David Yassky, commissioner of the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), admitted as much at a recent community board meeting Forest Hills. But things could change, he said, adding, “The goal is to create yellow-caliber service outside of Manhattan.”
Easier said than done, pal.
We applaud the concept, though. Yellow cabs are few and far between in most residential sections of Queens and Brooklyn (though they're slightly more common in busier neighborhoods with bridges or highways that lead to Manhattan).
This despite the fact that a majority of cabbies- if you ask them- will admit they live on the other side of the East River. Go figure. In any event, the result of fewer yellow cabs in Middle Village, Fort Greene and elsewhere has meant a rapid rise in livery cab service.
The industry, as Yassky pointed out, often operates illegally; by law, street hails (made without a prior phone call) are not allowed. But what other recourse to outer borough residents have? If they need a cab, and no city-sanctioned ones appear, of course they'll take whichever kind comes first.
With a scant 120 enforcement officials, the city is essentially powerless to regulate this. As long as there are livery cabs, people will use them, and often without scheduling a ride ahead of time.
But officials are weighing other options to improve transit.
Last month, after a cutback in MTA services left many stranded, the city launched a Commuter Van pilot program. The problem, so far, has been the lack of planning; they aren't handicap friendly, and run sporadically, at best.
Riders complain they're unreliable compared to the bus routes that were eliminated, and they have every right to do so; nobody can make the argument that a cramped, unpredictable Commuter Van makes for a better ride to work than the regular old bus or subway.
This leaves the city with few alternatives besides ramping up cab service (because we know they aren't planning to introduce new bus or water taxi routes anytime soon), something Yassky said the city could do soon.
But his plan was short on details, a worrying sign. Yellow cabs spend most of their time in Manhattan because they believe that's where the money is. That business plan hasn't changed in decades. What can the city do to prod a change in thinking? Precious little, we think.
And without resources for more regulation, even if more yellow cabs are sent to Brooklyn and Queens, who will stop cabbies from turning around and heading back to the city?
Yassky was right: yellow cab service fails to pass must outside of Manhattan. Until something changes, we'll stick with the liveries.