The Taxi and Limousine Commission says that about 36,000 cab drivers gouged passengers on their trips, resulting in millions of excessive fares. The NY Times reports, "The drivers’ scheme, the commission said, involved 1.8 million rides and cost passengers an average of $4 to $5 extra per trip. The drivers, officials said, flipped switches on their meters that kicked in the higher rates, costing New York City riders a total of $8.3 million."
The fare within NYC is 40 cents per every one-fifth of a mile, while the fare in Nassau and Westchester Countries is 80 cents per one fifth of a mile. Earlier this month, the TLC revealed that one cabbie used the higher rate for passengers in NYC, scamming 574 riders out of nearly $40,000. The TLC launched a further investigation with GPS data from cabs: The Daily News reports it "found that 35, 558 drivers - 75% of the city's 47,000 licensed medallion cabbies - clipped at least one passenger. But 3,000 hacks were repeat offenders, blamed for switching their meters to a higher out-of-city rate on local trips more than 100 times each."
Outgoing TLC Commissioner Matthew Daus said, "We have not seen anything quite this pervasive. It’s very disturbing." But New York Taxi Workers Alliance's Bhairavi Desai told the Times, "This is clearly a systematic failure on the part of the meters and the technology... For this to be so widespread — nearly every single driver — makes no sense." And she said to the News, "This is a workforce that's known for returning diamonds and tens of thousands of dollars passengers leave behind. To be told the same workforce is ripping off passengers for four dollars and change each ride just doesn't match."
Some drivers said the buttons for the NYC rate (Code 1) and the Nassau/Westchester rate (Code 4) were very close together, but one was worried, "We are ashamed. People will look at us as a thief." The TLC is looking at ways to prevent further fraud—one interim solution may be meters "equipped with a highly visible alert when Rate Code 4 is activated"—and is considering whether passengers can be refunded. While some cabbies may be fined or lose licenses, a source told the News, "We can't fire 36,000 cabbies."