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Yellow Cabs Get Poetic

Thursday, April 26, 2012

TLC Commissioner David Yassky

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.

Poems like “Graduation,” by Dorothea Tanning and “Noche de Lluvia, San Salvador,” by Aracelis Girmay will appear at various times in the city’s 13, 237 cabs on the loop of Taxi TV that is refreshed every two hours.

The 15-second, silent, animated poems are an expansion of the MTA’s popular Poetry in Motion program that posts verses next to dermatology and mattress ads on the city’s subways.

At the announcement of the literary partnership between subways and cabs in Times Square on Thursday, Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said he thinks when New Yorkers see the new content, they will be less likely to switch off the unpopular TV screens in the back of taxis.

"When there's something worth watching people keep the screens on and I think these poems are absolutely worth reading and absorbing," he said.

Yassky read a poem that he wrote himself for the occasion:

…And topping all, the Sunday’s cherry, making us gleeful and so merry is your partnership with the TLC, beautifying the Taxi TV, for I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a taxi. When raindrops fall like an autumn leaf, an empty cab is sweet relief.

Thursday is also Poem in Your Pocket Day, on which poetry fans are encouraged to choose a poem and carry it with them before sharing it with a co-worker, friend or a family member.

Below, check out some of Yassky's verses.

The poem Times Square, Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky wrote in honor of the literary partnership between subways and cabs.

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: NYC Taxi Commission Approves Plan for Outer Borough Street Hails

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission voted 7-2 to approve a new plan 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.

It was a raucous public hearing ahead of the TLC's vote.   Two yellow cab drivers were ejected for shouting.  One owner called it "the biggest taking of property ever by New York City."

The topic of street hails is a hot-button issue for some in the yellow cab industry, which  filed a suit to block the proposed plan on Wednesday.

The plan would allow 18,000 livery drivers who purchase the new street hail permits to pick up street hails in the outer boroughs and parts of upper Manhattan.

The first 6,000 street hail licenses are scheduled to be sold in June.

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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

D.C. Taxi Plan Would Revamp Aging Taxi Fleet

Monday, April 09, 2012

Washington, D.C. taxi waiting in front of Union Station (Photo CC by Flickr user tonnoro)

To hear the gruff voice of cabbie criticism for the proposed taxi plan in it's purest form, listen to the audio version of this story at WAMU. 

(Washington, D.C -- WAMU) Climbing into a taxicab in Washington, D.C. doesn't guarantee a pleasant ride. The cab may be old or dirty, the cabbie may not know his way around, and the rider better carry cash. City leaders say the current state of the taxi industry is embarrassing to a capital city visited by 20 million tourists annually.

The District's 6,500 taxicabs would undergo a major makeover under a plan awaiting the approval of the D.C. city council. A proposed 50-cent surcharge on all rides would pay for a slew of improvements: including smart meters with GPS that monitor routes and calculate fares; credit card payment machines; driver and passenger safety buttons that would call the police; and add driver ID panels and Internet screen displays in the back seats.

D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh sponsored the legislation. She also surveyed residents about D.C. cabs. The results showed residents support implementing the proposed improvements. Only 18 percent said the current state of service is good, while 42 percent said it is fair and 36 percent rated it poor. Compared to other cities, D.C. taxis were rated worse by 69 percent of survey respondents.

"I have taken the cab service here in Washington when I was working," says Gerry Horn of Port Washington, N.Y., as he waited for a ride outside Union Station. "I worked a lot down here even though I am from New York, and I was not all that excited about it."

D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron Linton explains that all the changes would be mandatory, despite the loud complaints of some cabbies, and would be funded exclusively by the 50-cent surcharge. A 'Consumer Service Fund' would be created solely for collecting the surcharge and allocating monies to enhance the taxicab industry.

"What [the cab drivers] don't understand is... why are we regulating them? I had to inform them that as far I knew, there is no commercial operation in the District of Columbia that isn't regulated by the government," says Linton, who says he expects the D.C. Council to approve Cheh's legislation this summer. "These are people who are driving on the streets owned by the citizens of the District of Columbia."

 

Raising the cost to raise the quality

Linton expects the taxi overhaul to take about two years. Based on the estimate of 25 million taxi passengers per year, the surcharge would place millions of dollars at his and the city council's disposal. Some cabbies simply don't trust the city to make the right decisions.

"Everybody is in our business and not taking care of their business," says Willie Coleman, who has been driving a cab for 36 years in the District. He says he opposes mandatory credit card payment machines even though a majority of passengers want them.

D.C. residents also support painting all the cabs the same color, according to Cheh's survey, but Linton says creating a uniform color scheme would not be high on his agenda.

"From my stand point as a regulator, it is not a big ticket item," Linton says. "I don't oppose it, but I am not going to expend energy when we have more important things to accomplish."

If you ask cabbies what the city can do for them, they will tell you raise fares. A fare increase is coming. As early as April 20, the per-mile charge will rise from $1.50 to $2.16. Luggage surcharges and the extra passenger surcharge of $1.50 will end.

Before they see most of the service enhancements, passengers will feel the changes in their wallets. The proposed fifty-cent surcharge and pending fare increase would increase the fare of a typical 2-mile ride in light traffic from $7 to nearly $9.

Unlike in other cities where cabbies are required to accept credit cards, under this plan, the Consumer Service Fund would cover the cost of the credit card fees, not the drivers.

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend says the higher fees will be worth it when you consider the current state of the taxicab industry.

"It's almost like you have entered a time warp when you enter a cab in the District of Columbia," says Townsend. "It's almost like looking at the vehicle fleet in Cuba, dilapidated, old, and antiquated. For so long, the cab drivers have been so poorly treated they have not had the resources or the wherewithal to upgrade their cabs unless they work for a big taxi service."

Linton said over the next two years further measures will be proposed to modernize the fleet, including increasing the number of hybrid and fuel efficient vehicles.

"So when people come here for conferences, conventions, and business meetings, they find this a very convenient and rewarding method for moving around this city," he says. "That is why it is so important for this city, as the capital of the nation, to have a really world class taxi system."

No matter what city officials say, some cabbies won't believe them until they see real results. Robert Scruggs, 81, who has been driving a cab in the District since the Eisenhower administration, says he doubts the new fund won't be raided to pay for other things.

"People have a thing of putting their hands in the cookie jar, especially here," he says.


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Transportation Nation

New Yorkers Check out Taxi of Tomorrow

Sunday, April 08, 2012

It's roomy...but also boxy. Those are some assessments of New Yorkers who got to check out the  'Taxi of Tomorrow," unveiled this week with much fanfare. The Nissan minivan has been chosen by city officials be the cab for the next decade, beginning next year as older cabs are retired.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg kicked the tires with Nissan execs Tuesday night, as the press was treated to cocktails and hors d‘oeuvres while they inspected the vehicle.

But at the New York International Auto on Friday, potential passengers got to see for the first time the taxi that will shuttle them home in the wee hours or take them cross town when they’re late for a meeting for the next decade.

The  NV200 model attracted a small crowd.

Myles Simmons from Manhattan looked closely at the prototype on display. He said he appreciated many of the next taxi’s features.

"I do like that there's leg room, I like that you have personal climate controls in the back, and that there's the USB ports where you can charge things," he said.

He did wonder why the minivan couldn’t fit wheelchairs.

Brooklyn’s Eddie Fernandez said part of the reason he came to the auto show was to look at the taxi. “I wanted to see exactly what it looked like up close before they put it on the street.”

Fernandez said the larger size will come in handy for New Yorkers who schlep around tons of stuff. “A lot of people have baby carriages, or luggage, they carry big bags around with I-Pads and all of their electronics, so I like that,” he said.

But others like Brooklyn's Orlando Vargas didn't approve of the boxy shape of the Nissan. Vargas would have preferred something sportier.

"This is just too cargo-y, just like a delivery van in a way, a yellow delivery van," he said.

The  NV200 will retail for $29,700 when it goes on sale in 2013.

The brighter yellow cabs of the near future will be on display at the Javits Center until April 15.

Getting a closer look at the city's next taxi
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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

Slideshow: New York's "Taxi of Tomorrow" on Display at New York Auto Show

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Nissan NV200 -- picked last year to be New York's "Taxi of Tomorrow" -- is making its public debut Friday at the New York International Auto Show.

It will be phased into the fleet beginning in October 2013. The city expects it to replace all other cab models by 2018. Check it out below.

The city's choice of the Nissan is enraging everyone from disability rights activists to lawmakers upset with the company's business ties to Iran. A class action lawsuit, calling on the city to make all cabs wheelchair accessible, is wending its way through the courts system. Meanwhile, a photoshopped image of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad riding shotgun in the new taxi is being tweeted by NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

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Transportation Nation

Taxis Are So Hot: Nissan Uses NYC Cab as Ad Model

Monday, March 26, 2012

(Soterios Johnson, WNYC -- New York) New York City's "Taxi of Tomorrow" will be making a kind of early appearance starting this week.

Nissan, the maker of the city's next model taxicab, said it will be using the boxy van in an ad campaign to help brand the company as innovators to be showcase the company's innovation.

Last year, Nissan's NV200 van won the city's design competition for all new New York City yellow cabs, which are expected to hit city streets next year.

Among the taxi's novel features are passenger airbags designed to work around the partition, exterior alert lights when a door is opened, independent passenger climate controls and more cargo room than a large sedan.

The car company’s advertising campaign will include huge billboards throughout the city around town, social media outreach and signs on existing taxi rooftops. It will also tie in the company's launch of five new vehicles over the next 15 months.

One of the other aims of the campaign is to get people to visit one of the new taxis at next month's New York International Auto Show.

Nissan's confidence in attaching its brand so closely with the city is seen as a sign of how big a draw New York has become for advertisers.

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WNYC News

Appeals Court OKs City's Taxi Medallion Plan

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New York City has received a green light from a federal appeals court to proceed with a plan to sell 2,000 new yellow taxi medallions despite a pending challenge from advocates for the disabled.

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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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Transportation Nation

New York's Ambitious Taxi Plans Calls for More $$

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

One of the approximately 200 wheelchair accessible cabs in the city. (photo by Kate Hinds/WNYC)

(New York, NY -- Kathleen Horan, WNYC)  Sometime in the fall, many more New York cabs will be wheelchair accessible, and it will be much easier to hail a cab in northern Manhattan, and in the other four boroughs.  New York City will also start collecting on what it hopes will be $1 billion in revenue from the new medallions sold.

But multiple layers and flaming hoops lie ahead.

There's the $20 million the Taxi and Limousine Commission will need to pay for grants to make cars wheelchair accessible -- a full third of its $60 million budget.

At the City Council Transportation Committee budget hearings on Tuesday, Commissioner David Yassky testified that it’s still unclear whether the grants will be distributed up front or if they’d be spaced out.

Yassky added “There’s a big difference between a $1000 dollar grant on day one and then $14,000 a few years from now-- versus $15,000 up front.”

The Bloomberg administration’s 5 Borough Taxi Plan calls for the sale of 18,000 HAIL licenses or permits over the next 3 years. 20% are required to be accessible. The first 6000 are scheduled to be sold this June.

Yassky said that the HAIL licenses will be sold on a first come, first serve basis.

But only licensed for-hire vehicle operators in good standing will be able to purchase them.

The Commissioner is standing by the Mayor’s and his agency’s estimate that the yellow medallion auction, also scheduled in the upcoming budget, would bring in a billion dollars in city revenue. At the hearing, some council members expressed concerns if that was realistic.

But the city has its work cut out for it. The TLC has to re-write existing rules, and go through the required public comment period before putting the HAIL permits up for sale. After that, it's legally permitted by the state to start selling medallions. Even then, only 400 can be auctioned. After the initial sale, the city must submit its long term accessibility plan to the State Department of Transportation for approval before moving forward with the rest of the auction.

Then there’s the pending federal lawsuit.  A judge ruled in December that the TLC must assure that its providing meaningful access to wheelchair bound New Yorkers. The city is appealing that decision but Yassky conceded that sometimes it's prudent to spend more money than policy dictates.

“If down the line you see us spending money and you say its not worth that level of expenditure—I would say to you that we also have the courts to worry about.”

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Transportation Nation

PHOTO: Ads on Your New Taxi Receipt

Friday, March 02, 2012

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission is making your ride even more commercial -- beginning soon, your taxi receipt will have an advertisement, like this one.  

TLC Chairman David Yassky  says 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.

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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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High Court Ruling on GPS Tracking Could Affect NYC Taxi Suit

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

NYC Taxi (photo: Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

(New York -- Kathleen Horan, WNYC) A local attorney will argue a case using the recent Supreme Court decision banning law enforcement from using GPS to track suspects without a warrant to challenge the use of data gathered from GPS systems in cabs as evidence. He's defending a taxi driver in a lawsuit against the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The driver, Mr. Robert Carniol, is one of thousands of cabbies who were accused of overcharging passengers by pushing the out-of-town rate on their meter in 2010. He was found guilty in an administrative hearing and lost his license. But attorney Dan Ackman is arguing in State Supreme court next month that officials obtained GPS data about his client and others illegally.

"Taxi drivers did not consent to be followed around individually 24 hours a day," Ackman said.

He said Monday's Supreme Court decision against law enforcement using GPS to track suspects is relevant, because the information in both cases was seized without a warrant that presents an illegal search and seizure.

"When you're seeking someone's livelihood by taking their license, as the TLC is, to me that's also law enforcement," Ackman said.

But Diana Murray, senior counsel with NYC Law Department, said "the courts have long recognized that 4th amendment privacy protections aren't applicable to highly-regulated industries such as the pawn shop and like taxi industries. The GPS in cabs is only active when the driver is on-duty and is deactivated when the driver is off-duty."

The city is seeking to have the case dismissed.

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WNYC News

High Court Ruling On GPS Tracking Could Affect City Taxi Suit

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

WNYC

A local attorney will argue a case using the recent Supreme Court decision banning law enforcement from using GPS to track suspects without a warrant to challenge the use of data gathered from GPS systems in cabs as evidence. He's defending a taxi driver in a lawsuit against the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission.

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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

New York's Taxi Bill's Long and Bumpy Ride

Friday, December 23, 2011

(New York, NY -- Kathleen Horan, WNYC) The path for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s outer borough taxi plan was much like long a cab ride: bumpy and expensive.

It’s been a mix of big political personalities and deep pockets that will lead to the virtual dismantling of the way New York's  for-hire transportation industry will operate in the future.

Now that the Bloomberg sponsored legislation has Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature, and both sides have called the agreement a win, much of the rest of the industry is trying to assess what the changes will actually mean.

Street Hails for Livery Cabs Causes a Stir

It all began last January, when Bloomberg announced he'd push for legislation that would allow all New Yorkers to hail a cab, whether it was black or yellow. That  raised the ire of much of the taxi industry, who said the Bloomberg administration never consulted with them or gave them a heads up that the mayor intended to change the way the taxi business operates.

Bloomberg’s people said they worked hard to reach out to all sides as the legislation was being drafted and agreed upon.

The mayor only needed Albany’s approval to sell more yellow medallions. But he hoped to by-pass the yellow medallion industry’s pull with the City Council --  and the industry passionately opposed sharing the exclusive right to accept street hails with livery counterparts.

In the six months between the announcement of the plan in January and the passage of the legislation in June, there were feverish negotiations and loud rallies organized by various factions of the yellow and black car stakeholders. Lobbyists were hired to fight the proposal upstate.  In those first months alone, the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, the group representing 23 yellow taxi fleet garages, enlisted three different lobbying firms, paying out more than $100,000.

Bloomberg said in a written statement  at the time that “The legislation marks an historic turning point for the riding public in New York City and solves a problem that has proven intractable for decades.”

What it marked was another serving of intractable for the mayor.

The Bill's Loud, Vocal Opposition

Bloomberg’s Senate sponsor, Martin Golden, said he signed onto the plan too soon without understanding the “repercussions.” Critics said Golden agreed to sponsor the bill, in part, because Bloomberg is generous to Republicans, in the city and upstate. But the state senator didn’t realize how many in the industry opposed the plan.  His phone — as other lawmakers' — rang off the hook. Angry livery base owners and others in their constituency complained that the plan would hurt their business.

As insiders continued to fight the plan or support it, the legislation seemed to be getting the cold shoulder from Governor Cuomo.

Then, in October, Cuomo showed his political hand by commenting on an opinion letter the U.S. Attorney filed on a lawsuit alleging the city violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by not having enough accessible cabs in its fleet (about two percent of more 13,000 taxis).

Cuomo said, “I understand and appreciate the concerns raised by the U.S. Attorneys office. Moreover, I understand the human needs of the disabled community when it comes to taxis. We will be addressing the issue as we consider modifications to the pending legislation.”

The governor continued to hammer Bloomberg and Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky about wheelchair accessibility. In his public comments, Cuomo didn’t shy away from threatening veto if it wasn’t changed.

Cuomo held 2 “taxi summits” calling industry stakeholders to his office. One was held in New York City and the other was held in Albany last month — chaired by the man himself.

At one point, a deal was said to be struck, and details were leaked. The number of outer borough permits would be cut and the number of accessible medallions would increase. But Cuomo denied any ‘plan.’ Insiders said the governor resented officials in the Bloomberg administration discussing the deal and shut it down as punishment.

Countdown Begins: To Veto or Not Veto

The bill landed on Cuomo’s desk without changes and the ten day clock began to tick.

Bhairavi Desai, head of the drivers group the Taxi Workers Alliance said, “Cuomo’s meeting was very surreal. We’ve always known our opposition was wealthy and politically connected. Everyone around that table had like millions of dollars or more in assets.”

There were yellow fleet owners, lenders, financial institutions and credit unions, along with their lobbyists. Livery groups and representatives from the disability community were also in attendance.

Desai said the city offered her group some sweeteners, but it was also about opposing the fat cats. “They say it’s about the medallion value—but it’s about the monopoly—their sense of control.”

The last couple days before the deadline, political insiders and industry stakeholders forecasted a veto by Cuomo. He himself said on numerous occasions that outcome was possible. When Bloomberg was asked by reporters each day if a deal would be passed he dismissed questions with a yes. But each successive day his mantra seemed less likely.

On the ninth day, the governor’s office sent out a release at 5:20 PM saying a taxi deal was struck.

At the press conference Cuomo and accessibility activists were there, along with TLC Commissioner Yassky. But Mayor Bloomberg was not. He made his comments via loudspeaker, not unlike the Wizard of Oz.

When asked at Bloomberg's celebratory press conference, surrounded by livery and taxi drivers on Wednesday, why he didn’t attend the event announcing an agreement he had fought for the whole year, Bloomberg said, “My job is here, I’ve got to work here. I was honored to speak, I don’t need my picture on TV all the time. I had the person there in the administration [David Yassky] that did the work. I was pleased and as I remember I had to cut my presentation short to light the world’s tallest menorah!”

Bloomberg also denied there was any bad blood between him and the governor. He said the negotiations actually resulted in a better bill. “What I wanted was 500 more yellow cabs for more city revenue and the Governor was focused on more accessibility.”

Waiting for the Final Language

Both camps have quieted down now that an agreement has been reached, but likely not for long.

Several issues still remain, such as will the city actually get over $1 billion from the sale of 2,000 yellow medallions and what the long-term Disabled Accessibility Plan will look like.

Marty McLaughlin who works with the lobbying firm Connelly, McLaughlin and Wolowz, forecasts much less revenue for the city than it projects.

“When you dilute a market — any market — the product itself is diluted,” he said. “No way they’ll get a billion dollars for these medallions, they’ve been diluted.”

The Livery Roundtable’s Guy Palumbo said industry opponents are taking the holidays to rest after actively fighting the plan for a year. “It’s taken a big physical toll, people are relieved either way. There’s a feeling of let’s cool our heels till January 1st then decide what to do.”

He said they’re also waiting to see what the actual language of the law will be and if the chapter amendment passes both houses of the legislature in January. “All the advisors have been telling everyone it could be good or it could be terrible. What’s in the law? No attorney will go to court without the law. We understand what’s agreed upon but without the actual language it’s never-never land.”

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WNYC News

The Taxi Bill's Long, Winding Road

Thursday, December 22, 2011

WNYC

The path for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s outer borough taxi plan was much like a cab ride: bumpy and expensive.

Comments [1]

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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