All-Borough Taxis Hit Roadblocks

The green all-borough taxis have yet to take off. (Photo via The Uptowner)

The green all-borough taxis have yet to take off. (Photo via The Uptowner)

The iconic yellow cabs that dominate Midtown and Lower Manhattan streets have had a green counterpart for almost a month, but few New Yorkers know it. Lime green vehicles now serve Upper Manhattan and areas in other boroughs that get the cold shoulder from yellow taxi drivers.

In an article for The Uptowner, Rishi Iyengar finds that both drivers and passengers are uncertain about the all-borough taxis. That, plus delays in installing proper cab equipment – meters, signs and the like – have hindered the path for the green cabs.

The new taxis were introduced on August 9 after the State Court of Appeals upheld Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to expand street hail service. As a result, the livery cabs that service uptown Manhattan via phone calls can now apply for licenses allowing them to pick up passengers just like their yellow counterparts.

The all-borough taxi may be a slight misnomer as it can only take street hails in certain zones of Manhattan – above East 96th Street or West 110th Street. The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) plans to issue 18,000 street hail livery licenses over the next two years.

Lakbir Singh is one driver who opted for the green taxi in late August as the permit cost was cheaper. However, while costs may run lower, he has to deal with some challenges.

But in spite of picking up 175 passengers in his first 10 days, he encountered many who won’t get into his car. “Many people are refusing because they don’t know that this is the same as a yellow cab,” he says. “Even if I explain, they don’t believe me.”

Drivers of traditional yellow taxis seem to be taking advantage of this lack of customer awareness. Singh says one even poached a customer. “He drove up behind me and said this is not legal, even though he knew it was,” Singh says.

At First Class Car and Limo Service in Inwood in Upper Manhattan, a third of their drivers will soon be behind the wheel of the green taxis. Employee Lynette Diaz says that liberty cabs are more fitting for locals, who prefer using the phone, including Belle Sanchez, a Bronx entrepreneur and Inwood native.

“Everyone uptown calls; there’s bases every few blocks,” she says. “Spanish people like the convenience of picking up the phone,” she adds, referring to the heavily Dominican neighborhood.

Sanchez, for one, does prefer to book cabs over the phone, especially when she’s sending one of her three children somewhere unaccompanied. The drivers “come to the door, pick my kid up, give me their number and name. I feel safe,” she says. She is, however, vaguely aware of the advent of all-borough taxis.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Ramon, who owns El Sol De Dios Communications in Inwood, is waiting for a TLC license to be able to install meters and computer systems in the new cabs. He points out that drivers also need some convincing.

“Right now there’s not a big rush, because the drivers are scared of the new law,” he says, explaining that some drivers remain unsure what they can and can’t do.

But Diaz sees a good future for the all-borough taxi: “It’s going to be better for the passenger, for the community and it’ll ultimately be better for business as well,” she says.

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