Governor Cuomo signed into law this week a bill that will create a new class of metered taxis that service the outerboroughs and upper Manhattan. We decided to check in with Arthur Borko, Sheepshead Bites’ resident livery cab kvetcher to find out what he thinks of the development from his point of view as a car service driver.*
The New Livery Cab Expansion Bill is a bunch of Bull. Yes, I said it, and let me tell you why.
The city claims that there is a major issue because metered yellow cabs do not routinely pick up fares outside of Manhattan. Most of you will know that to be the case because most yellow cabs refuse to bring passengers out there to begin with. The reason is because there’s nobody to pick up!
They won’t make any money on their return trip to the city. For many years, there’s been a status quo where yellow cabs patrolled Manhattan, and the other boroughs were serviced by private door-to-door car services. There were two types of licenses (for both driver and car). In the city a person can walk outside and hail a cab, but out here in a place like Sheepshead, the car service rules. Most customers simply call one, and get taken to their destination for a pre-arranged fare.
Easy right? Well, no, not really. This bill creates a confusing type of third class of cab.
These new licenses allow the cabs to pick up street hails, but only in the outerboroughs and above 96th Street in Manhattan, but they have to have a fare meter, a light-up taxi sign, GPS, different insurance, and of course a certain percentage need to be handicapped accessible.
Not only does an owner have to shell out for all these “upgrades” and pay for a license, but they also have to pay for insurance and they still don’t have the right to pick up in midtown. This is nothing but a money grab by the city/state that takes advantage of small business owners.
Let me tell you a little secret. Due to lax and uneven TLC enforcement, livery cabs (and illegal gypsy cabs) have been picking up passengers from street hails all over the outerboroughs and nobody has ever had a problem before. If the city really wanted to make it easier to get a cab outside Manhattan, they could have lifted the restriction on street hails. They could have found a way to encourage more yellow cabs to go to the outer boroughs. They haven’t actually done anything to improve cab service at all.
Don’t expect to see your Sheepshead Bay car services sprout meters and light-up taxi signs. There is no incentive for them to upgrade or alter their license.
For one thing, there is just not enough street hails in the area to even justify the expense. They can continue operating and serving their customers over the phone with little change. Car services closer to the city might upgrade if the TLC increases its enforcement, but it would be mostly to avoid tickets.
In the end, the city and state find a way to squeeze more money out of the people. In fact this may only hurt existing cab services. In this driver’s opinion, there are far too many cabs (yellow and livery) in the city, all of them competing for the same shrinking customer base. This influx of 18,000 new licenses is going to hurt existing owners and workers because it will already decrease limited demand for their services without increasing the supply of customers. Once again, we can’t forget to include the cost of doing business, which includes licenses, insurance, and gas, et cetera.
This bill does nothing to solve the issue of more accessible cabs and only increases the costs for everyone involved, and that includes fare for riders. It doesn’t even do much to improve handicapped accessibility in the city’s fleet, which is one of the big goals. That should get its own bill entirely. This whole thing is a blatant money grab by the city.
Correction (6:47 p.m.): The original version of this article ran without the introductory editorial text, which makes clear that Borko is a livery cab driver. We apologize for any confusion, and the intro text has since been added.