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The Voice of the NYC Transportation Industry — January 2004

900 New Medallions Proposed
by David Pollack
It is Monday morning January 12th and I will be going to the second Public Hearing regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement or more commonly called the D.E.I.S. Last Wednesday was the first day of hearings where a number of speakers stated their feelings about the proposed issuance of 900 taxi medallions.

But first, an old Chairperson reappears:

Last Wednesday started on an interesting note. Former Chairperson of the Taxi & Limousine Commission, Diane McGrath McKechnie, participated in a press conference just prior to the first DEIS public hearing. Inside City Hall, Councilwoman Margarita Lopez started the press conference calling for all 900 new taxis to be wheelchair accessible, as opposed to the current 9% that may become accessible. Ms. McKechnie called for EVERY taxicab to be wheelchair accessible.

Once again, I need to state in writing, that everyone is entitled to transportation. However, the disabled in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island for example, may not be affected at all, if all taxis were accessible. Look, we all have heartfelt feelings for our disabled community. For that matter, anybody with a physical or mental disadvantage deserves transportation. It does not mean that I am not compassionate if I feel that serving the city's disabled is done better through for-hire measures like the new A RIDE FOR ALL Company.

The yellow taxi industry is not in the same category as MTA, Amtrak and the airlines. We do not get hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to pay for anything! I believe if New York City or New York State or the Federal governments respectively, granted the New York City taxi industry $500 million to pay for replacement of every yellow taxi with a wheelchair accessible taxi, we would then have yellow wheelchair accessible taxis in New York City. Simple? Some people should be lobbying Congress and the Senate for major taxi industry subsidies instead of voicing their opinions at city hall. The city is broke. Remember the deficit?

At the end of this month, the Taxi & Limousine Commission will start to enforce rules concerning all for-hire bases providing wheelchair accessible service to the disabled at the same price as a non-disabled person has to pay. One must crawl before one walks. Initially, it may sound that there may be few accessible vehicles, but I have been informed that the number of these vehicles will be grow as rider ship increases. This FHV based system will work throughout the city. Every car service, luxury car base, black car base must either have accessible transportation or be affiliated with an accessible company like A RIDE FOR ALL.

Imagine 5:00 PM on a snowy or rainy evening. It seems that people are hailing cabs on every other corner. How is a disabled person supposed to get an accessible cab, even if all taxis are accessible? Calling a base that has wheelchair accessibility will guarantee transportation to the disabled at times when it seems impossible for anyone to get a cab by hailing.
If you want to purchase a medallion specifically for the purpose of wheelchair accessibility, you will have your chance at the up-coming medallion auctions. I feel it was improper for anyone to condemn an entire industry and this administration for backing something that cannot help the entire disabled community.

Enough of this. Back to the DEIS. Urbitran Associates, Inc. was awarded the task of completing this EIS. The cost was approximately $200,000.00. The report is well over 200 pages and describes impacts on the city's infrastructure, traffic, parking, air quality, noise, public health, socioeconomic and a number of other existing conditions that an additional 900 medallions will have on them.

Most of the drivers I spoke with at the EIS hearings told me that they see about 20 FHV's picking up OUR passengers in the course of a working shift. One driver even said he sees 200 illegal street pick-ups during his shift. The point is, WE MUST TOTALLY IRRADICATE ALL ILLEGAL STREET PICK-UP ACTIVITY. I made this point clear in my testimony at the EIS public hearing. Those same drivers agreed; end the illegal pick-ups, and we will have an over abundance of work and will need the nine hundred medallions.

Think about it. There will be less traffic because car service FHV's will be doing what they are supposed to do, servicing their local neighborhoods. There will be more fares because the yellow taxis will be picking up all those former illegal pick-ups. There are times of the day and night now, when we search for passengers. I promise you, if all illegal street pick-up activity ends, we will not only make a heck of a lot more money, but will do it easier and faster. We need some device to help offset the constant illegal rip-offs of our passengers. That device is additional enforcement. Remember, the yellow medallion taxi is the ONLY vehicle allowed by law to pick up street hails. It is time for this administration to enforce this law big-time, without mercy.

The EIS also states that with the issuance of 900 medallions, a rate of fare increase is necessary so that owners get an equitable return. Don't be fooled by one drivers' group claim that drivers should act against owners across the board. That philosophy will destroy this industry.

There are 4,000 owner driven medallions and many more mini-fleet owners that own one taxi medallion and drive it! These owner-drivers pay for insurance as the licensed lease managers do. These owners that are drivers, pay for gasoline as the other drivers do. These owner-drivers pay for their vehicles as the fleets, leasing agents and some drivers do. The point is, ALL of us in this industry pay higher costs of business and higher costs of living. Therefore, ALL of us are entitled to a portion of any rate of fare increase.

The EIS states that by adding approximately one second of green light time at certain intersections, a significant increase in traffic can be avoided. We need the D.O.T. to give the yellow taxi the same road privileges as buses, commercial vehicles and exempt us from those fare-killing THRU streets. The faster we move, as in “less traffic”, especially during rush hour, the better we can service the public's needs and the easier it will be to earn a livable income.

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