Taxi and Limousine Commission adopted rules allowing the TLC to eliminate the fare from the decals adorning the exterior of New York City’s iconic yellow taxi fleet. Earlier this week, New York City Council Transportation James Vacca wrote to TLC Chairman David Yassky asking for clarification regarding those rules. While no response to that letter (attached separately) has been received, it is clear that the TLC intends to move forward with its ill-advised plan to remove the fare information from the exterior of the City’s yellow cab fleet.
“I am appalled that the TLC would seek to limit passenger information when it comes to cab fare,” said Vacca. “Not every passenger knows the fare outright, and this opens the door to fraud and the type of overcharging scandal we had only a few years ago. It defies logic that the TLC would seek to make the taxi fare less transparent. This is a major disservice to passengers, especially the tourists whose best way of knowing the fare is to see it on the outside of the cab before they get in, not after. Taxi riders, especially tourists, do not think to check the tv screen in the back to make sure they are being charged the appropriate rate. In the interest of full disclosure and complete transparency, I implore the TLC to put the interests of passengers ahead of aesthetics. Leave the fare on the outside of the cab.”
The TLC’s new decal will require cab riders, New Yorkers and tourists alike, to know the cab fare before they enter. That expectation can hardly be met easily, especially since the fare rates are set to change this September and will be up for review at least every two years according to new procedures adopted by the TLC in July. Tourists who use cabs have no way of knowing the fare in advance, and they need that information in order to price compare among NYC’s various methods of transportation.
In addition, eliminating the fare from the exterior of the cab leaves passengers vulnerable to massive fraud. Between 2008 and 2010, hundreds of unsuspecting taxi riders were robbed of more than $1.1 million by taxi drivers who deliberately charged the out of town rate when they should have been charged the standard rate for travel within NYC. Of the more than 21,000 cabbies who ripped off their riders, more than 90 percent of them faced no penalty. Ultimately, the TLC declined to pursue drivers who swindled passengers fewer than 10 times, and many of those drivers—more than 20,000—are still on the streets. Removing the rate of fare from the outside of the cab leaves passengers vulnerable to overcharging yet again.
In addition to the taxi overcharging scandal from 2008-2010, recent accusations of pedicab drivers overcharging passengers proves that when passengers have less than full information, they are left vulnerable to exploitation by less than scrupulous drivers.