Features, New York, topslot, Transportation

Judge Delays Taxi ‘Suicide Surcharge’ Two More Weeks

January 29, 2019

By Steve Wishnia

NEW YORK, N.Y.—A State Supreme Court judge extended an injunction Jan. 17 against the state’s congestion-pricing surcharge on taxis and for-hire vehicles, preventing it from going into effect for another two weeks.  

NYC Cabbies just sidestepped a congestion surcharge – for now.

The state legislature enacted the surcharge, a $2.50 fee on every yellow-cab trip below 96th Street in Manhattan, $2.75 on green cabs and one-person trips in app-based cabs, and 75 cents on group app-based trips, last year, with the revenue earmarked for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It was supposed to go into effect Jan. 1, but a lawsuit by the NYC Taxi Medallion Owner Driver Association won an injunction holding it off.

Judge Lynn Kotler extended the injunction until another hearing Jan. 31. 

“Every extra hour and day gives us one more breath. We are relieved by the extension!” the New York Taxi Workers Alliance posted on Twitter. Drivers have dubbed the fee the “suicide surcharge,” referring to the eight financially stressed drivers who have killed themselves in the past 15 months. 

They say the surcharge, which will raise the minimum yellow-cab fare from $3.30 to $5.80, will slash their already shrinking incomes by raising fares significantly, discouraging customers without giving them anything in return. “Passengers won’t want to get in the cab when it’s $5.80 to press the meter,” driver Michael Wong told LaborPress at a protest against the fees in December. “It’s going to come out of our tips.”

“We feel the surcharge will push the industry over the edge into oblivion,” Carolyn Protz of the NYC Taxi Medallion Owner Driver Association told WCBS-TV. She blamed increased traffic on the 80,000 for-hire vehicles added since app-based services such as Uber and Lyft were allowed in the city in 2012—competition that has greatly reduced drivers’ incomes and decimated the value of medallions.

“There’s work for around 50 to 60,000 vehicles,” she told WCBS. “Not 130,000 vehicles.”

Uber and Lyft drivers also oppose the surcharge. “We are thrilled the judge extended the restraining order on Albany’s sham congestion tax and that it will continue to be on hold at least through the end of the month,” Moira Muntz of the Independent Drivers Guild, which represents app-based drivers, said in a statement. “It is unfair to single out FHVs for yet another tax, while the wealthiest in private cars and construction and commercial vehicles that block full lanes of traffic are exempt.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state would “vigorously defend” the surcharge,” saying it would “generate hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the subway.” Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office also endorsed the fees, saying it would reduce congestion.

January 29, 2019

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