Another six months have passed, and traditional for-hire vehicle (FHV) bases are again anxiously waiting to see if New York City will lift its cap on new licenses. Bases owners, drivers and advocates rallied on the steps of City Hall on August 1, holding signs that pointed out the grim reality – that the cap is devastating decades-old businesses struggling to survive and inflicting enormous pain on people who played no hand in creating the traffic congestion the cap sought to alleviate.
Mayor Eric Adams has voiced his support and newly-appointed Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) chair David Do publicly backed the plan. City Council even assembled a Task Force to determine ways to help traditional FHV bases, and they came to the same conclusion. At this point, I’m not sure what else needs to be said or done… other than just doing it.
Each segment of the industry is struggling in its own way, but not everyone is getting help. There has been relief for people being crushed by taxi medallion debt, and even Uber got a shot in the arm with the addition of yellow taxis to its platform, thanks to a deal forged with the Curb app – but traditional black car, livery and luxury bases are not getting the help they need to survive.
I realize it’s a little more complicated than I’m making it sound, but not so much so that the TLC should just sit on its hands and let this play out in the most painful way possible. The TLC has exempted wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) from the cap for FHV bases, but that doesn’t help traditional black car or luxury bases that serve corporate clients. Electric vehicles (EVs) were exempted at one point but that was nixed – and even if it was reinstated, the vehicles are difficult to come by, they’re too expensive for drivers who have been struggling financially for years now, and the charging infrastructure isn’t currently sufficient to accommodate them.
City officials have discussed allowing “limited use” FHV licenses, which would be a huge step forward, but advocates are concerned leasing companies could snatch them up and add their own cost to the process, so drivers would not fully enjoy the relief they need and deserve.
Let’s not forget about the people who purchased radio rights at traditional black car bases for upwards of $100,000 or paid for franchises that cost up to $50,000, who have nothing to show for it. So many of those people were forced to walk away from the industry because the pandemic drove the final nail into their financial situation. Many of them are again seeing opportunity in NYC’s transportation industry but can’t get back in. It just doesn’t make sense.
Traditional bases aren’t asking for much, certainly not enough to affect traffic to any real degree. They just want to be able to add a small percentage of additional drivers to their fleets to accommodate the actual transportation needs of actual clients. Many of these people were transporting NYC executives long before companies like Uber even existed.
How about drivers who may be relatively new to the industry but have shown their commitment by enduring an avalanche of financial obstacles and a 100-year pandemic? They have only been able to lease their vehicles, but they also should be given the chance to bypass the cap and become legit TLC-licensed drivers.
By the time you read this, the decision may already have been made, and I just hope the City finally does the right thing for traditional bases. To quote the industry advocates that converged on City Hall on August 1, “The industry is past the protesting stage, now we’re just pleading with the TLC to do the right thing.”