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WNYC News

Exit Interview: Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky

Monday, December 23, 2013

WNYC

David Yassky, who for nearly four years led New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission, sat down with WNYC's Amy Eddings for an exit interview.

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Transportation Nation

Yassky: Hurry Up and Finish Our Agenda, Because We're Outta Here

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Chair of the New York Taxi and Limousine gets it. He's out. So in an email to staff he's pretty direct: we "want to work like the dickens to finish as much of our projects as we can in the remaining 100 days."

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Transportation Nation

Lights Out for NYC Taxi "Off Duty" Lights

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The question of "is that taxi free or not?" could soon be easier to answer in New York. On Thursday, the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to do away with the off-duty lights. Here's a visual:

Whereas once there were two categories of lights, with four combinations:

(photo by magnus via filckr)

The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to just have this -- the medallion number:

(photo "adjusted" by WNYC's Stephen Nessen)

David Yassky, the TLC commissioner, said off-duty taxi lights "are a relic of bygone days" and that the rules change will make the system easier to understand.

"The only purpose it serves today is to confuse the passenger," he said, adding that the TLC hears complaints "all time" about rooftop lights. "Taxi roof lights should be simple.  If it's on, it means you can flag the cab down. If it's off, it's unavailable."

(Only one commissioner voted against the proposal: Iris Weinshall, a former NYC transportation commissioner who was in the news last year for her dislike of the Prospect Park West bike lane.)

Yassky said people hailing cabs don't care about the particulars of the lighting system. "The passenger only cares if the cab is available or not."

He said he hopes the new system will do away with another perennial vexation -- the way some cabbies use the off-duty light to cherry-pick customers. "It's a source of frustration (for passengers)," he said. "Sometimes they see drivers with the off-duty sign on go from person to person asking 'where are you going' and we don't want that to happen."

That's currently possible because the switch controlling the lights is manual. But when the off-duty lights fade away, so will the driver's control over the roof light.

According to the minutes of the May 2012 public hearing on the rules change, the single light roof light would eliminate the manual switch that controls the off-duty light. Instead, it would be controlled automatically and synched with the meter. So when the meter is engaged, the medallion number light will automatically turn off, and when the trip is over, the light will turn back on.

The new rule technically takes effect 30 days after being posted in the city record. But there could still be off duty lights on top of cabs until April, which is the end of the first quarter inspection period.

 

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: Judge Halts Mayor Bloomberg's Taxi Plan

Friday, June 01, 2012

(photo by d-w via Flickr)

(New York, NY -- WNYC) A state supreme court judge has -- at least for now -- brought the city's 5-boro taxi plan to a screeching halt, based on the theory that allowing the state to approve the plan was "an unconstitutional power grab."  The judge acted on a law suit brought by the yellow cab industry.

The plan, set to get underway this month, would have brought street-hail taxi service to northern Manhattan and the outer boros.  The sale of the additional medallions -- essentially, licenses to operate street-hail vehicles -- was to bring over $1 billion to city coffers.  The city has been offering seminars for fleet owners on how to convert outer-boro livery cars to taxis, and even designated a color for the new street hails --"Apple Green."

Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engron, who was a cabbie himself while he was an undergrad at Columbia, wrote in his decision:  “The court has trouble seeing how the provision of taxi service is a matter that can be wrenched from the hands of city government where it has resided for some 75 years. And be handed over to the state.”  He added that the restraining order “seeks to preserve the status quo until a more complete examination of the plaintiffs claim can be made.”

But the city's reaction was swift and scathing.

Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo, NYC's top lawyer, said, "We are deeply disappointed by today's decision.  We think the court was mistaken in its analysis and are exploring our appellate options.  We intend to so do expeditiously, so that we can proceed with this important new initiative.  The program is geared to providing improved transportation options to segments of the City which are now woefully underserved.  In addition, because we are enjoined from issuing additional medallions, we are prevented from proceeding with a program which will provide significant benefits to the disabled and garner the City approximately $1 billion in critically needed revenues."

The medallion industry has bitterly fought the Bloomberg plan, hiring consultants, organizing opposition rallies and threatening to litigate. The industry complained that allowing cars other than yellow taxis to pick up street hails would devalue the billion dollar medallion industry because for more than 80 years only they enjoyed that right.

One of the plaintiffs, the fleet group the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, is celebrating the Judge’s decision. Spokesman Michael Woloz said “By preventing the Taxi and Limousine Commission from issuing any outer borough street hail permits the court has prevented a trampling of the NY State constitution as well as an economic disaster from taxi owners and drivers who invested their life savings into what they regarded as the American dream—the taxi medallion. "

TLC Commissioner David Yassky called the last minute decision "unfortunate."

“We share the disappointment of the 80% of new Yorkers who live and work outside Manhattan and are waiting for safe, legal and reliable taxi service as well as the thousands of livery drivers who stand ready to provide that service," Yassky said.

The city was poised to start issuing the permits this month. The yellow medallion auction that’s scheduled for July and is estimated to bring in about 1 billion dollars to the city ‘s budget is now also on hold.

 

Here's the ruling:

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
COUNTY OF NEW YORK: PART 52
--------------------------------------------------------------------x
TAXICAB SERVICE ASSOCIATION, et al.,
Index Number: 102553/12
Plaintiffs,
Oral Argument Date: 5/31/12
- against -
Temporary Restraining Order
THE STATE OF NEW YORK, et al.,

Defendants.
----------------------------------------------------------------x
METROPOLITAN TAXICAB BOARD OF TRADE,
et al.,
Index Number 102472/12
Plaintiffs,
Oral Argument Date: 5/31/12
- against -
Temporary Restraining Order
MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG, in his official capacity
as Mayor of the City of New York, et al.,

Defendants.
------------------------------------------------------------------x
GREATER NEW YORK TAXI ASSOCIATION
et. al.
Index Number 102783
Plaintiffs,
Oral Argument Date 5/31/12
- against -
Temporary Restraining Order
THE STATE OF NEW YORK, et al.,

Defendants.
------------------------------------------------------------------x

Arthur F. Engoron, Justice

Every New Yorker worth his or her salt knows the following basic facts about taxicabs: only “medallioned” cabs are allowed by law to pick up street hail passengers; the City limits the number of medallions (NYC Charter § 2303(b)(4)); and finding a medallioned cab outside of lower- and mid-Manhattan and the airports is usually quite difficult. Indeed, in the so-called “outer-boroughs” (which for the sake of this order includes Manhattan above East 96th Street and West 110th Street) persons needing taxi service must, practically speaking, either telephone a livery cab company, or hail a “gypsy” cab not authorized to make the pickup. For decades, the problem of the lack of legal, reliable taxi service in the outer boroughs has proven intractable.

Recently, the executive branch of defendant City of New York, i.e., the mayor’s office, asked the legislative branch, i.e., the City Council, to increase the number of medallions and to authorize licenses for outer-borough hails. When negotiations broke down, the executive branch asked the State Government for the same. The result is the legislation at issue in these three roughly parallel (and fascinating) cases: Chapter 602 of the Laws of 2011, and Chapter 9 of the Laws of 2012, collectively known as The Street Hail Livery Law. These enactments essentially, and greatly simplified, allow the mayor to issue 2,000 more medallions; allow the Taxi and Limousine Commission, a part of the executive branch, to issue 18,000 outer borough hail licenses, and mandates certain handicap accessibility quotas.

Plaintiffs in the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade case are medallion owners and New York City Council Member Lewis A. Fidler. Plaintiffs in the Taxicab Service Association (“TSA”) case are credit unions and the like that finance the purchase of medallions. Plaintiffs in the Greater New York Taxi Association case are medallion owners and one individual. Defendants in both cases are, simply put, the State of New York, the legislative and executive bodies thereof, the City of New York, the Mayor thereof, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, and the Commissioner thereof.

As plaintiffs would have it, the trek to Albany was an “end run” by the Mayor. Be that as it may, end runs are legal in football and in politics. The most basic question (among many others) presented here is whether the legislation violates the “Home Rule” provision of the State Constitution. See NY Const. Art. IX § 2(b)(2): the legislature . . . [s]hall have the power to act in relation to the property, affairs or government of any local government only by general law, or by special law [i.e., a law affecting only one locality] only . . . on request of two-thirds of the total membership of its legislative body or on request of its chief executive officer concurred in by a majority of such membership.” As this Court has determined, in the roughly 24 hours since oral argument ended yesterday, and on the business day just prior to the one on which significant aspects of the legislation are to go into effect, that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the law does the State Constitution, and that plaintiffs have demonstrated “irreparable harm” and a “balancing of the equities” in their favor, this Court hereby issues this Temporary Restraining Order, enjoining defendants from implementing any aspect of the law (which contains a so-called “poison pill,” pursuant to which if any aspect of the law is held to be constitutionally infirm, the whole law falls).

Since The Great Depression the legislative branch of New York City has governed, and limited, the issuance of taxi medallions. Even when, twice in the last two decades, the City Council modestly increased the number of medallions, the Council issued a home rule message to this effect. Under the Home Rule provision of the State Constitution, the State Legislature may override the laws of a local municipality only in “matters other than the property, affairs or government of a local government.” The question here is basically whether the number of taxi medallions and the rules of outer-borough hails is primarily a matter of local or state concern. Obviously, anything that affects New York City affects the state in which it is situated, and just as obviously non-New York City residents can (and do, in droves) spend time in New York City. But, generally speaking, these facts cannot satisfy the Home Rule requirements or nothing would be left of the rule but the exceptions. The argument that the City is in the State, and so is a State concern, simply proves too much. This Court has trouble seeing how the provision of taxi service in New York City is a matter that can be wrenched from the hands of City government, where it has resided for some 75 years, and handed over to the State. Both governments are democracies, but only one is solely answerable on election day to the constituents of the five boroughs, those directly affected by the taxi service at issue here.

In a memorandum in opposition to plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief, defendant City quotes the New York State Senate Introducer’s Memorandum in Support of the legislation, in part, as follows:

The bill would allow the City to implement a taxi plan that will more effectively service all five boroughs of New York City and greatly increase the availability of accessible taxicabs and for-hire vehicles. The creation of this plan was prompted by three persistent mobility problems: the lack of accessible vehicles for people with disabilities; nearly non-existent taxi availability in underserved areas of the City (e.g., boroughs outside Manhattan); and insufficient taxi supply in Manhattan’s central business district.

There is nothing in here about Nassau or Westchester Counties, much less Buffalo or Rochester.

As the TSA plaintiffs put it (Memorandum of Law dated 5/17/12, at 7), “the Street Hail Livery Law infringes on Plaintiffs’ constitutionally guaranteed right to have their local government representatives decide issues relating to the local taxi industry, in which they are longtime and central participants.”

In addition to showing a likelihood of success on the merits, this Court finds that plaintiffs have demonstrated irreparable injury (see generally Ambrose v. Malcolm, 414 F Supp 485, 493 (S.D.N.Y.1976) (suggesting that deprivations of constitutional rights ipso facto demonstrate irreparable injury, or substitute therefor)), and a balancing of the equities in their favor (briefly keeping the status quo will not harm defendants).

Because of the afore-referenced severe time restrictions, today’s order does not address the numerous other complex objections (alleged unconstitutional takings and inadequate environmental review to name just two of many) plaintiffs have raised to the subject legislation. Today’s order also does not address the wisdom, or lack thereof, of defendants’ good-faith efforts to address age-old problems. Today’s order only seeks to preserve the status quo until a more complete examination can be made of plaintiffs’ claim (among others) that the legislation at issue represents an unconstitutional power grab, and of defendants’ response that the State government has properly regulated an area of state-wide concern.

Thus defendants are hereby temporarily restrained, pending further order of this Court, from implementing any aspect of the subject legislation, conditional on plaintiffs collectively posting a bond of $600,000 (the TSA plaintiffs claim to be a multi-billion dollar business) by Thursday, June 7, 2012. The Court will attempt to resolve with all deliberate speed plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, defendants’ request for summary judgment, and the ultimate merits of this litigation.

Dated: 6/1/12
Arthur F. Engoron, J.C.C.

Sincerely,

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WNYC News

TLC Says Taxi Fares Should Increase

Thursday, May 31, 2012

WNYC

Taxi fares will definitely be going up soon, according to Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky.

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Transportation Nation

NY Taxi Rates Expected To Rise by Summer's End

Monday, May 21, 2012

(New York, NY -- WNYC) By the end of the summer, it may cost more to take a taxi in New York.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission says it’s considering a fare hike on cabs later this month.  Its been 8 years since the last overall fare hike. The TLC will hold a public hearing on the rate hikes on May 31.

The Taxi Workers Alliance submitted a proposal for a hike a year ago. The group is asking for an increase between 20-25 percent.

Official sources say that number would likely be closer to 16-20 percent but that drivers have made a good case for an increase.

That would raise the average fare to $14 from about $12.

Taxi Workers Alliance’s Bhairavi Desai says  “Its about time, the last overall raise was in 2004—and we’ve seen drivers really struggling out there to make ends meet."

TLC Commissioner David Yassky says “it’s reasonable for taxi drivers and fleet owners to put this one the table. We will consider their petitions over the next couple of months.”

The TLC will also look at maximum lease rates, know as "lease caps," which have been requested by fleet owners.

If a fare increase is approved by the summer-- it will coincide with the sale of the new outer borough livery permits and 2000 yellow medallions.

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WNYC News

Liu Vows to Block 'Taxi of Tomorrow'

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

WNYC

Comptroller John Liu further complicated the city’s Taxi of Tomorrow project on Wednesday by saying he wouldn’t approve the city’s contract with Nissan because the vehicle selected isn’t wheelchair accessible.

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Transportation Nation

OMG! It's Green! New Yorkers React to New Cab Color

Monday, April 30, 2012

The city's new outer-boro street hails, inspired by the color of Granny Smith apples (photo: Brigid Bergin/WNYC)

(New York, NY -- Brigid Bergin, WNYC) Move over, Granny Smith. Apple green taxis are coming to an outer borough near you.

That's the official color the city selected for the new boro Taxis. Cars this shade of green, a color WNYC reported was on the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s short list, are scheduled to bring taxi service to Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx and northern Manhattan starting this summer.

Taiwo Whetstone, 30, gasped at the green hue. “Oh, my! That's really bright. Bright green. I mean it seems like the Brooklyn version of a taxi cab,” suggested Whetstone who lives in Clinton Hill.

But she liked the idea of it and said it would make her feel better about hailing a cab, “Coming from Brooklyn, you know, that’s kind of nice to have taxi cabs that are that obvious.”

Looking at a picture of the new cab color, Andrew Lis, 38, and his 7-year-old daughter Josie gave it a luke-warm reception.

“It's ok. It doesn't look like a cab,” said Lis as his daughter Josie chimed in, “It looks booger-colored.”

 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined TLC Commissioner David Yassky and other elected officials for the big reveal on Sunday in City Hall Plaza. The mayor called the vibrant shade “attractive” and “distinctive” adding, “It’s easy on the eyes and easy to pick out from a distance in traffic and that's going to help customers.”

“I think that green matches the leafier nature of the boroughs, as opposed the office towers of midtown,” said Yassky.

The TLC plans to issue 18,000 permits that will allow livery vehicles to legally pick up street hails, a practice that is currently illegal and subject to tickets and fines through TLC enforcement agents.

Yassky said the city has a “zero tolerance policy” on illegal street hails with 36,000 tickets issued in fiscal year 2012.

Under the new plan, current livery drivers will be eligible to apply for the $1,500 boro taxi permit on a first-come, first-serve basis starting Tuesday May 29. In June, the city will issue the first 6,000 permits, with two subsequent waves to follow.

A group of yellow cab owners have filed a suit to block the plan. That lawsuit is still pending.

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Features

Yellow Cabs Receive Poetic Infusion

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Starting Thursday, yellow taxi passengers will find something new in the back of their cabs. It's not a stranger's cell phone. It's a poem.

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WNYC News

Anxiety Looms in the Livery Industry as Borough Taxi Permit Sale Nears

Friday, April 06, 2012

The livery industry is set to change how it does business when the Taxi and Limousine Commission will vote on rules for its new five borough street hail plan this month.

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Transportation Nation

Anxiety Looms in the Livery Industry as Borough Taxi Permit Sale Nears

Friday, April 06, 2012

Livery Cab (photo by Kate Hinds)

The livery industry is set to change how it does business after the Taxi and Limousine Commission votes on rules for its new five borough street hail plan later this month.

It’s the last major step before the first 6,000 livery permits are sold in June and legal street hail service comes to the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan in a new form -- and it’s causing much uncertainty within the industry.

At a TLC sponsored information session near Yankee stadium this week, about 300 livery drivers and base owners crowded into the auditorium at Lincoln Hospital voicing concerns and seeking answers.

Judy Vargas, who owns a livery base in Washington Heights, said she’s concerned about a new rule that would punish base owners if their drivers break the rules, such as accepting street hails outside the stipulated boundaries.

“The TLC should not fine base owners when the taxi drivers pick up in the street because if we are going to have a permit that costs $3,000, we shouldn't be fined for that."

Vargas is also worried about some of the other requirements but she believes if she doesn't opt in her drivers will leave. There are 476 livery bases throughout the city.

"If we're not part of it … my drivers will go somewhere else,” Vargas said.

Drivers are also up in arms about some of the changes outlined by the TLC is a 89-page rule book on the proposed street hails.

(Photo: TLC Commissioner David Yassky talks with livery driver Clara Santiago.Kathleen Horan/WNYC)

Veteran Bronx driver Hamilton Delos Santos said he's been picking up street hails for a decade — even though it’s not technically legal. He has been ticketed three times in 10 years, but successfully fought the summonses.

He said he’s not sure why he would need to invest about $5,000 to upgrade his cab and buy a new livery permit.

“I’ve been taking street hails since I’ve been doing it, so now we have to invest all this money. It’s something we've already been doing for so long — what’s the total investment, the paint the meter, the taxi top — too many questions not being answered in there.”

The fine for accepting illegal street hails is $350.00.

During the information session, Clara Santiago, who works for Riverside Car Service, asked TLC Commissioner David Yassky why she'll have to paint her car a different color if she purchases a livery permit.

She has a black Lincoln.

“You want to keep it that way..I understand. But we’re trying to make a distinction about the cars that can pick up off the street and the ones that can't,” he said.

Yassky said he's not surprised there is still some confusion. He expects much of that to melt away after the plan is enacted and passengers do what they do best — put up their arms and hail a cab.

"Once we get the licenses issued and the drivers are in the street with borough taxis and people are able to hail them down, I think a lot of the questions people will figure out for themselves. Drivers are smart, passengers are smart. Our job is to just get those cars out on the street so people can flag them down.”

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Transportation Nation

NYC To Get Rid of Some Taxi TV's

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Taxi TV (photo by Kathleen Horan/WNYC)

(New York, NY -- Kathleen Horan, WNYC) New York City is planning to offer passengers a quieter ride by taking the TVs out of the backs of some yellow taxis.

"What we're trying here is a credit card screen that won't have advertising or entertainment content on that”, said Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky at a meeting of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

New Yorkers reaction has been mixed to the TV’s that can blare in the backseats but Yassky defends the current system—adding that some passengers do enjoy the entertainment content.

The TLC approved a pilot program on Thursday to remove the TV screens from the back of 30 cabs and replace them with iPads or other tablets.

The mobile payment company called SQUARE will equip these cabs with interactive touch screens. On them, passengers can to pay for their ride and opt to have a receipt emailed or texted to them. If the pilot program is approved, the new screens could appear in many more cabs by early next year. The internet and other functions wouldn’t be available right away.

Customers pay with nearly half of their trips by credit card, according to the TLC and up until now (since 2008) only 2 companies, Creative Mobile Technology or CMT and VeriFone have been authorized to provide credit card readers and GPS systems as well as the TV’s in cabs.

One of the current providers, Jesse Davis, President of CMT, was not pleased after the Commission voted to approve the pilot. He said the new gizmos are not safe. “No one in the industry has figured out how to lock it down. Someone can put a rogue application on the device and capture the credit card information…when you install it in a taxi you put in a device that’s literally available to 100’s of people: passengers, mechanics, operators, and drivers. One bad transaction ruins the whole program.”

The TLC said SQUARE’s system is up to industry standards but the Payment Card Industry or PCI has yet to write standards specifically for the I-Pad. The company, started by Jack Dorsey of Twitter, has been processing transactions for cab drivers in other cities like San Francisco and Orlando.

Taxi drivers supported the move toward more competition at the Commission meeting.  They welcomed the news that they’d receive quicker payment for credit card transactions—1 business day vs. a few-  and they’ll be charged less in credit card fees.

“We support breaking this exclusive monopoly these 2 companies have been enjoying”, said Bhairavi Desai, head of the Taxi Workers Alliance. “Neither have been invested in lowering the processing amount”, she added

Currently the amount the TLC allows drivers to be is charged 3.5% by the banks or processor. SQUARE is offering to drop that to 2.75%.

Drivers who lease their taxi can pay another 1.5% in fees to a fleet garage.

“We see the pilot program as a real step forward; it will give us a chance of breaking the 5%”, said Desai

The TLC is considering opening up the playing field before the current technology contracts expire next February. Officials say they’re planning to recommend that the new borough taxis in the upcoming street hail livery program be equipped with credit card readers and GPS data collection but TV’s would be optional. They said they’re seeking multiple affordable options for taxi operators to choose from.

The TLC is publishing the draft rules for selling street hail livery permits next week. A public hearing where the public can weigh in on the proposed rules is scheduled for March 22nd. The sale of the permits will begin in June, followed by the auction of 200 yellow medallions in July.

Taxi TV (photo by Kathleen Horan/WNYC)
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Transportation Nation

NY Taxi Receipts May Get Advertisements

Thursday, January 19, 2012

(New York, NY -- Kathleen Horan, WNYC) Another icon of the yellow cab is swaying:  those slow-to-emerge, rice-paper thin receipts.

The small, somewhat understated receipts taxi passengers may be becoming a thing of the past as the New York Taxi and Limousine votes  to allow advertisements on the back of the receipts.  Those ads could be for almost anything  -- from gyms to strip clubs to banks.

. “Apparently they will get bigger to accommodate the ads. Our rules won’t require the receipts to be any bigger but that’s what the industry will move toward,” TLC Commissioner David Yassky said.

Yassky said any ad revenue the industry makes could potentially keep prices down for customers.

“The credit card vendors would get the advertising revenue. The theory is that it holds down the fees they charge to taxi owners and holds down fare pressure,” Yassky explained.

But the drivers group Taxi Workers Alliance opposes having ads on the back of taxi receipts, since cabbies won’t share in the revenue. The group's Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said drivers haven't received a fare increase since 2004, yet they pay at least five percent for every credit card transaction.

“Hard working drivers shouldn’t have to provide charity to 5th Avenue advertisers, taxi technology vendors or taxi garages. It’s the driver’s labor, customer service, gas money and lease, so they should have the ad money,” Desai said.

One of the two technology vendors who work with the city to provide credit card readers in cabs, VeriFone, outfits about 6, 600 of the city’s 13,237 yellow cabs. According to TLC officials, that company is most eager to put ads on the back of receipts. It might be ideal for them, since they also provide taxi meters that will print the longer receipts. They’ll have the ability to make any required tweaks the machines require.

VeriFone did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the issue.

The TLC and other industry officials have yet to release an estimate about how much revenue the possible ads could provide to the vendors.

UPDATE: The vote was tabled until next month while the TLC gets information from VeriFone on total advertising revenue.

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Transportation Nation

NYC's Taxi TV Gets A New Channel

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Taxi TV (photo by Kathleen Horan/WNYC)

(Kathleen Horan -- New York, WNYC) Since it debuted two years ago, Taxi TV hasn’t gotten great reviews. But the city is promising more choices that it hopes will boost its popularity this fall.

The city’s municipal television station, NYC Media, will create a second channel with programming that includes segments on the arts, food, animals and ways to enjoy NY "on the cheap." It is scheduled to debut in October.

"I picture myself as the template for going into that cab and saying, 'Oh, this is fun, this is cool … I want to go to this Bangladeshi restaurant. I want to see this free concert in Bryant Park,'" said Diane Petzke, general manager at NYC Media.

She said the new channel will offer more hyper-local content that real New Yorkers will enjoy. Currently the single channel shows news briefs and weather updates, as well as lifestyle programming that’s provided by WABC-TV and NBC TV — in between the commercials.

The advertisements pay for the programming, but neither of the two vendors who operate the screens, Creative Mobile Technologies or Verifone Technology Systems, would say how much revenue they make selling ad time in the back of cabs.

Regardless, most passengers say, it’s not the amount of the commercials or the current content that is at the heart of the matter — they’d rather do without the TVs altogether.

In a survey conducted by the city this year, more than 31 percent of customers said they found the TVs the second most annoying thing about riding in a taxi, after the price.

"I just don’t think I have to be that connected all the time," taxi passenger Harry Shroder said. He turns off Taxi TV as quickly as he can. "I rather enjoy a moment of relaxation, even if it's in a cab which is not that relaxing. I would prefer to have it off."

Frank Trolly, who has been driving a cab in the city for the last five decades, agrees. He doesn’t think the second channel will be much of a hit because most people are more interested in their own gadgets. "Either they’re on a cell phone, and that’s interrupting them, and they’re saying 'can you shut that off.'"

The Taxi and Limousine Commission said that according to their data, people switch off the screens about 22 percent of the time.

TLC Commissioner David Yassky said he understands. "I've seen some emails along the lines of the, 'TV is annoying and intrusive and I think you should get rid of it.'" But he added this is the first step towards improving the service. He said the two vendors who operate the TVs have agreed to pay for focus groups in their new contract with the city to see what passengers like and don’t like in future versions of Taxi TV.

Alan Stern, who takes cabs frequently for his job in real estate, welcomed another Taxi TV channel. "I think it’s good to have another choice because right now you just have the same news like every 10 minutes, so it would be good to have an added feature for yourself for sure. Some of those cab rides can be long and costly — at least you’re getting something for your money."

And, if you still don't like it, Yassky said you’ll soon be able to mute the introduction on TV screens as well.

You can listen to the story below.

 

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Transportation Nation

A Tense 40th Anniversary for NY's Taxi Commission

Friday, July 29, 2011

(Kathleen Horan, WNYC -- New York) The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission’s recent monthly meeting was well attended at their new offices on Beaver Street in Lower Manhattan.Yellow cab drivers and others affiliated with the drivers’ group, the Taxi Worker’s Alliance, stood along the back wall of the hearing room closely monitoring the Commission’s discussion about possible rule changes regarding rooftop ads that can be seen affixed to the top of more than 8,000 yellow cabs.

Others in the industry were also accounted for: fleet owners, taxi leasing agents, livery base owners and others whose livelihoods are affected in one way or the other by the TLC.

Various stakeholders had received invites to stick around after the meeting for a reception celebrating the 40th anniversary of the agency whose initials don’t actually abbreviate the words tender loving care.

Rather than a festive birthday party atmosphere, the meeting felt palpably tense. It was the first since the Bloomberg administration won support in Albany for legislation that would legalize street hails for specially permitted livery cars in the outer boroughs.Some in the room had vigorously fought the bill. Arms were tightly folded in many of the chairs as the commissioners went through the day’s agenda.

As the meeting adjourned, various factions of the industry clustered in different areas of the floor like cliques in a high school quad.

The TLC’s longtime press secretary Alan Fromberg asked that people stick around -- that sandwiches were on the way.

When Commissioner David Yassky was asked about the meaning of 40th birthday of the agency that’s responsible for licensing and regulating the city’s cabs and other for-hire vehicles -- he said a lot has changed since 1971 and plenty has stayed the same.

“If you look back over the very first year of the TLC existence they were dealing with two big issues: one was taxis that refused service to Brooklyn and Queens -- still with us -- and the fact that people can’t hail a cab in Brooklyn and Queens and the Bronx, Staten Island. That’s also still with us although I believe we are on the verge of solving that one.”

Yassky said he thinks the great triumph of the TLC has been the establishment and maintenance of the brand: the yellow taxi. The mandate that all NYC metered cabs be uniform yellow predates the TLC by a year -- taxis have been officially yellow since January 1st, 1970 -- but 40 years of brand management leaves Yassky proud.

“It’s been known world wide,  respected, admired and desired... The value of the medallion is the proof of it.The value of the medallion has gone up four times the rate of the stock market! So that tells you the TLC does something right."

Sporting his TLC 40th anniversary commemorative lapel pin (left), Yassky boasted, "600,000 people a day get into cabs. That’s not a bubble that’s real.That revenue is going to keep coming in."

David Pollock who represents a group of medallion owners and taxi leasing agents, agreed that the city did a great thing when they created a medallion system.But he criticized the way the TLC was currently being run, on his way to the elevator.

He added, “we have a commission who want to destroy the same medallion system that had worked so well for 75 years who the whole world looks at and models their own transportation systems after.”

Pollock and others believe the new outer borough street hail rule will devalue yellow medallions who have had the exclusive right to street hails since the 1930’s.

Twenty minutes after the commission meeting adjourned, the sandwiches and drinks hadn’t arrived and the last few taxi driver’s left to go grab lunch before shift change.

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WNYC News

Bloomberg Rips Cabbies Who Refuse to Accept Riders

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The city is further cracking down on taxis that refuse to drive outside of Manhattan with a proposal for steeper fines and possibly revoking the license of repeat offenders. Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday said such "geographic discrimination" is unacceptable and on the rise.

Comments [3]

WNYC News

Vote on Taxi Driver Dress Code Postponed

Thursday, December 16, 2010

WNYC

The City's Taxi and Limousine Commission has postponed its vote on changing the dress code for taxi drivers until next month.

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WNYC News

Relief in Short Supply for the City's Taxi Drivers

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Locating public bathrooms in the city is challenging for many who live, work and visit here. There are even online sites and mobile apps for people seeking help finding a restroom. But these tools don't really work for taxi drivers. Drivers often work 10-to-12 hour shifts and require a public restroom with an adjacent parking spot.

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Transportation Nation

The Taxi of Tomorrow

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NYC Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky was on the Brian Lehrer Show this morning to talk about the Taxi of Tomorrow.  Listen below--and visit the segment's comments page to weigh in with a few suggestions of your own.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: More on the Number 7's Trans-Hudson Ambitions; DC Unveils First Public Car Charging Station, and Virgin Wants in on U.S. High-Speed Rail

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ARC tunnel, we just can't quit you: The New York Times takes a look at the mayor's plan to run the number 7 train under the Hudson River to New Jersey.   And while Mayor Bloomberg didn't shed many tears when the ARC died...when it comes extending his beloved number 7 line? Si se puede! (WNYC)

Do Europeans do a better job of traffic safety than Americans? A new report says yes. "It's not that they have technologies that we don't have; it's that they use them more extensively and they manage their highway safety programs more [intensely] and better than we do." (NPR)

General Motors returns to the stock market; is expected to expand its initial IPO by 31%. (Wall Street Journal)

The head of the Transportation Security Administration went before Congress yesterday to defend new airport screening procedures. (NPR)

DC unveils its first public curbside electric car charging station (Washington Post). Also in the capitol: The DC city council is holding a hearing on the final details of a streetcar plan.  (WAMU)

A NYC Transit supervisor is suing his former employers; says he was fired after reporting safety and security hazards on the subway. (NY Daily News)

The National Transportation Safety Board wants all states to adopt motorcycle helmet laws. One cyclists' group calls the move "disturbing." (Wall Street Journal)

Good Magazine has images from the 15 finalists in its Best Bus Route in America contest.

Virgin's Richard Branson has formed a high-speed rail consortium; wants to bid on contracts in Florida. (Forbes)

On this morning's Brian Lehrer Show, TLC Commissioner David Yassky takes listeners' suggestions about the Taxi of Tomorrow. (WNYC)

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