The court has ruled on street hails: now let’s work together

Ross Sandler

Ross Sandler

The Bloomberg administration successfully defended the 2013 state law authorizing outer borough street hail taxi service and the sale of additional yellow cab medallions for wheel chair accessible vehicles. The battles over the state law and other taxi policies have left the industry and its TLC regulators deeply divided and distrustful of each other. Divorce is not possible, so the industry and the regulators still have to find ways to achieve the goals they share: a viable, safe and fair yellow cab and car service industry.

The TLC and the industry’s unsuccessful attempts to find a middle ground on key issues led to litigation and delays. The street hail law is a prime example. There are areas outside of Manhattan where street hails make complete economic sense, but there are much larger areas where only base-managed liveries can economically operate. The state law opens all areas for street hails by up to 18,000 cars. Approaches other than the state law would not have been as challenging to the taxi and livery industry. Neither the industry nor the City was well served by the resulting battle.

A primary shared goal is the need to expand and protect the yellow cab industry. The medallion system created massive investment expectations. But it also created massive economic incentives for owners and drivers to stay on the road and serve the traveling public. Demand for yellow cabs exceeds supply, a growth spurred by new residential and commercial neighborhoods, and tourism. If the numbers of yellow cabs had grown in keeping with demand, yellow cabs would be pushing into the territories previously occupied by the liveries, rather than the liveries pushing into the yellow cab territory. More yellow medallions would provide safer and fairer service, and also protect the value of the medallions already issued.

Traffic is another shared goal. The Bloomberg administration has been enormously creative in adapting street space for pedestrian and bicycle use, but little of that attention has been focused on taxi speeds, curb access and taxi lines. Street scrambles for taxis still exist. More attention to how traffic affects taxis would serve both safety and fairness.

It is time for the industry and the City to begin to work together. That is what the traveling public needs.

Ross Sandler

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