Liberating Livery Cars

NYC taxi regulations

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New York is famous for its iconic yellow cabs. But other cars-for-hire roam the city as well: livery cabs, often known as "black cars." Their licenses permit scheduled pickups and drop-offs, but pedestrians are not supposed to hail them from the side of the street. That requires a taxi medallion, a special permit whose price has zoomed past $500,000 and is fast approaching the $1 million mark.

In his State of the City address on January 19, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to change the rules to allow street pick-ups by livery cars outside of Manhattan, legalizing a common but illicit practice. Livery car drivers argue that the highly regulated yellow cab system leaves the poorer, mostly black and Hispanic residents of the outer boroughs without street cab services and that yellow cab drivers frequently refuse (illegally) to take customers anywhere other than Manhattan and the nearby, newly gentrified neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

The taxi guild predictably objects. Victor Salazar of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the nation's largest taxi drivers union, claims the reform will lead to plummeting prices for taxi medallions, which will cause "the collapse of the industry." The union argues that the exclusion of trips originating in Manhattan will be unenforceable and that livery car drivers will use their new privileges as a wedge to split apart the yellow cab monopoly. 

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