Taxi drivers, fleet owners argue over who should get a raise
A plan to hike taxi fares is one step closer to getting a green light.
Officials from the Taxi and Limousine Commission voiced their support for proposals Thursday that would increase fares up to 20% during a packed public hearing where the issue was formally introduced.
Riders could see larger tabs by the end of the summer if the plan is approved.
TLC officials, cabbies and taxi fleet owners all seem to agree that drivers should get a raise, but they differ on how drivers and garage owners should split the new revenue.
Taxi workers argue that they're making 25% less now than they were in 2006 due to increased costs, like higher gas prices, and they claim that they've been overcharged and nickel-and-dimed by taxi fleet owners, who lease cars to them. The fleet owners, whose prices are capped by the TLC, argue that they haven't seen any raise in 16 years.
TLC Commissioner David Yassky seemed to welcome raising fares, but was skeptical to fleet owners' insistance that they need to collect more from cab drivers.
"I think the case for the fare increase is a strong one, and it's simple: gas has gone way up -- almost 50% since 2006. That comes out of the drivers pocket. It means it's harder to pay rent, harder to put food on the table," Yassky said.
"Meanwhile, medallion prices have doubled in the same period. I think that suggests that the fleets are profitable and are making money," he continued. "If the fleet owners want the public to pay more, they have to explain why it is that medallion prices have doubled and they still need more on top of that."
Michael Woloz of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade said it's only fair that both sides get paid more. He claimed the TLC was giving preferential treatment to taxi drivers because the Taxi Workers Alliance supported the agency's new outer-borough taxi plan, which the MTBOT is suing to block.
"It would be a clear reward for a group that supported the five-borough taxi plan," Woloz said. "The retaliation against us is obvious."
Yassky dismissed his claim.
Bhairavi Desai of the Taxi Workers Alliance blasted the fleet owners' claim that they needed extra money to cover costs.
"Excuse me if I don't give a damn that a fleet operator is seeing a net return on their operation that's less than what they have expected," Desai said, adding: "We need this raise."