Although the apple-green outer-borough taxis have been roaming the streets for several months now, some Queens residents are still confused about how the program works and are concerned about its implementation.
Erica Leyva, an external affairs analyst for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, explained the plan to members of Community Board 6 at its meeting last Wednesday night and assured them that she would relay their concerns to the commissioner.
The outer-borough taxis are legally allowed to take street hails — previously illegal for non-yellow medallion holders — throughout the city, except for Manhattan below West 110th Street and East 96th Street, and the taxi stands at JFK and LaGuardia airports, and can also respond to calls for prearranged service.
Leyva noted that 97 percent of pickups by yellow medallion cabs occur in Manhattan’s exclusionary zone, so the outer-borough taxi plan will meet the demand for taxi service in the rest of the city, while cracking down on livery cab drivers,who try to pass private cars off as taxis and take street hails illegally.
“We wanted to make sure that street hailers have quality service,” Leyva said.
Over the next three years, the city will issue 18,000 permits to livery cab drivers for green outer-borough taxis, she said. The cabs will be inspected twice a year and required to have proper insurance. They will have roof lights, GPS trackers and credit and debit card readers, and set fares equal to the yellow cabs. Drivers will run the meter when they pick up street hailers and offer a flat rate to people who call ahead. Twenty percent of the taxicabs will be made wheelchair-accessible.
However, CB 6 Chairman Joseph Hennessy and several community members are skeptical of the TLC’s capacity to enforce the plan and remove illegal black livery cars from the streets. Several described scenes at subway and bus stops along Queens Boulevard where livery cab drivers sit, sometimes blocking turning lanes.
Levya said the TLC hired more inspectors over the past year to dispatch to areas where there are complaints about illegal cabs.
Hennessy said that he would like the TLC to tell the community board the number of cars confiscated per month, similar to the way the 112th Precinct submits the numbers of summonses issued in the area to the board.
Some community members complained about the green cabs that are on the street now.
“Fifty percent of the time I get into a green cab and the meter is not running,” resident Carol Blatt said. “Why should they get to stand there and try to finagle people for the highest price possible?”
Levya explained that while the TLC has issued 3,585 permits to green cab drivers and 108 base endorsements thus far, out of 6,000 planned for this year, the drivers cannot run the meters until they have completed the entire process. She added that riders can file complaints by calling 311 or going to nyc.gov.
Levya noted that outer-borough taxis have already made more than 3,000 pickups within the Community Board 6 neighborhoods of Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and Rego Park.
Hennessy argued that the outer-borough taxi plan is unfair to green cab drivers who bring passengers from the outer boroughs into the exclusion zone, because they won’t be able to collect a fare for the return trip, despite having to pay for gas. His concern is that the inequity will encourage drivers to make illegal pickups in Manhattan and that the TLC will not be able to enforce the plan.
Hennessy noted that he’s been in the taxi business since 1963 and described the yellow medallion system as “the greatest industry for immigrant communities.”
Leyva countered that with GPS tracking, the TLC will “know what tricks are going on.”