Southern Brooklyn

Op-Ed: Livery Cab Expansion Bill Is A Bunch Of Bull

Source: mikealex/Flickr

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.

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  1. Arthur, let me ask you a question. I’m a little older than you, almost twice as old.  When I was about 10, my father said to me if you ever need a cab, you just walk to the closest commercial avenue and stick out your handm and within 5 minutes, a cab will stop to pick you up.  And that’s the way it was.  I never even heard the term “livery cab” at that time.  They all were metered, but not necessarily yellow.  That law came later. 

    Over the years, it became more difficult to find a cab and about 15 years later, it was all bu imposible.  You state there is not enough demand to justify yellow cabs coming to Brooklyn.  So I ask you what has changed since the 1950s to make this so?  Has mass transit improved so much so that few people now require cabs?  That can’t be, since the frequency of mass transit service has declined and virually no new subways have been built.

    Or did livery cabs pick up the slack by illegally picking up street hires which they didn’t so before because the yellow cabs served that need?  What could the City do to encourage yellow cabs to serve the outer boroughs and why so you think they haven’t done this?

    It’s about time the City decided to do something to try to solve this problem rather that coninuing to look the other way while liveries make illegal pick-ups and yellow cabs refuse fares.  If it will work, that remains to be seen.  You say there are far too many yellow cabs and liveries.  I tend to disagree.  If there were too many yellow cabs to serve Manhattan, they would have moved to the outer boroughs.  They fact that they haven’t, leads me to believe that there are not enough of them which is why I think this legislation is good.

    You also say the City should have just lifted the restriction on street hails for liveries.  If they did that, there would be no reason for medallions, and they would become worthless.  How would you feel if you just invested $600,000 for one, and suddenly you just lost most of that investment?

  2. “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.”

    What they don’t have to get is a medallion. Your investment to get the same privileges as a yellow cab is almost nothing. A $1,000 investment for a gps, meter and light is definitely better than a $750k (2009 value) investment.

    In addition, every one of those requirements is to protect the passengers.

    Gps to make sure you’re not taking a scenic route to get a higher fare though I would agree with you that a metered fare would be bad, especially since
    the benefit of having a set negotiated price allows you to shop around
    when you call different car service. Regardless of metered fares, GPS allows me when you’re driving over the speed limit and what route you’re taking. Does having the meter require you to use it?

    You also haven’t made any argument against “different insurance” since as a customer any improved insurance is never a bad thing. I’ve been on a bus that was rear ended by a cab and I would have hated to be the passengers of that cab if he only had minimum coverage. This again comes back to my previous point that your investment as a livery cab is still almost nothing compared to a medallion cab who still pays the “different insurance.”

    I think having a light is a great idea because by showing you’re on duty and looking for a fare it allows people to hail you instead of you having to idle like the livery cabs under SHB train station or slowing traffic by coming up to people and ask them if they need a cab.

    I also like being able to charge my cab ride because I don’t like to carry cash, so I would choose the cabs that are these “third class” over your car. Your increase in passengers will more than make up for the 1% processing fee.

    You’re making the same arguments the yellow cabs were making when they were forced to put in GPS in their cars, and I think almost anyone who has taken a Yellow Cab since would agree that that worked out for the best for passengers, well except for maybe the ads.

  3. He drives a livery cab. Funny how he decided to make a point about me not wanting my last name given out on the cycling advocate article, but fails to mention that he’s a cabbie which gives context to his Op-Ed.

  4. This is my fault. There was introductory editorial text that makes that point clear (and Arthur has never attempted to hide it), but for some reason it was accidentally deleted before publication. It has since been re-added.

  5. “There is no incentive for them to upgrade or alter their license.” – so what’s the problem? If it’s not worth upgrading – don’t upgrade. That being said, I am sure that the few who will upgrade will make good business driving around the russian nightclub/bar circuit…

  6. That is why i use mexicaan car service cheap, really cheap and always less then a 5 min wait just sayin

  7. A high percentage of mexican car services run illegally with unlicensed drivers, and without the required insurance. A nightmare scenario waiting to happen.

  8. This was only passed to fill the city coffers, but without any real benefit to the taxi industry or the drivers.  Street hails are not necesary these days, a car service can be request through-out the 5 boroughs by phone, mobile apps, or through there respective websites.  At the convenience of any location, be it home, job, lobby, club, etc; a car service can be requested without the need to be hailing a cab on the street in bad weather.  Now if the riding public can’t make a simple call or use a mobile app to request a car service, then we are all doomed.

  9. Great plan to fill the coffers of the city.
    This will only cause loses for bases, dispatcher, and unneccesary roaming of drivers; and let’s not forget the extra accidents and pollution this will cause. Cabs and car services are already pretty cheap, even though there is such high overhead costs of insurance, car purchase, repairs, fuel, leases, licensing, and government regulations. Most of the riding public doesn’t take those issues into account, and they don’t really care. They just want a cheap ride close to nothing. The taxi industry is not sustainable at the prices the general public would like it to be.

  10. NOW FOR THOSE WITH DISABILITIES, THERE IS ALREADY A DEDICATED FLEET OF VEHICLES TO ACOMMODATE THERE TRANSPORTATION NEEDS CALLED ACCESS-A-RIDE AND OTHER AMBULETTE STYLE SERVICES. Some agendas will push this issue at all costs, even though it makes no common sense for the greater good of the industry, and another burden to taxi drivers, even though there are already existing alternatives that have been mentioned above.

  11. Paratransit costs the MTA $50 to provide each ride which riders pay $1.10 for. As more bus service is reduced or discontinued on infrequent routes, paratransit will continue to increase making it harder for the MTA to sustain its regular services.

    There are those who are willing to pay more for better service and this law will allow them to do this.

  12. Didn’t mean to imply that the driver’s make that.  They may just make a straight salary.  The MTA contracts out the services and after you do all the math including the overhead and profit to the contractors, that’s about what it comes out to per ride.  The contractors could be ripping off the MTA but I don’t know hosw much is under MTA control.  They used to use private cars.  Then they switched to 20 passenger jitneys to provide group rides and lower the costs, but I think most of the time there is only one person carried anyway in a vehicle.  Don’t know why.  Probably could be scheduled better.  

  13. There is a solution for this, cancel those contracts or let them expire, then those existing vehicles can become a new livery fleet tier dedicated to the disabled. That should drastically reduce costs for the MTA, and the market will dictate the success of these services. TLC just passed a type of Livery tier, why not have another.

  14. When you write “the city” I assume you mean Manhattan.  Last I checked, Brooklyn is still in New York City.

  15. Just because he drives a cab doesnt make his opinion less valid. After all, just about everyone here writes with a vested interest: their preset political bias. We can tell each others’ viewpoint on any issue before anyone even writes, so how is that any different from Borko voicing his opinion on this topic?

  16. I didn’t say it made his opinion less valid. I wouldn’t have asked him for his opinion if I felt it was less valid. Quite the contrary, the fact that he is a cab driver makes his opinion more relevant (if not more “valid”), and that is why I believe it’s necessary to include such context with an introduction.

  17. I’m guessing you were replying to me since Ned was clearing up a misunderstanding about context and was the one who asked Arthur to write the Op-Ed in the first place.

    I was just providing the context to the Op-Ed since it was published originally without the italicized blurb at the beginning. Arthur obviously has insight on the situation as a cabbie, and obviously Ned agreed since he asked him to write the op-ed, so I don’t believe anyone implied his opinion is somehow invalid.

    I on the other hand took issue with disclosure, but that was before the context was added to the article and why Ned felt it necessary to clear up the misunderstanding. Alls well now.

  18. I wouldn’t know.  I’m sure there are occasional problems, but don’t know how widespread they are. The media will always report problems.  If something works the way it should, you won’t hear about it.  The best way to find out is to ask users of the system. 


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