Home Asides T&LC upping service refusal fine for cabbies

T&LC upping service refusal fine for cabbies

by Benjamin Kabak

As the Taxi & Limousine Commission works to bring more taxis to areas outside of Manhattan, the city is upping the penalty it levies on cabbies who refuse fares. According to a report in The Post, fines will jump to $500 for first-time offenders while a second offense carries a $750 fine and a 30-day suspension. A third conviction will result in a mandatory revocation of a license.

Over the last year, New Yorkers have either been confronted with ruder cabbies or are fighting back. The Commission says complaints over service refusals — especially to Outer Borough destinations — have increased 38 percent over the past year. “A core component of taxi service is that the passenger chooses where to go in the five boroughs,” T&LC Chair David Yassky said. “Unfortunately, it is getting to be like the bad old days when taxis wouldn’t go to Brooklyn. I strongly encourage taxi riders to call 311 each and every time they are denied service.”

Taxis are an integral part of the city’s transportation picture, and it has long been against T&LC rules to deny passengers service to any part of the five boroughs. Still, cabbies are often loath to take the trips, and some can be downright nasty. This fine increase, still to be approved by the City Council, is a welcome one.

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Jonathan R February 25, 2011 - 4:45 pm

I suppose the incidence rose after NY1 started running those promos about how real New Yorkers always get in the cab first.

Marc Shepherd February 25, 2011 - 5:08 pm

I wonder how often that’s reported, in relation to the number of times it happens? When I’m refused service, I just wait for the next one (not that it’s a regular occurrence for me).

Ryan February 25, 2011 - 6:15 pm

I find this an interesting debate. I for one do not want to be in that taxi of (at the mercy of) some guy I don’t know who feels like he’s being unfairly forced against his will to take me somewhere he doesn’t like to drive to.

Which leads me to the conclusion that the system is broken. Unless these taxi drivers are just being greedy jerks (which I admit is possible, I don’t fully know the situation), then something is wrong with how this is all set up. If the taxi drivers are not fairly compensated for rides outside of Manhattan, then the system should change such that they are fairly compensated. I’m not sure exactly how to do this, but for the Taxi Commission to force drivers to take rides that will lose them money seems kind of ridiculous.

Tsuyoshi February 25, 2011 - 7:33 pm

The money that they make is just much higher in denser areas, so any successful policy has to compensate for this. The problem with simply fining drivers is that if they don’t make money on outer borough trips, their only hope of making money is to try to evade the rules, and that’s what they’ll do. As I understand it, the drivers do not make a whole lot of money.

One possible way you could compensate would be to simply raise fares outside of Manhattan, to the point where the trips actually make as much money for the drivers as Manhattan trips. Another, possibly more politically-palatable way would be to raise fares on everyone, and use a portion of the Manhattan fares to subsidize non-Manhattan fares.

nycpat February 26, 2011 - 12:17 am

Just like leaving the 5 boros doubles the fare, perhaps there should be a 25% surcharge for leaving Manhattan. Of course the owners would raise the lease rates and the drivers would lose again.
The system is a disgrace and only benefits medallion owners and brokers. I’d be ashamed to FORCE a driver to take me anywhere because it’s THE LAW. The law is an ass.

pete February 27, 2011 - 1:18 pm

The way you evade the rules is the following. A complaint is dismissed unless the passenger shows up in administrative court to testify. The driver will file papers saying he is out of the country (in Bangladesh/whatever) and NOT driving the cab, he drives the cab anyway. He will do this until the passenger gives up and the case is dismissed.

Justin Samuels February 27, 2011 - 4:01 pm

Then the driver would be subject to the fine for refusing to appear in court or could have a judgement against him, since he wasn’t there to testify.

You cannot miss court dates.

pete February 27, 2011 - 7:24 pm

He didn’t miss the court date. He filed for and was granted an extension because he is “out of the country”. He keeps filing the extensions (3 months at a time) for a year and by then the passenger lost interest in showing up for the hearing and when it is finally scheduled its dismissed. The cabs don’t have fingerprint scanners next to the ignition key.

for example, you can drive for months, or years, without a license and not be caught http://gothamist.com/2009/03/1.....ire_ov.php

digamma February 25, 2011 - 7:23 pm

Doesn’t the cell phone change the game a lot? I had a taxi driver tell me he couldn’t go to Brooklyn last year and I said “Really? I didn’t know about that rule. Let’s call this number posted on the passenger bill of rights to clarify.” Before I could dial he remembered that he actually could go to Brooklyn.

Marc Shepherd February 26, 2011 - 1:41 pm

I don’t think it changes the game very much. Most taxi riders wouldn’t threaten to make that call; they’d just take the driver’s word for it, and wait for another cab.

Chris February 26, 2011 - 11:20 am

Yeah I’m not sure its a “welcome development” that the TLC is stepping up its absurd system of price controls. I suppose it’s nice for outer-borough travellers to punish cabbies who try not to take their unprofitable business, but it doesn’t strike me as improving the fairness, justice, or efficiency of the system.

Remember that a trip to the outer boroughs means less customers serviced total – the very reason cabbies don’t want to go to Queens is there’s nobody waiting to come back. The cab could service 2, or more, customers in Manhattan in that time.

VLM February 26, 2011 - 11:25 am

What makes you think it’s so unprofitable? They get a longer trip, can usually find a return trip back to Manhattan, and I’m more willing to give a higher tip when I don’t get a surly driver. When cabbies sign up, they acknowledge that the rules require them to go anywhere in the 5 boroughs. If they don’t like it, find another job, but because the T&LC is a city agency that regulates cab rides for every New Yorker, tough.

Marc Shepherd February 26, 2011 - 1:39 pm

Since cabbies aren’t in the business of turning down profitable work, it’s a fairly safe bet that trips to the outer boroughs are frequently money-losing ventures for them, or else they wouldn’t be turning them down. I mean, the T&LC wouldn’t have a system of fining people for refusing those fares, if it were already in their financial interest to accept them.

You’ve stated the rather obvious fact that cabbies know the rules when they sign up. Yeah, and civilian drivers also know that it’s against the law to exceed the speed limit, but they nevertheless do it with some frequency, where they think they can get away with it.

Chris February 26, 2011 - 2:01 pm

And what a great job they do – when I’m standing on the corner trying to get a cab, I thank God that the TLC is there to limit the number of cabs on the streets and ensure that half my fare goes into the pocket of a millionaire medallion investor who contributes precisely nothing to my ride.

Why do you think cabbies don’t want to go to the boroughs? They miss the warm comforting sounds of midtown traffic? Racism? It’s because they CANT easily find a return fare, and thus they make less money.

Justin Samuels February 27, 2011 - 4:06 pm

Who really gives a shit about a cab driver? Its his job by law to take the passenger wherever he needs to go in the 5 boroughs. Whether or not its less profitable is not the customer’s concern.

People do have legitimate reasons for taking cabs to Queens or other outer boroughs, for example one may need to go to the airport, one may wish to certain malls, or have whatever other business or personal business one can consider.

If cab drivers were allowed to refuse outer borough service, I’d say knock down more buildings in Manhattan and build more parking lots, to allow more people to DRIVE to the outer boroughs. And yes, there are places in the outer boroughs where one cannot easily get to by public transportation.

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[…] areas in Brooklyn and Queens, yellow cabs are nearly impossible to come by. The Commission has tried upping fines for belligerent drivers, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has put forward an ambitious plan to allow […]


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