Licensed and unlicensed commuter vans have been slugging it out in the outer boroughs. Though there are over 300 licensed commuter van drivers shuttling passengers from one zone to the next, there are hundreds more unlicensed vans that snatch up commuters and don't pay insurance. Licensed drivers are accusing the unlicensed guys of cutting them off to pick up passengers, and even threatening them when they are confronted. One driver's van even got stolen!
Licensed driver David Clarke recently confronted an unlicensed driver in Rosedale. Though the driver stole Clarke's passenger, he felt it fitting to warn him, "Watch out, I know where you live." Three days later, Clarke's van was stolen from his home, and when police found it it was covered in scratches and missing its tire rims. Others have reported shattered windshields and slashed tires, and Driver Gladstone Barrett says the competition is ruthless. "I'm scared as hell. They say we’re trying to get rid of them, but we’re not trying to get rid of them. We just want them to follow the same requirements that we do." But in this economy, that price is just too damn high.
Unlicensed "dollar" van being ticketed and towed at Liberty Avenue & Crossbay Blvd by Taxi and Limousine Commission agents. Photo: Lost in the Ozone.
Driver Norman Morris was legit for 16 years, and between safety inspections and liability insurance, that little sticker from the TLC cost him $12,000 a year. "I wanted to be licensed, too, but I just can’t afford it." With the new cuts in subway and bus service, commuter vans are becoming even more popular in areas under served by public transportation, and more unlicensed drivers are starting to take advantage of the demand.The rules [PDF] state that no one can operate a van service in the city "without first obtaining an authorization from the Commission to operate such commuter van service" or if they've been "found guilty of operating a commuter van service without authorization to operate such commuter van service two times within a six-month period." So trying to incorporate all those unlicensed drivers into the system won't really go over