Are yellow cab drivers a bunch of Manhattan snobs?
Cab-rider complaints are soaring about drivers who refuse to take them where they want to go. And officials say a big reason is that hacks may not want to leave Manhattan for the outer boroughs.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission, which released the stats Thursday, said they want to slap hacks with higher fines for defying the law.
Reports of taxi-service refusals jumped 38 percent for the period of July through December 2010, with 2,341 complaints filed, compared to 1,693 during the same period in 2009, according to the TLC, which said some of the reports came from undercover TLC agents.
While the TLC doesn’t track specific reasons for refusal or complaint locations, TLC Commissioner David Yassky said it appears many drivers simply want to stay put in Manhattan.
“The overwhelming bulk of complaints are instances where a taxi is hailed in Manhattan and the passenger is looking to go to Brooklyn and Queens or northern Manhattan,” said TLC Commissioner David Yassky, adding that higher penalties would send a strong message “to drivers that this rule needs to be obeyed.”
The TLC encourages people to call 311 to complain about refusals.
Last fall, Brooklyn residents griped that cabbies didn’t want to take them home because of late-night work blocking Manhattan-bound lanes on the Brooklyn Bridge, but a TLC spokesman said it’s unclear if that contributed to the spike in complaints.
Julie Murray, 36, of Douglaston, Queens, said she is frequently turned down, especially at night and during bad weather, but has never filed a complaint.
“I tell them, ‘I live in Queens, you have to take me. This is your job, you have to take me,’” she said. “I don’t even know why I argue because I don’t think I want to get in a taxi with a driver who is angry.”
Some cabbies attributed the complaints to misunderstandings.
If drivers are off-duty and heading back to the garage, they are allowed to refuse passengers who aren’t going in that direction.
“Some people just don’t understand,” when they are refused service, said Harlem driver Braheem Kone. “They look stunned.”
Kone said he is charged a $25 fee for every 30 minutes he is late bringing a car to the garage.
Fernando Mateo, who heads the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, called the complaints “legitimate,” but said some drivers don’t feel safe in certain neighborhoods or fear getting stiffed on fares. Still, others just don’t want to go to the outer boroughs, he said.
“If they are going to areas where they are not going to get a return trip into the city, they feel one way for $15 or $20 dollars is a waste,” he said.
James Vacca, chairman of the Council Transportation Committee, said increasing fines won’t do anything unless the TLC is committed to enforcing the law.
Dina Davis and Sheila Anne Feeney contributed to this story.
Cabbies are saying “no thanx” to places like the Bronx, and the TLC wants to stiffen penalties for cabbies who reject costumer destination requests. The City Council would have to approve the change.
Proposed: $500 for first offense
Before: From $200 to $350.
Proposed: $750 and 30-day suspension if within 24 months
Before: From $350 to $500 fine and possible 30-day license suspension
Mandatory TLC license revocation if within 36 months, same as now.