Kathleen Horan, Reporter, WNYC News
Kathleen Horan is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio, covering the neighborhood beat. She also reports 'Reset', an ongoing series documenting police-community relations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission said the age-old problem of drivers rejecting rides to various destinations is getting worse. The city is seeking to seriously stiffen fines for cabbies who refuse outer borough destinations after passenger complaints about trip refusals skyrocketed 38 percent.
From July to the end of last year, passengers made 2,341 complaints — that’s 647 more than the same time a year earlier.
The TLC said in the next few months it will seek to increase fines for first-time offenders from between $200 and $350 to $500 dollars. It will also ask City Council to approve a 30-day suspension for the second offense and license revocation if a driver is found to have committed three such refusals within a three-year period.
The Taxi Worker's Alliance, the drivers' organization, said the issue is economic one: one trip to a far-away destination during rush hour can make the difference between breaking even and losing money. Instead of imposing higher fines, the organization said the city should raise fares and lower lease rates.
The TLC asks customers to call 311 or log on to the city's website if a driver refuses to take them to their destination. The number of overall passenger complaints to the TLC are also up by seven percent from the year before. It's unclear if the increase is due in part to the prevalence of smart phones or simply a greater understanding of taxi rules.