Home Taxis Waiting longer for an Outer Borough street hail taxi

Waiting longer for an Outer Borough street hail taxi

by Benjamin Kabak

The green borough taxis are currently held up in litigation as the City Council and Mayor Bloomberg square off over homerule.

If we assume that increasing personal mobility without needing a car as well as the lessening of congestion should be a goal of urban policy, then taxicabs are an important part of a transit network. For those rides when buses and subways just won’t cut it, when someone has a too much stuff to tote on the train or finds themselves off the bus network, a taxi can help bridge that gap.

Lately, much to the chagrin of wealthy yellow cab medallion owners, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been trying to expand the taxi network. The yellow cab industry recognizes that 97 percent of trips originate at the city’s airports or in Manhattan south of 96th St., but the majority of New Yorkers leave beyond those boundaries. They too need the ability to hail cars on the corner instead of calling ahead and hoping for a free car. By authorizing street hails from livery cabs outside of Manhattan, Bloomberg had hoped to extend the reach of taxis.

The medallion industry though has fought back. These are folks who pay top dollar for their cabs and have seen their investments grow by leaps and bounds. Taxi drivers have little to fear from the livery cab industry, but the medallion owners — a politically powerful group with deep pockets — believe a new class of cabs would threaten their money. What, they say, will keep these new apple green cabs from picking up passengers where they shouldn’t?

With the City Council in their pocket, the medallion owners were able to stymie the mayor, but he went above their heads. A few months ago, Albany approved the street hail plan, but after the medallion owners that filed the lawsuit — one joined shockingly by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio — a judge blocked the plan late last week. Ted Mann reported on the temporary restraining order:

Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron sided with yellow-taxi industry groups that argued the city and the state Legislature violated the so-called home rule provision of the state constitution. That clause says the state may pass a law directly affecting the affairs of a single municipality only if that city’s legislative body has voted to allow it. After Mr. Bloomberg failed to convince the City Council to back a plan to let livery cabs accept street hails in northern Manhattan and the other boroughs—and to issue 2,000 new medallions for the existing yellow-taxi fleet—the mayor turned to the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass the bill.

The restraining order brings a sudden halt to the roll-out of new “borough taxis.” The Taxi and Limousine Commission had initially planned to begin accepting applications for the new licenses as soon as Monday, one reason for the haste of the judge’s order. The ruling also halts the planned auction of the 2,000 new yellow-taxi medallions, since the legislative deal required that they couldn’t be sold until the new borough taxis were in operation.

The judge didn’t rule on a preliminary injunction sought by the taxi plan’s opponents, saying he would rule on the substance of that motion “with all deliberate speed.” Michael Cardozo, the city’s corporation counsel, said the city would explore an appeal of the decision, and noted that the city budget depends on $1 billion in anticipated revenue from the sale of new medallions.

Justice Engoron was not too kind to the city. “This court has trouble seeing how the provision of taxi service in New York City is a matter that can be wrenched from the hands of city government, where it has resided for some 75 years, and handed over to the state,” he wrote. “Both governments are democracies, but only one is solely answerable on election day to the constituents of the five boroughs, those directly affected by the taxi service at issue here.”

What has happened here is likely a legal right. I believe Engoron has properly interpreted New York’s home rule requirements. Bloomberg’s leap over the city always seemed more than a little suspect, and Engoron believes precedence supports him. On the other hand, though, the policy is wrong. The City Council is in the pocket of the medallion owners, and New Yorkers need this street hail plan. It would change the way we get around the city.

So now, with a restraining order in place, we wait for Engoron to rule on the temporary injunction. The city cannot realize this $1 billion revenue potential quite yet, and those of us who live in areas without an ample supply of yellow cabs must make do with a wink and a nod. We need the green apple street hail cabs, but no one in the city government will rise to the occasion.

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Alex C June 7, 2012 - 1:46 am

Politicians be politicking. Amazing how such a “progressive” city is at the mercy of troglodytes on so many issues. I think eventually this will pass, if only because people of the city will get tired of being told what to do by cab medallion owners.

Al D June 7, 2012 - 9:07 am

This is so weird. Doesn’t every one know that illegal street hails are currently happening ALL THE TIME? So what difference does it make legalizing the damned thing? Or do the City Council and Bill de Blasio actually ENCOURAGE and ENDORSE the illegal street hails by pushing for the status quo?

A second thought: Where was all this home rule crap when congestion pricing was on the table? This is all kinda weird…

Benjamin Kabak June 7, 2012 - 9:49 am

The City Council initially approved the homerule request for congestion pricing. It then died in Albany at their hands.

Bolwerk June 7, 2012 - 12:20 pm

I think what he’s asking is why they didn’t complain about homerule then. The answer, probably, is they didn’t really care that much. But also, in this case, the state legislature is taking action on something they presumably rejected, not something they endorsed.

Ever since CP failed, I figured the solution was obvious: if the state legislature doesn’t act on a homerule request, it passes. That would have passed CP, since CP was never allowed to come up for a vote.

shea June 7, 2012 - 9:48 am

I absolutely agree with you that it was an accurate reading of the home rule provision, which is in place for very good reasons. If people want to complain (and I live in Queens, so I understand the pain), they should go after City Council, not this judge.

Jim D. June 7, 2012 - 9:58 am

Exactly – mobilize support and make the council members (especially the ones from outside of Manhattan-below-96th) feel the heat.

SEAN June 7, 2012 - 10:47 am

“Both governments are democracies, but only one is solely answerable on election day to the constituents of the five boroughs, those directly affected by the taxi service at issue here.”

That’s a laugh, tell me again how we have a democracy in wich those with money & influence dictate policy? Citizans United anyone?

Linda June 7, 2012 - 11:00 am

People keep saying the City Council is in the medallion owners pockets. It is simply not true. Where is the basis for this statement? How about Bloomberg and Yassky just did not want to follow proper procedure and protocol and they decided to do this wrong in the first place. If you want to blame someone, blame Bloomberg and Yassky. There were no city council hearings and Yassky screwed this up more than anybody by lying. We wouldn’t be in this predicament if it weren’t for them.

Benjamin Kabak June 7, 2012 - 11:06 am

The City Council was set to reject the plan due to opposition from medallion owners. If you’d like some evidence, you can read this and this. It’s clear that the medallion industry has the City Council in its pocket. That’s not much of a secret.

Can you provide any evidence suggesting 75% of livery cab drivers are against this plan? Or did you just make that up?

Linda June 7, 2012 - 11:02 am

Also, if we are going to talk about the facts, the medallion owners and drivers aren’t the only ones against this plan. 75% of the livery industry is against this as well. But I guess the story doesn’t sound as good when you tell the truth…..

Galls June 7, 2012 - 11:43 am

The drivers are against it because now they will have recorded income on a meters.
-Having taxes actually does not worry them so much.
-The real hurt is to their welfare, food stamps, housing and healthcare. Livery drivers have always been claiming those benefits regardless of what their cash based income is. With a paper trail that is no longer possible.

Linda June 7, 2012 - 11:17 am

Can you provide evidence of the hearings or any vote where the plan was rejected? How about you go to outer borough livery stands in brooklyn and queens and ask them…..

VLM June 7, 2012 - 11:21 am

So you basically admitted to Ben that you just made up that 75 percent figure. Got it. Pulling numbers out of thin air isn’t a part of a robust debate. Please tell me why outer borough residents shouldn’t be able to hail livery cabs on the street. I’m dying to hear.

Linda June 7, 2012 - 11:27 am

No, I didn’t admit to making up numbers, I merely suggested he actually do some research at outer borough livery stands on the issue. I live in queens and I don’t own a car. I have always lived in the outer boroughs. No one said I was against people in the outer boroughs having the ability to hail a cab. I takes cabs all the time, all over the city.I haven’t met one driver who is in support of this plan. In addition, the issue I raised had to do with process. Bloomberg and Yassky circumvented the process and that is the hold up. If they did not, the Judge would not have issued an injunction. Further, people can’t make baseless statements of fact like there were hearings and the plan was rejected when in fact, it never happened.

VLM June 7, 2012 - 11:29 am

Here is exactly your words: “75% of the livery industry is against this as well”

You made that up.

Todd June 7, 2012 - 12:32 pm

Almost spit my water out while reading this. Well done.

Al D June 7, 2012 - 3:08 pm

She’s probably right because now the drivers can rip people off with illegal street hails and charge whatever they feel. And the City Council and DeBlasio are ensuring that this predatory business model continues.

Linda June 7, 2012 - 11:32 am

Prove it. Why don’t you do the research….. Why do you give the livery roundtable a call or other livery trade associations and base owners and see what answer you come up with. Why do you assume that there widespread support for the bill in its current form? You can’t prove I’m wrong…..

Michael June 7, 2012 - 3:06 pm

Frankly, what the industry wants is not important, they are regulated not to maintain their monopolies or profits, but to ensure they provide a suitable public service.

If medallions for taxis are not tied to boroughs then all taxis will concentrate on manhattan like now.

I think they should scrap the whole system and start again.
-The city should create a central dispatch, where riders can request rides (by phone or internet app) from all taxis and livery. Drivers could bid on rides based on proximity or fair type (flat or metered). Metered fares for requested pickup can have a pickup fee.
-Taxi medallions should be assigned to boroughs for street hails to ensure a base number are available in every borough. Taxies tied to starting or ending borough should be able to take called in rides.
-Livery cabs can offer flat fare or metered rates, but these need to be agreed and set on the meter before travel. Meters will allow credit card payment for all rides.
-If a taxi is off duty, the meter will shut down and prevent the driver selectively taking new fares.
-Medallions should also be tied to driver shift times to prevent the all the cabs from changing shifts at the same time.

Linda June 7, 2012 - 11:33 am

i’m sorry did i miss the post where the hearing dates and when the vote was taken by the city council was posted?

Benjamin Kabak June 7, 2012 - 11:35 am

Yeah you did. It’s all detailed in this comment. There were no votes because the City Council used obstructionist measures to block Bloomberg’s effort. That’s not in dispute. Why are you so adamant about it all? As I said, the judge got the homerule law right, but the City Council’s policies are wrong here.

And really, you cannot just state a number, claim it to be true and tell everyone else to validate it. That is total BS, and arguing with someone who thinks that is a waste of my time. If others care to carry on, so be it, but please use the reply button in the meantime.

Bolwerk June 7, 2012 - 1:14 pm

She may be using a mobile device, which doesn’t (or at least used not to) make the Reply button available.

Spendmore Wastemore June 7, 2012 - 1:10 pm

Funny how the city council votes against essential services for its constituents.

Spendmore knows why: corrupt +/or stupid New Yorkers (eg, most of those motivated to vote) vote for corrupt pols like the Soundview gang. Those folks score it as “taxi medallion owners got something for me, Joe Loser without a car don’t”.

Gettin the gubbermint we deserve, on average.

Al D June 7, 2012 - 3:12 pm

That’s an easy 1. They have no choice. The borough democratic machines pick the winner for the voters to confirm through their vote. At least in Brooklyn, that crook Lopez does the picking.

Onix June 7, 2012 - 5:15 pm

Why doesn’t the TLC just enforce the rules? Yellow cans say NYC Taxi on them, yet they only serve Manhattan and the airports. That isn’t sing the city as a whole, only a certain few. Just make these cabbies serve the outer boroughs and that’s it. We shouldn’t have 2 septate taxi classes serving one city. What a joke.

Bolwerk June 7, 2012 - 5:33 pm

How do you make them serve the outer boroughs? It’s hard enough making them bring people to the outer boroughs.

Onix June 7, 2012 - 7:01 pm

Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. My point is that they’re obligated to serve the city because they’re a city service. You can’t have a city entity seeing only one segment of the population, at least in my mind you can’t. You can enforce city-wide service with the imposition of heavy fines. If taxi drivers served the outer boroughs this wouldn’t even be an issue.

Andrew June 7, 2012 - 8:42 pm

The rules require yellow cabs to take people anywhere in the city, and those rules can (and should) be enforced. But they don’t require yellow cabs to cruise for fares everywhere in the city – they can cruise wherever they like.

Matthias June 8, 2012 - 12:17 pm

Why do we allow cabs to cruise at all instead of establishing taxi stands? They should be required to go to the nearest designated taxi stand and shut off the engine, reducing pollution and congestion. Taxi stands would be a much better use of curb space than private parking.

Bolwerk June 8, 2012 - 2:06 pm

Not really. People are distributed all over the city, and destinations are even more dispersed. Most likely any case you save using a stand is lost getting to it, on average, plus there would be a lot of lost revenue for the driver.

Alon Levy June 9, 2012 - 10:51 pm

Taxi stands don’t have to be as widely spaced as subway stations. In Singapore, there’s a taxi stand at every hotel, shopping center, and transit center, and it’s also possible to pick up on major streets.

Bolwerk June 10, 2012 - 12:30 am

No reason not to have stands, but I don’t see any point to requiring stands. I’d rather just see sensibly priced parking in general. If you do that, stands mostly are wasting money.

Ed June 7, 2012 - 10:06 pm

“Spendmore knows why: corrupt +/or stupid New Yorkers (eg, most of those motivated to vote) vote for corrupt pols like the Soundview gang. Those folks score it as “taxi medallion owners got something for me, Joe Loser without a car don’t”.”

Though you qualified the comment with those motivated to vote, I’m pretty sure that most New Yorkers don’t vote for corrupt pols. Most don’t vote at all. For example, check out the votes cast in mayorial elections over the decades.

Now if the argument is that that New Yorkers should go to the polls and vote for clean government types, where are they? Suppose your main issue in life was getting taxi service to the outer boroughs. Who on Earth do you vote for to get that? The only politicians (nominally) in favor are Bloomberg and Yassky, and actually Yassky was appointed to his office and the plan is being blocked by another appointed, not elected official. Suppose a majority of New Yorkers wanted to be able to hail a cabs in the outer boroughs, wanted to work through the electoral process to get exactly that, and were willing to subordinate all other issues to this one issue. What do they do?

I understand that most New Yorkers can’t vote in local elections, retaining their registration in their home states or countries where their vote might actually matter.

sharon June 10, 2012 - 12:10 pm

This street hail program will INCREASE POLLUTION vs calling livery cabs and take money out of the pockets of the livery drivers and give it to tax and spend city hall. Take a look at pictures of manahattan streets. Thousands of empty cabs driving around in circles all day spewing pollution. The livery system in the outer boroughs is not brooken don’t apply a big government solution to something that is not a problem.
Taxi stands is a better idea.

A livery ride from Sheepshead bay to JFK is $10+ less than a yellow cab ride. I always call my local car service to come pick me up.

Plus taxis are more expensive than having a private car . Places like sheepshead bay NEED cars. You are foolish to think that the only place someone wants to go is into and around the city. A cab ride to Long Island or NJ is multiple hundreds of dollars

Bolwerk June 11, 2012 - 11:11 am

How will it increase pollution? It simply lets cabs, which can and probably will still be called like livery cabs, make pickups if they want.

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