Livery cab plan makes little sense
Jan 25, 2011 | 8064 views | 0 0 comments | 211 211 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has always cared more about Manhattan than he has about the outer boroughs. The blizzard last month was a painful, embarrassing reminder. The mayor faced so much criticism for this that he decided he had no choice but to throw us a bone in his state of the city address - if anything just to silence his critics.

So he announced a proposal to install meters in livery cabs, and legalize street hails in the outer boroughs, where it is currently illegal to flag down unmarked taxicabs without calling ahead of time.

The plan, however, makes very little sense.

It’s true that yellow cab service in the outer boroughs is limited. According to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, 97.5 percent of legal yellow cab rides start in Manhattan or at the airports. And as everyone knows, few taxi drivers cruise for fares outside of the city.

As a result, in Queens, Brooklyn and elsewhere, when people aren’t driving or taking mass transit - the two most popular methods of transportation - they must rely on livery cabs. Everyone has a favorite company, a reliable service that shows up on time whenever it’s called for.

But more often than not, especially when returning home from an unfamiliar neighborhood, people just hail a livery cab on the street. The practice is illegal, but the law is rarely enforced.

The system isn’t perfect - riders are almost always overcharged - but it has worked for years, so nobody messed with it, until now. Not surprisingly, Bloomberg’s plan creates more problems than it solves.

Livery cabs that choose to participate would be marked with a single color, and equipped with meters to eliminate price gouging, GPS systems, and credit card-readers. How many are really going to bother to do this, though?

There is no plan to step up the enforcement of illegal street hails; regulating this would be prohibitively expensive for the city. So if livery cabs can continue to price gouge passengers on the fly, without repercussions, what incentive do they have to opt for lower, metered fares?

On top of this, as critics of the proposal have pointed out, the increased competition from specially marked, metered livery cabs give yellow cabs even greater pause for heading for the outer boroughs, or sticking around once they get there.

Finally, there’s no guarantee the plan would actually pass the City Council, assuming all the kinks could be ironed out beforehand. Finding some way to regulate the livery cab industry - if that’s possible - is necessary.

But without enforcement, the proper incentives, or the right framework, this plan falls flat. It is rushed and empty-minded, and will have little real impact, if any. Was this really the best idea the mayor and his administration could come up with?

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