New Yorkers in Manhattan have excellent taxi service. You put up your hand, hail a yellow car with a light on top, and it takes you where you want to go for a predictable price.
In the other four boroughs? Not so much.
As every New Yorker knows, the yellow taxis spend virtually all of their time cruising in Manhattan. So if you want to flag down a car elsewhere in the city, you have to rely on gypsy cabs. These are a mix of licensed livery cars, which are supposed to provide only call-ahead service, and completely unlicensed cars.
The service in this underground market is decidedly third-rate. The cars often lack adequate insurance, and many drivers lack the proper license. Passengers often say the experience feels “sketchy” or unsafe – particularly to women. The cars have no meter, requiring the passengers to negotiate the fare on the spot.
As part of his “NYC Simplicity” initiative, Mayor Bloomberg recently proposed changing the law to create “Borough Taxis” that would be able to accept street-hail passengers anywhere outside Manhattan. They would be painted a uniform color (not yellow!), with a “roof light” to signal availability, plus a meter and credit card reader. In the mayor’s vision, the “Borough Taxis” would serve Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island, just as yellow taxis now serve Manhattan.
In order to bring this service to the people who need it, we face opposition from some industry groups, such as the NY Taxi Workers Alliance, which, despite the fact that more than 97 percent of all yellow taxi pick-ups happen in Manhattan or at the airports, will fight for what they perceive is their “turf.”
As the City Council considers our plan, owners and drivers in the taxi industry will certainly have their say. But the goal must be to serve the public interest, not the special interests. The sooner our plan is implemented, the sooner New Yorkers in all five boroughs can get where they are going.
David Yassky is the commissioner and chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.