Long-awaited plans to enlarge the city’s two street-hail taxi fleets are finally on a roll. That’s great news for all of us who depend on spur-of-the-moment, door-to-door cab hails to get around in a town that has a crazy abundance of everything — except for available taxis.
Albany recently gave the city permission to sell 2,000 new yellow taxi medallions for wheelchair-accessible cars. That will bring people with disabilities much-needed relief. It will spread cheer among City Hall budget gurus, who believe the sale could pour as much as $1.3 billion into municipal coffers. And for all of us, it will mean a yellow cab fleet that grows from around 13,200 cars to 15,200.
That should raise our chances of hailing a cab promptly, even in frenzied rush hours, even in howling rainstorms, even in peak times around Grand Central or Penn stations.
There’s good news for upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs, too. Mayor Bill de Blasio recently approved the sale of permits to double the size of the city’s borough cab fleet — from 6,000 to 12,000 cars, a third of which should be wheelchair-accessible, by 2024.
Since their introduction last year, the green borough cabs have become tremendously popular among New Yorkers who live beyond midtown and lower Manhattan.
Few miss the old drill — characterized by livery drivers taking illegal hails, negotiating fares with customers and often getting lost in unfamiliar territory.
The next task for de Blasio?
He must allow the green fleet to grow larger still. The state in 2011 gave the city permission to put 18,000 green cabs in all on the streets. The sale of 6,000 more borough-cab permits is expected next year.
But now it’s not clear de Blasio will let that happen. He has never been a fan of the borough cab program. And he has accepted large campaign contributions from yellow-cab fleet owners, who tend to regard green cabs as a threat.
The mayor needs to get on board. As the taxi supply grows, the industry comes closer to meeting demand. From the perspective of the riding public, it’s hard to see a downside.