ordinance requiring all cab companies to include wheelchair-accessible cabs takes effect in July.

Under city ordinance, most cabs may remain on the street for four years, but vehicles that are wheelchair accessible or that use alternative fuel can operate for five years – with a possible one-year extension if the vehicle is in good condition, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Many fleet owners are buying a cab model called the MV-1, manufactured by AM General in Mishwauka, Ind. The MV-1 is a boxy-looking vehicle that operates on compressed natural gas, and is purpose-built so as to be wheelchair accessible right off the assembly line.

The MV-1 can accommodate two wheelchairs and three non-wheelchair passengers at the same time.

The MV-1 is more expensive than a traditional taxi. But the new ordinance allows this type of vehicle to remain in service longer.

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