Hail Yes! It's Time for True Taxi Service

Last December, Governor Cuomo signed a historic piece of legislation that promised to revolutionize the way taxi service is provided in New York City. Crafted by Mayor Bloomberg over the course of months of debate, the plan would regulate street hail service by livery cars and fill a critical transportation need for residents of Northern Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island -- areas long ignored by traditional yellow cabs. In addition, the plan raises $1 billion for the city and improves accessibility through the sale of 2,000 new yellow cab medallions, all of which must be handicap-accessible.

Unfortunately -- with only two weeks before the end of the fiscal year, at a time when negotiations about deep cuts to city services like childcare, after-school programs, and firehouses are ongoing -- opponents have succeeded in having a state court block this sensible, much debated plan on a procedural technicality.

That's not just a potential disaster for our budget, it's bad news for our city -- which is why I have asked the plaintiffs to withdraw their lawsuit. It's also why today I will be filing an amicus brief with the court that outlines why the borough taxi plan should be allowed to proceed without delay.

For decades, folks outside Manhattan's central business district have been left out in the cold by the city's yellow taxi fleet. In fact, nearly 97 percent of yellow cab rides begin and end in Manhattan or at the city's two airports. The new borough taxi plan will fill that gap with cabs that are recognizable, metered, and equipped with GPS and credit card readers.

That will mean no more haggling on street corners late at night. No more worrying about whether the vehicle is safe or the driver trained. No more scrambling for cash after a night out. The plan is good for consumers, drivers, and the city as a whole.

This is about basic fairness: It should be as easy to hail a cab in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, as it is on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It is time to stop treating the millions of hard-working New Yorkers who live outside Manhattan like second-class citizens when it comes to our transportation system. The borough taxi plan guarantees everyone the same level of service.

But instead of working with the city to ensure that this transformative plan is successful, the yellow taxi fleet owners went to court claiming that the mayor violated proper procedure in securing Albany's approval.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for process that serves the public interest. But when process is used simply as a means of obstruction by a few powerful groups, it's up to the rest of us to stand up and call it what it is -- it's a smokescreen and we shouldn't stand for it.

New Yorkers know the truth: This lawsuit is not about process. It's about maintaining the status quo for the few at the expense of drivers and the riding public.

The borough taxi plan will also dramatically improve accessibility for the disabled. It will increase yellow cab accessibility nearly ten-fold, with all 2,000 new taxi medallions being issued for handicap-accessible cabs. In addition, 20 percent of the 18,000 new borough taxis will be accessible.

I also believe that after more than a year of debate and myriad negotiations at both the state and city level, the time for talk is over. What's required is action.

The taxi industry should withdraw its lawsuit and start working with the Taxi & Limousine Commission to provide the best possible service for all New Yorkers. At the end of the day, this plan is about equity and fairness and making sure that all New Yorkers -- no matter what neighborhood they hail from -- have access to the same level of service.

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