Mayor Bloomberg is done playing nice regarding his idea to allow livery drivers pick up street hails. Rather than keep tossing around concepts for "borough only" taxis and seeing if they'll stick with the City Council, the TLC and livery owners, Bloomberg this weekend went and slipped a bill into the docket in Albany that'll get it done without a Council vote. And depending on how much the legislature wants to avoid voting on marriage equality it might even get voted on before the presumably-extended legislative session ends. If it goes through, the proposal could have a massive effect on how New Yorkers taxi around town.
The measure that was added to the dockets on Saturday would create 1,500 additional medallions for a new class of livery cab—569 of which would be required to be handicap-accessible—in addition to issuing up to 30,000 non-transferable “hail privilege vehicle permits.” Those new livery cabs would be painted a new color, include a meter and GPS and would have a top light that would differentiate them from yellow cabs and regular livery cars. And, of course, they would be allowed to legally pick up street fares in the outer boroughs and in Manhattan, North of Central Park. Though the habit is prevalent, it is currently illegal for livery cabs to pick up street fares.
Many taxi companies are furious that Bloomberg slipped the bill up to Albany while they thought they were still negotiating and are planning a protest later today at City Hall. “If one livery car has a meter in it and has the right to pick up street hails, every single livery in New York City will look at that as a green light to do what they are doing illegally now, and that’s picking up our fares. This," explained David Pollack, who represents a number of taxi leasing agents told the Gray Lady, “is life and death for the yellow taxi industry.”
But many livery drivers seem quite pleased by the development. “Livery drivers rely on a combination of street hails and radio calls to earn a decent salary in the outer boroughs," explained Pedro Heredia, president of Livery Base Owners Inc. which boasts more than 11,000 vehicles and 430 bases in the outer boroughs. "This plan acknowledges the reality of street hails and allows our drivers to continue picking up fares in the outer boroughs while the yellow cabs continue to focus on the areas where they’ve always been.”
If the bill passes in Albany it would not go into effect until July 2012. But first it has to come to a vote, which it may not get to do this week. In its favor? Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver is reportedly a fan.