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The Brian Lehrer Show

30 Issues in 30 Days: Taxi!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's Transportation Week on the Brian Lehrer Show's election series "30 issues in 30 Days." See the full 30 Issues schedule and archive here.

How will hailing a cab change under the next mayor? Capital New York reporter Dana Rubinstein talks about the issues of medallion and livery cabs, owners' vs. drivers' concerns, Manhattan vs. "outer boroughs" and what the next mayor will do.

 

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: Fireworks at Taxi Vote on 5-Borough Taxi Plan

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's been a raucous morning at the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission, which is voting on new rules for outer-borough livery drivers, the last major hurdle before the city can start issuing new licenses so livery drivers can pick up street hails outside of Manhattan.

WNYC's Kathleeen Horan @KathleenHoran has been tweeting out all morning. The yellow cab industry is in a tizzy about this -- yesterday it filed a suit to block the plan, and as Kathleen tweets "one of the city's yellow fleet owners calls the plan 'biggest taking of property ever by NYC' and says there's $5 billion in medallion loans on the line."

She also tells us following a shouting outburst "2 are escorted outside for shouting."

We'll have more later as the hearing, and vote develop.

 

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Transportation Nation

As NY Taxi Commission Prepares for Historic Vote, Dissent Looms

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Livery Cab (photo by Kate Hinds)

(New York, NY -- WNYC) The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission is poised to vote tomorrow on a set of rules to pave the way for a historic change in the way New Yorkers can hail cabs.   Beginning this summer, if the rules pass, New Yorkers will be able to hail cabs in all five boroughs, not just Manhattan.

But there's dissent among some of the commissioners about whether the 200 pages of regulations that will govern the service is being rushed to a vote.

Some on the nine-member board of the TLC say they’d like more time to consider the repercussions and make necessary tweaks to the plan.

And TLC Commissioner David Yassky is frantically trying to settle the biggest differences before the vote (for a peek at his internal memo, click here).

Queens Commissioner Norah Marino thinks there should be more time to digest the biggest change in the industry in more than 70 years.

“We just got the amended rules a couple of days ago. It’s not enough time to make a responsible decision,” Marino said. She’d like to have at least a few more months to digest the proposal.  I know the city wants to sell these permits but that’s not a valid reason to rush this vote. "This is changing the landscape of an industry — it’s not a minor vote.”

The street hail livery plan will allow owners and drivers of for-hire vehicles to pick up passengers in Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Queens (excluding the airports), and Manhattan north of West 110th and East 96th streets.

Staten Island Commissioner Elias Arout would also like to delay a vote. He said he has serious concerns about whether it’s good for Staten Island in the first place, but would like to have more time to consider the possible effects on his borough’s livery industry. “We’re trying to ask Chairman Yassky to extend the vote for a few months but he wants this done Thursday,” he explained.

TLC Spokesman Allan Fromberg said they have every expectation of moving forward with a vote this week as planned.

The plan to deliver legal street hail livery service beyond Manhattan where most yellow cabs operate has been a central focus of Bloomberg administration over the past year. The eagerness to complete the process is also budgetary, since the billion dollars in expected revenue from the scheduled yellow medallion auction this summer is tied to the sale of the first livery street hail licenses.

Commissioner Frank Carone of Brooklyn said he’s prepared to cast his vote in support because TLC has agreed to make some last minute rule changes. In the most recent TLC memo to commissioners, Commissioner Yasky addresses some of the last minute changes, including increasing penalties for accepting street hails outside the upper Manhattan zone, where the street hail liveries are banned from picking up passengers. Carone also thinks moving forward is the best for all concerned. “The industry needs closure,” he said.

While upper Manhattan Councilman and former livery driver Ydanis Rodriguez  supports the overall plan, he hopes the TLC exercises some caution as they move to implement it. “I believe it’s a good initiative but now is the time to look at the details so that the users, the livery divers, and base owners have a clear understanding. We should take the time that is needed to make sure we have a good plan,” he said.

The public hearing and TLC vote on the livery hail draft rules will be held at Brooklyn Borough Hall at 9 a.m. on the April 19.

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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 Taxi Industry Squirms At Prospect of New Rules

Thursday, March 22, 2012

(New York,  NY - Kathleen Horan, WNYC) The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission is holding hearings about proposed rule changes in the taxi industry that would allow the city to sell street hail permits beginning in June.

The commission is expected to vote on the new rules next month and that’s making many in the taxi world tense. TLC ‘s hearing room in Lower Manhattan was packed with industry players lining up for a chance to weigh in.

Yellow medallion fleet owners, who’ve had the exclusive right to street hails, took issue with the TLC’s proposed enforcement plan. Richard Emery with the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade said there is already a problem of illegal poaching within the industry. “Now the law and these rules seek to add up to 18,000 livery hail licenses that will compound, not alleviate, the poaching scourge.” Emery urged the TLC to seize vehicles that don’t honor the prescribed boundaries.

Several livery car company owners said they were concerned that the rules would penalize them with fines or point penalties when a new driver breaks the law. “The base would be held responsible for an action the base cannot control or be privy to or have no ability to stop in the future”, said Tarek Mallah, General Manager with Dial 7 Car Service.

Others within the industry said they were confused about how this new class of for hire vehicle will operate and potentially change how they do business. Denise Mariott Pierce, owner of Transportation Unlimited Car Service in Brooklyn, said she was still weighing her options about whether to opt in or not. She came to the meeting seeking answers about how she’d keep track of a  required surcharge and how she’d reimburse drivers for credit card transactions. She was also concerned about changed the system during an uncertain time. “This isn’t a really good economy—the timing on this isn’t the best,” Pierce said.

TLC Commissioner David Yassky said the commission was seriously considering all testimony and would amend the rules as necessary.He said the TLC would do more outreach by sending out 60,000 information packets to licensees-- since several information sessions about the rule changes have been poorly attended.

But David Pollock, Executive Director for the Committee for Taxi Safety, a group that handles leasing for yellow taxi medallions, said the TLC had a tough job ahead. “Every segment of the industry is fearful about these new rules," he said. "The TLC needs to work with all parts of the industry to make sure one segment is not destroyed in the process.”

 

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Transportation Nation

The Next New York Cabs? For the Outer Boroughs, City Eyes Green Cabs

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Photo Illustration: John Keefe/WNYC. Original image courtesy of bsabarnowl/flickr

( New York, NY -- Kathleen Horan, WNYC) It ain’t easy being green. But in a few months New Yorkers could be hailing an emerald, lime or chartreuse cab.

The city is moving ahead with its plan to sell street hail livery permits that allow livery cars to accept street hails in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs. Part of the plan: the cabs have to be noticeably different from other taxis.

The TLC rules state the cabs “must be painted” what’s called “Street Hail Livery [color to be designated]” — and it can’t be yellow.

[To vote on what color you like, click here. )

Though TLC officials say they have not yet settled on a color, insiders say it’s been narrowed down to green.

“From my understanding, it’s going to be ‘livery green,’” said Guy Palumbo, former executive director of the Livery Roundtable.

Green has become the likely choice through a process of elimination, according to Livery Base Owners Association spokeswoman Cira Angeles.

“Blue to a certain degree is associated with the police, red with emergency vehicles. Finally someone mentioned green, and it sounded like a pretty good idea when it comes to identifying the car,” she said. “I, personally, love green.”

Other than color, street hail liveries will look and act like yellow medallion taxis. They’ll have roof lights, credit card readers, meters and partitions.

But street hail liveries can only pick up in the outer boroughs and in Manhattan north of West 110th street and East 96th. Airports are also excluded.

The yellow taxi hasn’t always been painted its signature color. Cabs could be found in an array of hues until the City Council passed a bill in 1968 that prohibited non-medallion cabs or liveries from using typical cab colors of yellow, orange, red or gold— differentiating them from medallion cabs.

In 1970, the city made yellow the official color of the medallion cab.

Yellow was the easiest color to differentiate long distance and not a lot of regular cars on the road were painted that color, according to professor GrahamRussell Gao Hodges, author of the book Taxi! A Social History of the New York City Cab Driver.

He said now the livery industry has come “full circle,” ready to enter a more legitimate world and be painted its own distinctive color.”

The TLC is expected to announce the color sometime this spring before the draft rules are finalized and the sale of the first 6,000 livery permits begins in June.

Livery passengers have differing opinions about what color the TLC should settle on.

Bronx resident Mario Robles favors dark blue, the color of many New York professional sports teams.

“Green is OK, but me, personally, I don’t think it professional,” he said. “I’ve seen green cabs in other cities, I don’t think of it as a New York color.”

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WNYC News

Mayor Bloomberg Enjoys Taxi Deal Victory Lap

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WNYC

Flanked by livery and yellow cab drivers, Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky and legislative supporters — Mayor Michael Bloomberg savored the outer borough taxi agreement with Governor Andrew Cuomo that  he called an “historic victory.”

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WNYC News

City’s Billion Dollar Taxi Plan Gets Green Light From Governor

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Governor Andrew Cuomo has agreed to sign Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial taxi legislation with some big tweaks.

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WNYC News

Debate Over How to Stop Sex Trafficking Puts Focus on Car Services

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Several advocates for sex trafficking victims are pushing the City Council for legislation that would penalize livery car drivers for knowingly transporting individuals forced into prostitution.

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WNYC News

Bloomberg Still Optimistic About Taxi Bill

Thursday, December 08, 2011

WNYC

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he Friday he remains optimistic Governor Andrew Cuomo will sign a bill that would put $1 billion in the city's coffers and allow street hails of some livery cabs in residential areas.

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WNYC News

Attempt to Revise Bloomberg's Taxi Plan May Have Stalled

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

WNYC

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to overhaul the way taxis are hailed could be headed for defeat. The city’s top lobbyist said the bill will be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo without any changes and the governor has already signaled he’s unhappy with the bill as is.

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WNYC News

Clock Ticking Down For Bloomberg Administration's Taxi Plan

Monday, December 05, 2011

WNYC

The clock is ticking on legislation that the Bloomberg administration promised would improve taxi service in the five boroughs and generate city revenue.

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WNYC News

Bloomberg Defends Outer-Borough Taxi Plan

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg continued to defend his proposal to allow taxi street hails in outer-boroughs and the sale of additional medallions — even as the legislation remains unsigned by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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Transportation Nation

NY Passes Law Allowing New Category of Taxi

Monday, June 27, 2011

(Photo: Karly Domb Sadof)

(Kathleen Horan, WNYC -- New York) The New York State legislature voted Friday to approve the sale of permits allowing a new class of livery vehicle to enter the street hail businesses, something that up until now has been widely practiced but officially off limits. Up to 30,000 permits will be available.

Yellow cabs move more than 600,000 people each day in New York — and 97 percent of all yellow street hail taxi pickups are in Manhattan or at area airports, according to data from New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The plan to offer expanded taxi options is a big win for Mayor Michael Bloomberg after six months of hard fought negotiations. The political wrangling over the bill began soon after Bloomberg announced his intention to offer more legal, safe taxi options to the 80 percent of the city’s population who live outside of Manhattan.

He may not have guessed the fight the city would have on its hands — the plan changed a number of times as the stakeholders in the taxi industry waged a battle for a piece of the very lucrative pie.

Livery bases who relied on pre-arranged calls opposed the plan. But bases and drivers — who had been flouting the law by accepting illegal street hails anyway — mostly supported the idea.

One of the most powerful and vocal opponents were yellow taxi fleet owners who operate garages and rent their medallions to drivers. They feared losing their exclusive right to street hails would devalue their investments.

The medallion system has been in place since 1937. The city passed a law known as the Haas Act at a time when it had an excess number of cabs and sold the licenses for $10. At recent auctions, medallions have fetched between $600,000 and just under a million dollars apiece.

It's not only the fleets who wanted to keep things the same; the small brokers, banks and other lenders who finance the sale of the pricey medallions do, too.

There are currently about $5 billion in outstanding loans on medallions, according to Richard Kay of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners. LOMTO is a credit union with about $100 million in assets. There are currently only about 3,000 owner-drivers out of more than 49,000 licensed drivers operating yellow medallion taxis.

Kay said lenders may be reluctant to put up money in the next medallion sale because of the new changes.

And he's confounded why the legislation passed because, of the dozen senators he discussed the legislation with, "every one said they don't like the plan but they have to vote for it anyways because someone is twisting their arm."

The Mayor, a major political donor in Albany, has been applying constant political pressure to get the measure passed.

But it's still unclear who will gain the most from new taxi rules.

"This is a battle of interest groups and these are powerful groups that have built up significant interest over decades," said professor Edward Rogoff, an economist who studies the taxi industry.

"In most parts of the outer boroughs, people can already get street hails, albeit illegally," he said. "The city will benefit because it will create more licensing fees and through enforcements."

But Mayor Bloomberg says the passage of the legislation offers "an historic turning point for the riding public and solves a problem that has proven intractable for decades."

The sale of the new livery permits is scheduled to begin early next year. The livery cars will have meters, partitions, credit card readers and be required to collect the 50 cent MTA surcharge that taxis currently do. They'll also have distinctive markings or paint that sets them apart from both yellow cabs and other livery vehicles.

Opponents of the legislation hope that the delayed sale of new permits will give them time to pursuade Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto the bill or, if it is signed, possibly block the plan in court.

In addition, the auction of an additional 1,500 yellow taxi medallions is scheduled for next July. The sale is expected to bring in over a billion dollars in revenue to the city.

 

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WNYC News

City's Taxi Legislation Hitting Road Blocks in the State Senate

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

WNYC

The city's so-called 5 Borough Taxi Plan that would legalize street hails throughout the city may have to undergo some serious re-working in order to pass the state Senate, according to Senator Martin Golden's chief of staff, Gerry Kassar.

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WNYC News

Assembly OKs Bill That Allows Livery Cars to Pick Up Street Hails

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The state Assembly voted 110-28 on Tuesday to allow livery drivers to pick up passengers who hail them in the outerboroughs and Upper Manhattan despite protests from yellow cab drivers who protested the legislation in Albany.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Wants to Legalize Hailing Livery Cabs

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

(New York -- Brian Zumhagen, WNYC) New York City currently bans passengers from hailing livery cabs on the street. You can only flag down licensed yellow cabs. All other car services must be called by phone to arrange a pick up. That could soon change for New York's outer boroughs under a proposal that Mayor Bloomberg included in State of the City address Wednesday.

Longtime livery cab driver Hipolito Sime, now a manager at Evelyn Car Service in Brooklyn, said the change would be a big help for residents of underserved neighborhoods in his borough.

"Bed-Stuy, East Flatbush, East New York, Sunset Park. Where you see a big group of minorities, that's where you're most likely to see the car service, and the yellow cab's not going to go there," he said.

Sime said the change would also bring relief to livery cab drivers, who can currently be ticketed by police and fined by the Taxi and Limousine Commission if they pick up passengers without waiting for a call from a dispatcher.

"That's going to help them keep their license longer because that was points by TLC if they get caught picking up somebody in the street, that would be a point on their license," he said.

Some Yellow cab drivers are expressing concern about the proposed change. Jean-Pierre Doume is worried he could lose business to livery drivers who don't have to pay the medallion fees that he has to pay.

"The yellow cabs, we have to pay $700 approximately or $800 or maybe $110, $120 daily. With competition like that I don't think it's going to be easy," he said.

The Taxi Workers' Alliance, which represents yellow cab drivers, echoed Ahmad's concern, saying the mayor's plan threatens the economic viability of its members.

But other yellow cab drivers welcome the proposed change.

"I take the black cars over there (to Brooklyn), I have to, because the yellow cabs, they cannot work over there because they don't know the streets or the addresses. It's really hard for them," said Ali Ahmad, who lives in Brooklyn.

As for his fellow outer borough residents, Ahmad said, "I can feel for the people, you know? I don't want them to stand in the cold weather, you know? It's good for them."

(Read more on NYC taxis at WNYC)

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