2011-03-16 / Front Page

TLC Officials Discuss Livery Cab Pickups At Board 6

By Richard Gentilviso

In his State of the City address this past  January, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a new category of livery cars that can make on-street passenger pick-ups outside of Manhattan, just as yellow cabs do.
“Whether you’re standing on 42nd Street in Manhattan or 42nd Street in Sunset Park (Brooklyn), or 42nd Street in Sunnyside (Queens), you ought to be able to hail a cab,” Bloomberg said.
New York City Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky told Community Board 6 at its March meeting that 97 percent of yellow cab trips are within Manhattan or to an airport. “Only 2.5 percent of trips are to Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens or Staten Island, combined,” he said. “[Yellow cabs] spend all their time in Manhattan, we know that.”
To alleviate the problem of taxi service in Queens and the other boroughs outside Manhattan, “We are proposing to let car services in the boroughs also be taxis,” Yassky said. TLC is asking for opinions on borough taxis. A brief passenger survey can be found online at www.nyc.gov/taxi.
Under the proposal, car service companies can, at their option, transform their vehicles into cabs that can operate in the boroughs. They will be required to paint the vehicles (a color other than yellow) and install roof lights and meters at an approximate cost of $1,500.
“We’ve created a gigantic underground market.  Often they are not licensed by TLC,”  Yassky said of livery car services. Borough taxis will have screened drivers, proper insurance and meters.
Board 6 Chairman Joseph Hennessy  asked if the plan is fair to yellow cab owners, who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for their licensed medallions.
“There are 13,237 medallion yellow taxis, period,” Yassky said. “There’s not going to be any more.”  When the city last sold yellow taxi medallions, the price was $475,000 each. Yassky said one yellow taxi medallion was recently resold for $900,000. Medallions can cover a single cab or a fleet.
“The proposal is to eliminate an old and now obsolete law,” Yassky explained. An eight-year-old local law restricts who can buy and sell yellow taxi medallions. “The system works in Manhattan, but outside [that borough], the reality is it [does] not,” he said. “There’s no reason to say that letting people compete in Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island will affect [taxi medallion] values.”
Yassky acknowledged that enforcement of the rules governing the car service industry by TLC has not been as “good as it should be”. “If we succeed in this [borough taxi plan], we create a legitimate option everywhere,” he said.
Earlier on March 9, the day that Board 6 met, Bloomberg and Yassky announced the results of an undercover operation targeting cab drivers illegally refusing service. The number of refusals reported to TLC between July 2009 and February 2010 and July 2010 and February 2011 increased 36 percent, from 2,128 to 2,887.
Anyone refused service should write down the medallion number and report the incident to the 311 city information hotline. A bill to increase penalties will be introduced in the City Council later this month. New York City cab drivers are required by law to take a passenger to any destination within the five boroughs or to destinations in Nassau and Westchester Counties and to Newark Airport.

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