Southern Brooklynites are psyched about a city initiative that would allow new, meter-equipped livery cabs to make on-street pick-ups in the outer boroughs — and many cheered the new rules would keep them from getting ripped off.
Presently, it is illegal for anything but a yellow cab with a Taxi and Limousine Commission medallion to make curbside pick-ups within the city, but the new law would extend that right to certain car service vehicles — legalizing a practice that occurs in Southern Brooklyn all the time. But users rarely know what they are going to have to pay for a ride until the driver tells them.
“I hail livery cabs often but the fares are always different,” said Dearmont Jordan, who grabs cabs from the subway station at Stillwell and Mermaid avenues. “One day you’ll get charged $25, the next day it’ll be $30 to go to the same place.”
In fact, when the Courier visited the livery cab haven of the Mermaid and Stillwell avenues intersection in Coney Island, we were quoted different prices for a trip to the corner of Stillwell Avenue and 86th Street. One driver in an unmarked car charged $10, but brought the price down to $5 after a haggling session. But another livery quoted a $12 price and refused to bargain.
The city has not confirmed if the meter rates would be the same as yellow taxis, which is $2.50 plus 40 cents for every 1/5 of a mile. Liveries that choose to register for a meter and on-street pick-up license would also be equipped with credit card readers and navigation system locators — just like yellow taxis.
Southern Brooklynites already stick their hands out for unmarked cabs more than any other city residents. The aforementioned intersection of Mermaid and Stillwell avenues has 65 illegal hails an hour — the highest amount in all five boroughs — according to Taxi and Limousine Commission statistics. Kings Plaza in Mill Basin is also a top-five spot, with about 20 illegal hails per hour. Those facts, along with the reality that neighborhoods like Mill Basin and Marine Park have no subway service whatsoever, makes Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods the ideal location for metered livery cabs.
“We depend on these cabs to get around when we’re not near public transportation or it isn’t running properly,” said Coney Island resident Gloria Watkins. “But there has to be a uniform system.”
Those opposed to hailing metered liveries include yellow cab drivers, who say that the cars are bound to drop outer borough folks off in Manhattan and pose competition.
“The mayor is proposing a second tier taxi market that will make second class citizens of taxi drivers,” said Bhairavi Desai, spokesman of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, in a written statement.
But the city maintains that the mandatory navigation system in hailed livery cabs would allow the Taxi and Limousine Commission to crack down on Manhattan pick-ups, which they still plan to prohibit. Commission spokesman Allan Fromberg added that revenue generated from the license fees paid by hailed liveries would fund increased enforcement of illegal pick-ups.
There are more than 20,000 registered liveries in the five boroughs, according to city statistics.
Mayor Bloomberg first alluded to the idea of metered liveries in his Jan. 19 State of the City address.
Last year, the Taxi and Limousine Commission issued just over 2,800 summonses for illegal street hails in all five boroughs.