Taxis for everyone! Last night, Governor Cuomo announced that an agreement had been reached in the previously stalled plan to bring legal street-hail livery cabs to the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan. And while he was at it, Cuomo has strong armed the taxi industry into including more handicapped vehicles (even if the city says it doesn't have an "obligation" to serve them). The new class of livery cabs (with meters, credit card readers and roof lights) and the thousands of new taxi medallions the city wants to sell will hit the streets next year.

The agreement Cuomo plans to sign today will create a new class of livery cabs that will be legal to hail from the street (whatever livery drivers tell you, it is currently illegal for them to pick you up from a hail) and will allow the TLC to issue up to 18,000 new livery licenses and 2,000 new yellow cab medallions—all of which will be for handicap-accessible vehicles. Mayor Bloomberg says the new sales will generate "a much-needed billion dolars in revenue for the City," though there is a good argument the city isn't getting as much moolah as it could. As 2nd Avenue Sagas points out regarding the lucrative medallions: "the new livery medallions will be phased in over three years. Apparently, the city is set to sell them for $1500 each while subsequent owners can hawk them at market rates, thus creating an absurd situation where the government is literally giving money away."

In addition to the 2,000 wheelchair-accessible yellow cab medallions, the deal requires that the first 20 percent of the 6,000 street-hail livery licenses issued be for wheelchair-accessible vehicles. After that another 6,000 licenses will be made available each year for two years, but the percentage of those that will be wheelchair-accessible is still TBD. Even better, the city has agreed to subsidize $15,000 per livery license to help make cars wheelchair accessible (for a total of $54 million).

This is great news for folks who want a ride in and out of the outer boroughs, people who want to break into the taxi business, and the handicapped population. Right now there are 232 wheelchair-accessible cabs in the city's fleet of 13,000. In three years there should be 2,232—not counting the new livery cabs. "I was not going to sign a bill that did not address it," Cuomo said yesterday regarding the handicapped. "It’s very important to me that the bill is something I’m proud of and that all New Yorkers can be proud of. And I don’t believe New Yorkers want a taxi system that is not accessible, period."

The only people who seem to have lost out in this one are the yellow cab fleet owners, who are expected to try and put up a legal challenge of some sort to the new bill.