In a bid to increase taxi service for residents in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, Mayor Bloomberg and the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) are looking to create a new livery taxi program that aims to improve taxi availability around the city.
The five-borough plan now under consideration by the city would establish a new category for livery drivers that allows them to respond to dispatched calls and make street pick ups anywhere within the five boroughs, while ensuring that they are held to the same set of fare and safety guidelines already assigned to yellow cabs.
Currently, it is illegal for livery cars to make on-street pickups outside of Manhattan.
However, yellow cab drivers in Bed-Stuy, already frustrated with increasing gas prices, strict city rules on maintaining their cabs and high license and inspection fees, aren’t welcoming the idea of increased competition for fares.
“We don’t like this, it’s going to effect our business,” said Bebo Bessuno, a yellow cab driver awaiting a ride on Atlantic Avenue. “We already call our dispatchers about black cars picking up people from the street when they’re not supposed to. Before someone had to call them to get them to do a pickup, but now they’re going to allow it.”
Other drivers shared the sentiment on how more cabbies on the streets will effect their livelihood. Cab drivers often work 10 – 12 hour shifts just to get by.
“What can I do?” said Jose Roman, a driver letting off a fare on Fulton Street. “With the city it’s always something.”
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the largest taxi driver union in the country, is also speaking out with members getting together last week to express their frustration with the TLC plan.
Citing concerns for passenger safety, the group claims that many black car drivers ride around unlicensed and often hail fares in old, outdated vehicles, while yellow cabs come with a guarantee of a well-maintained car along with a fully trained and licensed driver.
If the mayor’s program is passed, black cars would be outfitted with a new color, metered fares and credit/debit card payment machines.
And while local drivers are concerned about the effect the new rules will have on their wallets, independent taxi companies around Bed-Stuy who rent their vehicles to drivers are also wary.
“It’s going to be bad for the organized businesses,” said Jacob, a dispatcher at the Pacific Express Car Service on 4th Avenue. “Because everybody can do whatever they want to do and we can’t dispatch because the customers are going to be busy picking up someone from the street and not everything’s going to be registered.”