The city’s regulatory agency for for-hire cars held a public hearing Monday on a proposed rate hike for cab fares — what would be the first increase in ride costs for yellow and green taxis in 10 years.
Taxi drivers and advocates spoke in favor of the higher fares, as well as other measures to reduce distractions and protect driver pay in the face of inflation and increasing costs.
The hearing at the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission comes after years of struggle for taxi owners, many of whom faced personal debt crises from predatory loans, leading to several high-profile suicides of drivers.
The taxi industry is also still struggling to recover from the pandemic: To avoid required annual costs, many fleets and owners placed their cars and medallions in indefinite storage, meaning fewer yellow cabs on the road and more app-based cars taking their place. One fleet manager at the hearing estimated that 7,000 cars remain sidelined.
“A fare increase is long overdue but it will not solve all of the industry’s problems,” Peter Mazer, general counsel to the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, a nonprofit trade association, said at the hearing.
Taxi drivers called for increases over current fare prices, which include a $2.50 base charge with another $2.50 added per mile when traveling at more than 12 miles per hour. Some drivers who testified said they want the per-mile charge increased to $3.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group, is calling for the city to ensure $25 per hour take-home pay after expenses for each driver, as well as tacking on a 75-cent surcharge for rising gas costs.
“What we need from the TLC is not only immediate action for this present crisis,” Bhairavi Desai, the Alliance’s director, said in the hearing. “What we need is to reset the economics in this industry to protect full time jobs.”
A staff attorney from the Alliance said that their surveys have found that 90% of taxi drivers are their family’s sole income; several drivers who spoke in the hearing described being the sole breadwinners for extended families.
“We are human beings, we are hard working people,” Mouhamadou Aliyu, a driver of more than 21 years, said. “No government should allow a system to make hard working folk poor.”
The TLC said it does not have any official proposals and has not committed to a timeframe for voting on any new rate hikes or any other proposals for driver compensation, insurance rules or pay rates for taxis that get rides through e-hailing apps, such as Curb.
Earlier this year, the city struck a deal with Uber to have all city taxis listed on the app. The deal was billed as a way to direct e-hailing business to traditional yellow cabs.
Yet Zubin Soleimany, the general counsel for the Taxi Workers Alliance, said in the hearing that the commission needed to implement new rules to prevent yellow and green cab drivers from making less on app-based rides than on those covered by a metered fare.
“There are currently no regulations that govern what the drivers are paid when they get flat rate e-hail trips,” Soleimany said.
The commission is hosting another hearing Tuesday to take testimony on pay rates for app-based for-hire vehicles.
“TLC is committed to a strong recovery for drivers and the industry, so we are looking for bold ideas and a robust public engagement process on taxi fares and driver pay, beginning with our public hearings,” Ryan Wanttaja, the TLC’s acting commissioner, said in an emailed statement. “We strongly encourage drivers, stakeholders, and members of the public to participate in these hearings and provide their insight into the current financial state of the for-hire industry.”