Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Borough Taxis Draws Boos at Meeting by Steve Mosco - The Queens Courier

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Finding a taxi in Queens is a lot like catching a glimpse of Bigfoot – it’s a rare sight and worthy of snapping a photo for posterity.

However, that might soon change as a new law proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg aims to create an outer borough cab service for passengers in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island and Queens. The livery cab type service would do away with the need for unlicensed – and in some cases, unsafe – ‘gypsy cabs,’ which are usually the only outer borough option.

David Yassky, who heads the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), is charged with implementing the plan that Bloomberg unveiled back in January.

“As all New Yorkers know yellow taxis almost never leave Manhattan, except to go to the airports,” said Yassky. “The ‘gypsy cabs’ that fill the void in [the outer boroughs] are decidedly third-rate.”

The bill requires a vote from the City Council and, if passed, would equip For-Hire Base Station vehicles with meters, allowing them to pick up random fares. Borough taxis will be assigned a uniform color separate from yellow taxis along with GPS locators, meters and the option for customers to pay by credit card as well as cash. The fare structure will be determined

“While the system works pretty well in Manhattan, there is enormous room for improvement in the rest of the city,” said Yassky. “That's what this plan should accomplish.”

At a Community Board 10 (CB10) meeting on March 3, TLC representatives gave attendees a general overview of the proposal – many residents did not like what they heard and voiced their disapproval, stating that there are safety concerns as well as concerns that they already have with TLC transportation in the area.

“Before we get involved with another layer of cabs, we need to deal with the ones we have now,” said Betty Braton, CB10 chairman, who stated that current issues include problematic routes and off-street parking locations.

TLC representatives did not provide specific details about the borough taxi service, but only a general overview, which residents felt was not enough to convince them to support the proposal.

“It seems like you only have half a package and you are already visiting community boards,” said one community board member. “There are many questions you can’t answer.”

TLC is looking for passenger feedback on what customers would want to see from the borough taxis. A short survey can be found at:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority declined to comment on this story.

– With additional reporting by Laura Cimera and Will Sammon