Community Car Services Support Expanding Taxi Service to the Outer Boroughs but Oppose Dual Purpose Vehicle

Mar 11, 2011, 10:19 ET from Livery Round Table

LONG ISLAND CITY, N.Y., March 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the Livery Round Table (LRT) announced its support of Mayor Bloomberg's goal of expanding taxi service to the outer boroughs. However, the LRT strongly opposes the creation of a dual purpose vehicle that provides prearranged as well as taxi street hail services. The LRT's opposition is premised on the belief that co-mingling the community car prearranged service with taxi street pick-up will destroy the community car service that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers depend on for their day-to-day transportation. The LRT is the main Livery Industry association representing 350 Community Car Service Base Owners employing roughly 18,000 New York City Livery Drivers and more than 8,000 phone operators and dispatchers.  Annually, LRT bases provide hundreds of thousands of prearranged rides to residents of Northern Manhattan and the outer boroughs.  

"We applaud the mayor's goal of ensuring that New Yorkers have a safe and reliable way to hail a legal taxi on the streets of our City's outer boroughs," announced Guy Palumbo, the Executive Director of the LRT.  Palumbo went on to say, "New Yorkers have literally voted with their hands in demanding this service. The challenge is meeting this demand in a way that does not destroy the prearranged community car service that is a vital life line for hundreds of thousands of outer borough New Yorkers."

Robert Howling, a LRT Board Director says, "co-mingling the prearranged car service with street pickups will undermine the operation and financial viability of the Livery Industry.  Let's be clear, this is a yellow taxi issue.  However, we are concerned that currently, outer borough residents are entering illegally operated street hail vehicles.  This is a problem that the Mayor is right to seek a remedy to.  Unfortunately, the creation of a dual use vehicle will create exactly the opposite of the Mayor's goal.  By creating dual use vehicles a base that sends a vehicle out on a prearranged assignment will not be assured that the driver will show up as the driver while in route may well take on a street hail ride.  Conversely, a street hailer may be refused service if they are not going to a desirable location.   For these instances, we envision drivers claiming that he/she is answering a prearranged call. It should be noted, that these "automatic refusals" were the original reason that forty years ago dual service vehicles were rejected."

Tarek Mallah, a LRT Board Director adds, "the TLC so called 'choice' given to the Community Car services to decide whether or not they wish to utilize a dual purpose vehicle with their base is a false choice. Community car service base station owners first 'option' is to not utilize dual-purpose vehicles which will result in losing drivers and therefore place the community car service with a driver shortage threatening its ability to honor reservations and losing business that over time will force them to close. The other 'option' is to use a dual purpose vehicle and be saddled with significantly increased liability insurance rates and other costs associated with street hail pickups. This option will require bases to charge higher rates for prearranged pickups with a commensurate reduction in New Yorker's requesting prearranged service forcing many local community car services out of business. This is not really a choice, but rather the disintegration of the prearranged community car service business." Mallah went on to say, "a dual purpose vehicle and the base it is affiliated with will also require a whole set of new regulations regarding rights, responsibilities and base's accountability related to street hail pickups that the Taxi and Limousine Commission has yet to announce."

Currently, there exists in Manhattan a side by side prearranged and street hail (not co-mingled) car transportation system.  The LRT endorses this system for Northern Manhattan and the outer boroughs. By creating separate systems, the TLC will be allowing both the prearranged and the street hail segments to focus on their specific areas of expertise.  This makes sense both from a riding public and base owner perspective.  For the riding public, their will exist a reliable prearranged service while gaining a legitimate street hail option in the outer boroughs.  For the base owners, they will be assured that the customer receives uninterrupted service.  Additionally, base owners typically invest in advertising and other aspects of their business.  If drivers are given the option of picking up street hails, the base owner's investment loses value and over time fewer employees will be needed to service the prearranged segment of the industry.  Lastly, the regulatory framework on Livery vehicles will remain intact.  This includes the Livery Driver Benefit Fund which offers workers compensation to affiliated drivers.  

Dr. Avik Kabessa, a LRT Board Director and the Chairman of the Livery Driver Benefit Fund says, "This fund is legally prohibited from providing coverage to street hailing vehicles.  A dual system will likely render this fund financially insolvent as payouts escalate due to an inability to identify accidents that stem from prearranged or street hail service."  Dr. Kabessa adds, "If the Mayor wishes to bring Manhattan's perks to the outer boroughs he should do it under the same format it exists in Manhattan."

Keeping the two systems separate in the outer boroughs, coupled with increased enforcement of the rules, and a crack down on unlicensed and illegal cars that prowl the City's streets, will increase passenger safety and ensure that the riding public is not overcharged.  Alternatively, a dual purpose community car - one that is allowed to both pick up street hails and pre-arranged customers - complicates enforcement. Even the best funded and most sophisticated enforcement scheme would find it impossible to distinguish between legal and illegal behavior of vehicles that are allowed to engage in both pre-arranged as well as street hail pickups. This enforcement nightmare defeats the Mayor's stated goal of ensuring consistent pricing as drivers will be in position  to simply turn off the meter and illegally "negotiate" a price with the customer.

SOURCE Livery Round Table