Protecting The Rights of Livery Taxis Drivers

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[New York City: Op-Ed]

For decades, tens of thousands of livery cab drivers have been forced to break the law. 

By responding to the overwhelming demand for street hails, these drivers risk hundreds of dollars in tickets, and possible license suspension.  For people who only make five to seven hundred dollars a week at most, these penalties threaten the ability of drivers to support their families.

The State Legislature right now has a bill that would make this situation right, by finally creating a way for livery cabs to pick up street hails from Manhattan north of 96th Street, and in the outer boroughs.  This will allow livery drivers to continue to be one of the economic backbones of the community, while addressing the reality that yellow taxis only pick up 3% of their rides in these areas.

The legislation would create up to 30,000 "hail privilege vehicle permits" lasting 3 years, with each selling for $1,500.  This new strategy creates an affordable solution that previous "outer borough medallion" plans were unable to provide.

While it is completely understandable that the yellow taxi industry would be concerned by the creation of thousands of new permits, their interests will actually be served here as well.  The economic impact on the yellow industry should be small, as most livery cabs are already picking up street hails.  Up to this point, yellow taxi drivers have been able to pay for medallions that can sell for up to a million dollars by picking up 97% of their passengers from Manhattan south of 96th. Additionally, the bill has now won the support of the Taxi Worker's Alliance, after the TLC agreed  to lower credit card fees among other incentives.

At it's core, this is an economic issue.  Most New Yorkers live in the areas that these permits would cover, and our economy depends on these residents being able to move around.  New York City's economic recovery depends on everyday people being able to get to work and to spend money.  It's a very simple equation, and for the outer boroughs and Northern Manhattan, getting around means using livery cabs.

While the road to this point has been bumpy, the debates that have shaped this bill over the past 6 months are a shining example of democracy in action.  Every part of our communities has had the chance to let their voice be heard in the media and in the streets, and as a result this final plan is the strongest yet.

Now is the time to unite around this plan - I've already drafted legislation which would give the State bill City Council backing, but we need your help.  Please call today and ask your State Senator to support a plan that can benefit all drivers.

Ydanis Rodriguez is a Democratic New York City Council


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