- Advocacy groups and a member of the New York City Council on Tuesday called for taxi drivers to be exempt from the congestion pricing plan. Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez joined the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) in calling for the exemption.
- Congestion pricing, which would toll cars approximately $12 for entering Manhattan's business district south of 60th Street, would add financial problems for taxi drivers, the groups said. They noted that this is in addition to a surcharge, enacted in February, which collects $2.50 from yellow cab drivers and $2.75 from ride-hailing drivers traveling in any area below 96th Street.
- "Without an exemption from the congestion surcharge, taxi drivers — whether they are lease drivers or owner-drivers — simply won't earn enough to survive, even if their expenses go down," NYTWA executive director Bhairavi Desai said in a statement.
Attention on the financial plight of taxi drivers in New York City has intensified in recent days on the heels of a damning investigation by The New York Times, which found that many cab owners have fallen prey to predatory loans and other tactics to buy medallions, the permits that allow drivers to own a cab rather than drive for a company.
Under massive financial strain and the inability to pay their bills or pay back their loans, The Times found that an increasing number of drivers commit suicide.
Happy to be joined by @NYTWA, advocates and colleagues today as we address the growing financial issues faced by the Taxi Industry. I stand firmly with the belief that the Yellow Taxi Medallion owners deserve to be exempted from both the current surcharge and the proposed one. pic.twitter.com/kwt9lbkC8A— Ydanis Rodriguez (@ydanis) May 21, 2019
Following the investigation, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), Department of Finance and Department of Consumer Affairs to undertake a joint investigation that he said will "identify and penalize brokers who have taken advantage of buyers and misled City authorities" and "set down strict new rules that prevent broker practices that hurt drivers." New York Attorney General Letitia James also ordered a separate investigation.
The planned congestion pricing to pay for improvements to public transit and discourage driving in the most congested areas has garnered controversy and numerous calls for exemptions and discounts.
With NYTWA blaming the increased congestion on ride-hailing alternatives like Uber and Lyft, which the city passed regulations on last summer, the issue is sure to dominate discussion ahead of congestion pricing's planned implementation in late 2020 or early 2021.