Sound of `Taxi!’ Fades as Smartphone Hails Rise


Taxi and Limousine Commission facilities are scheduled to be popping up in Staten Island and Queens, but yellow taxi cabs ridership seem to be going down — at least in the Manhattan.

Despite city ridership decreases, the planned facility would be good news to yellow cab drivers on Staten Island, who will now have a local office providing licensing operations and administrative services.

The announcement of the in-construction facility came in in an off-the-cuff comment from Commissioner Elias Arout at the end of Thursday’s TLC monthly meeting.

“Everything is coming along,” said Arout. I’m not too happy about it, but it’s being made. I hope by the end of this month we will have a base based on Staten Island where the drivers that live on Staten Island will work on Staten Island, and will be much help for those that want to do some transfers on Staten Island.”

Details remained scarce following the meeting and it was unclear why he was unhappy but CEO Meera Joshi promised to provide an industry update following the facility’s opening.

On November 17 TLC officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of another new licensing facility in the Falchi Building in Long Island City.

But despite the commission’s continuing administrative expansion, yellow taxi hails continued to sink in Manhattan this year.

Alternatively, online taxi hailing services continued to increase in popularity, resulting in complaints from medallion drivers and company owners. Last month, New York City medallion owners filed a suit against the commission, claiming that it had not done enough to protect their exclusive right to pick up passengers across the city, resulting in a decrease in overall taxi hails.

Commissioners made no attempt to address the suit during the meeting. However, claims seem to be corroborated by their records, which show that between April to June 2014 and April to June 2015 data sets, rides around Manhattan by use of yellow cabs decreased by over 3.5 million, while Uber gained approximately the same amount — an almost exact one to one ratio of increase to decrease between the two services.

Previously, taxi and limousine commission owners have grappled with the burgeoning smartphone taxi hailing service, without much success. In September, Queens Supreme Court Justice Allan Weiss dismissed the lawsuit of a group of New York City medallion lenders, stating that e-hail services were legal due to the distinction between a physical cab hail and those performed through a smartphone.

The effects have trickled down to prices of medallions within the city. November’s medallion sales chart reported that a foreclosed TLC medallion was sold for $325,545, noting an approximate 69 percent decrease in price since 2013, when prices for personal medallions prices averaged over $1 million.

Taxi and Limousine officials could not be reached for comment before publication.

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