Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC)
Chairman David Yassky proposed a new category of cabs that would allow livery cars to pick up fares on streets in addition to being summoned by a telephone call to their respective dispatchers. The new category of cabs would be equipped with fare meters, GPS systems, roof lights and other equipment now required on yellow taxis. The cars would be painted a color other than yellow.
The proposal arose in response to the fact that only three percent of yellow taxi trips serve 80 percent of the city—Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island combined. Most yellow taxi trips, 97 percent, take place in Manhattan. Illegally hailed livery cars fill the void in the other boroughs some 150,000 times daily. Of utmost concern to Yassky and Bloomberg is that the livery cars, or “gypsy cabs”, as Yassky called them, are without regulation.
The proposal by the TLC and a counter-proposal by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), which counts almost one third of all licensed cabdrivers in its 15,000-driver membership, that taxi and livery stands be set up outside all major subway stations and shopping malls in the other boroughs and liveries be permitted to make legal pickups at these other borough livery and taxi stands as a pre-arranged trip never got past the proposal stage. However, on Apr. 29, 2012, Bloomberg, Yassky and members of the livery car industry announced that apple green “Borough Taxis” will bring legal taxi service to the seven million New Yorkers who live outside Manhattan’s Central Business District. Some 18,000 livery vehicles will be licensed to, for the first time, legally pick up street hail passengers in Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Staten Island and Northern Manhattan. The announcement of apple green as the official color for the new Borough Taxis followed TLC approval of regulations codifying authorizing state legislation, which was proposed by Bloomberg and became law in February.
The city will make a total of 18,000 Borough Taxi permits available, with the first of three annual batches of 6,000 to be issued starting in June 2012. The permits will cost applicants $1,500 each and will be valid for three years. The first 6,000 permits will be available solely to already licensed livery drivers and vehicle owners who have been successfully serving their communities and 20 percent of the total permits issued will be earmarked for use specifically with wheelchair accessible vehicles, with the city offering a $15,000 subsidy to assist operators in covering the cost differential as compared to non-accessible vehicles. Participation in this program will be optional, with livery bases and drivers having the ability to continue to provide service in their communities via prearrangement only, should they choose to do so.
In addition to the apple green exterior, which according to reports in daily newspapers of May 12, was viewed favorably by most New Yorkers polled, the vehicles will be equipped with credit card machines, roof lights for greater visibility and to signal availability, unique markings to further identify it as a licensed vehicle, taxi meters to standardize the fare, which will be the same as in all yellow taxicabs, and GPS vehicle location devices to help with the return of lost property and automatic collection of trip data to ensure the vehicles make pickups only outside of Manhattan’s Central Business District. Permit holders may “cruise” for hail fares in The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, and Manhattan, north of East 96th and West 110th Streets.
The TLC will continue aggressive enforcement against drivers who illegally pick up passengers off the street with a zero tolerance policy for any unlicensed and illegal hail services. Unlicensed operators face hundreds of dollars in fines, as well as the seizure of their vehicles, at the hands of a highly mobile TLC Enforcement Division, which has recently increased its staff.
Operators interested in obtaining a Borough Taxi license should monitor the TLC Web site, www.nyc.gov, or call 311 for updated information on applications. The application process for Borough Taxi licenses on a “first-come firstserved” basis began May 29.—Linda J. Wilson