Livery owners oppose new car service bill

In his State of the City address, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he would seek to bring street-hail car service to borough residents. While we support the mayor’s goal, the resulting bill soon to be before Governor Cuomo will result in discrimination against the minority riding public and higher costs per ride. Therefore, we urge the governor to veto the bill.

Presently, livery cabs are legally barred from picking up street hail passengers. However, since yellow taxis do not generally service the boroughs, and because there is no effective means of policing street hail car service, a vibrant illegal market exists.

The current bill’s attempt to address this problem of “dual use” cars, which allows cars to perform both street hail and pre-arranged calls, is completely misguided.

First and foremost, customers will feel the financial impact of this bill. Currently, livery drivers who only service the arranged pickup customer get a significantly reduced workers compensation insurance rate. Once these drivers go to dual use, their insurance costs will increase from $260 to about $1200 to $1500. These additional costs will be passed on to the consumer, driving up the cost of a car ride by an estimated 20 percent or more.

An additional problem with the bill is that drivers will prefer the financial incentive of picking up street hailers in busy borough areas. As a result, few cars will be available for street hails in low-income areas and arranged pickups to those areas will be ignored.

When duel use was implemented in Manhattan in the 70’s, it made it easier for drivers to discriminate against riders. Dual use allowed livery drivers who did not want to pick up a passenger based on racial or ethnic profiling to claim they just got a call for a pickup as a reason for passing over a street passenger. Today, yellow taxis, which are only allowed to perform street hail service, are fined for refusing to pick up a passenger. But when those taxis were dual use, there was no effective means for policing them because it’s difficult to identify if, in fact, there was a call for a pickup.

On the flip side, customers who called for car service during the dual use days of the 70’s were often left stranded because drivers were tempted by immediate, more lucrative street hails.

For these very reasons, dual use was banned in Manhattan and services were separated in the 1980s (street hail by taxi and arranged car service by livery). So if it didn’t work in Manhattan, why try it in the boroughs?

Adding insult to injury, the legislation discriminates against the outer borough by requiring portion of the taxis to be wheelchair accessible in Manhattan but completely disregards wheelchair-users of the outer boroughs by not requiring any cars to be wheelchair-accessible.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We should create two single-use transportation systems, similar to those which function so well in Manhattan. Two systems – one for street hails and one for arranged pick-ups – would best ensure reliable and fair service for all consumers. Therefore, we urge the governor to veto the current bill.

Robert Hewling – NYC Independent Livery Owners Corp

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