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.
Taxi fares will definitely be going up soon, according to Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky.
"Gas has gone way up — almost 50 percent since 2006. That means it’s harder to pay rent and harder to out food on the table," he explained at a lengthy and crowded TLC public hearing on the rate hike proposal on Thursday.
The TLC is considering raising fares by as much as 20 percent.
Yassky said drivers made a strong case for a fare increase, noting it’s been 6 years since the last hike and 8 years since an overall rate increase.
The Taxi Workers Alliance is asking that mileage and waiting time fees be raised on taxi fares ― potentially costing passengers an estimated $2 dollars more per ride.
TWA’s Bhairavi Desai also demanded that this time around the increase only go to drivers. She said they've lost about 25 percent in wages since the last fare increase. “It is unacceptable that we have an industry where we say these men and women can see their incomes drop in a 6-year period and we want to debate how much a fleet owner should still get?”
The TLC is also deciding if the rates garages are allowed to charge drivers for cab rentals by the day or week ― known as “lease caps” ― should also go up. This might be a harder sell, as Yassky noted. He told garage owners they haven't yet convinced the commission to agree to raise the fees drivers pay to garages.
Several taxi drivers held yellow signs during the hearing that read ‘F-A-I-R Hike.’ They switched their signs to ‘LIES’ when representatives of the fleets testified.
Michael Woloz, with the fleet organization the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, complained it’s not just taxi costs that are rising — garage costs are, too. Wolowz said the group is asking for a 19 percent increase in the cap. “It would offset the purchase of the vehicle, spare parts, maintenance and insurance," he said.
Their petition, Woloz alleged, is falling on deaf ears because the group filed one of the three lawsuits pending against the city. The suits seek to block the new livery street hail livery plan.
“The TLC needs to look factually and not look at who sided with them on the 5 borough taxi plan and who is litigating with them,” Wolowz said.
The commission is expected to vote on the measure in July.