Taxi drivers rail against Cuomo’s congestion surcharge plan

Taxi drivers rail against Cuomo’s congestion surcharge plan

Cab trips below 96th Street in Manhattan will cost an extra $2.50.

Roughly two dozen yellow and green cab drivers rallied Wednesday outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo's midtown office, calling for the governor to exempt the drivers from a new congestion surcharge that will raise fares for taxi and for-hire vehicle trips occurring in a large swath of Manhattan.
Roughly two dozen yellow and green cab drivers rallied Wednesday outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s midtown office, calling for the governor to exempt the drivers from a new congestion surcharge that will raise fares for taxi and for-hire vehicle trips occurring in a large swath of Manhattan. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Roughly two dozen cabbies rallied outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s midtown office Wednesday, slamming the state’s new surcharge to trips in the busiest area of Manhattan.

The measure, part of a larger congestion pricing proposal, will add surcharges to any yellow cab, e-hail or other for-hire vehicle trips that start, pass through or end in a designated “congestion zone” below 96th Street in Manhattan beginning Jan. 1. The state estimates it will generate about $400 million a year for the financially strapped MTA.

But the city and its cabbies, who will face an additional $2.50 surcharge for such trips, have pushed to exempt the industry, arguing that another fee would devastate drivers struggling to compete against a surge of Uber and Lyft trips. Those companies face a $2.75 surcharge, as well.

“This used to be a decent, good job,” said Daniel Ambro, of Jackson Heights, Queens, who started driving a taxi as a part-timer in 1987. “These companies took a lot of customers from us and created a lot of traffic.”

The pushback comes after eight driver suicides in the past year, which the organizers of the rally, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, have attributed the financial hardships plaguing the workforce.

"This is going to be a real existential threat really to the yellow cab industry," said NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai.

The surcharges were one facet of a more complete congestion pricing proposal that a Gov. Andrew Cuomo-convened panel called Fix NYC had proposed at the beginning of the year. The panel also recommended tolls for all vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th Street. Cuomo has vowed to enact such a congestion plan during the first 100 days in office to help fund the MTA and improve slowing traffic speeds on the most clogged streets in the city.

Patrick Muncie, a spokesman for the governor, said Cuomo will work with state lawmakers to evaluate the surcharge.

“The state budget approved by the Legislature last year included a congestion surcharge as the first phase of the Fix NYC plan and the first step in addressing the city’s congestion problem,” Muncie said in a statement. “One-hundred percent of this revenue will go directly to fixing the subways. Next year, we will continue to work with the Legislature to evaluate this surcharge and pass comprehensive congestion pricing on all vehicles once and for all.”

Vincent Barone