TLC Approves Green Taxi Change as Current For-Hire Drivers See Red
The plan to allow revamped ‘Boro Taxis’ to operate without having to adhere to a color scheme — or the ability to pick up street hails — sparked protests from hacks who say supply is outpacing demand.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission on Wednesday approved a plan to add up to 2,500 for-hire vehicles in the four boroughs and Upper Manhattan — but faced furious pushback from cabbies who said there is not enough demand to go around with more of them on the road.
The commission faced down chants of “Stop the vote!” from members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance as it signed off on a two-year pilot program that will issue unused TLC permits to new-look vehicles that won’t have meters or be allowed to pick up street hails.
As THE CITY first reported Tuesday, the new program will roll out as the number of metered green “Boro Taxis” — which are only allowed to pick street hails in Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Upper Manhattan — has sunk to just 891. That’s an 86% plunge from 2015, when there were more than 6,500 in service.
But the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents more than 20,000 drivers of green and yellow taxis and app-based ride-hailing services, panned the proposal, saying New York does not need additional for-hire vehicles when ridership is still well below pre-pandemic levels — especially after the city this year already approved 1,000 new licenses to drivers of electric for-hire vehicles.
The city agreed in 2018 to stop issuing new app-based licenses, except for electric or wheelchair-accessible vehicles. The new program will rely on unused street-hail livery permits.
After the vote, TLC Commissioner David Do was heckled with cries of “Shame on you!” as he spoke with Alliance President Bhairavi Desai.
“We respect you, we’ve done good work together on the medallion-debt forgiveness, on the raise,” Desai told Do. “But you, sir, you’re wiping all that good away right now.”
Before the vote, Desai had told THE CITY: “Adding 2,500 new cars, on top of the 1,000 that they just added with electric vehicles, that is a significant increase in this industry when ridership is still down by 30%” from 2019.
More Cars, Less Money?
TLC officials cast the new program as a chance to revitalize the long-struggling livery sector and to reduce costs for drivers on paint jobs and equipment.
The cars in the new program must be electric, hybrid or wheelchair accessible and can be any color except taxi yellow or green, according to the TLC, which will begin accepting applications for the new permits on May 16.
The agency says that making the vehicles in the pilot program operate via dispatch and with flat rates will eliminate some barriers.
“In removing the ability to accept [street] hails, we are also going to be removing the need for a lot of equipment and the expenses for same,” said Daniel Goddin, assistant general counsel for TLC. “For example, a participant will no longer need a meter, will no longer need a roof light.”
Drivers who protested the TLC hearing said the new program will hit drivers of app-based services and yellow taxis.
“This means more cars on the street, that means less money for the pay,” said Mohammed Azizul Haque, a Lyft driver. “I can’t make enough right now, because the industry situation is awful.”
TLC data shows that, in February, there were 74,404 vehicles for app-based services like Uber and Lyft — a 10% increase from one year earlier. The number of yellow taxi drivers in February grew to 10,762, up nearly 20% from the same month last year.
“If there are too many cars, how can we survive?” Suresh Chand, 65, the owner of a taxi medallion. “No good, no good, now again they want to bring other cars.”