Yassky: Taxi Plan Will Reduce Car Ownership, Improve Safety

Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky says legalizing street hails for livery cabs will reduce car ownership rates and improve traffic safety. Photo: Adams for ##http://articles.nydailynews.com/2009-08-16/news/17932709_1_guinea-pigs-affordable-housing-brooklyn-waterfront##News##

Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his plan to create a new class of taxis allowed to make street hails outside the Manhattan core, most of the coverage has focused on the potential effect on yellow cab medallion owners’ profits or livery drivers’ earnings. Less has been written about the broader effect such a plan would have on the city’s transportation system as a whole (Cap’n Transit being a notable exception).

Taxis, after all, make up a significant component of that system. A 2006 report by Bruce Schaller, a former policy director at the Taxi and Limousine Commission and now a top DOT official, estimated that in 2004, yellow cabs drove 815 million miles each year, while livery cabs drove more than double that, 1.733 billion miles.

Now that the legislature has passed the plan — it still needs Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature — we checked in with TLC Commissioner David Yassky to see how he views its wider impact. He argued that the outer-borough taxi plan would help reduce car ownership and improve traffic safety.

Though he couldn’t quantify the likely impact of the Bloomberg taxi plan on car ownership or trip mode-share, Yassky said that “I think we can say that we know what direction the numbers go in.”

“A healthy taxi market gives people an alternative to private car ownership,” he said. People currently use illegal street hails “to go home from the supermarket with heavy bags, to go to and from the subway stop if you live a mile from the subway, to go to church or visit friends on a Saturday or Sunday. Those are all things that you need a car to do outside Manhattan if there’s no decent taxi service… That’s the systemic impact.”

Yassky also made the case that the taxi plan would make livery drivers more likely to follow traffic laws and drive safely: “We see with the yellow taxis that when you have a valuable license, that gives the driver a stake in following the rules.” Certainly some yellow taxi drivers break rules, he said, but “they do have to worry that if they rack up too many driving infractions, they’re going to lose their livelihood.” That isn’t true in the underground market for livery cab street hails. “Since the drivers activity is illicit to begin with, we have no way to give them an incentive to follow the more mundane but important traffic rules,” he said.

Interestingly, Schaller’s 2006 report found that livery cabs generally had fewer crashes per mile than yellow cabs (both were far safer than private vehicles). The two classes of vehicle take different trips in different locations, so it’s possible either that Yassky’s intuitions are correct and liveries will become even safer, or that making liveries more like yellow cabs will push up their crash rate.

Yassky wouldn’t say whether legalization would make hailing a cab outside the Manhattan core more or less affordable. “Rates will be set through TLC rulemaking,” he said. “We’ll have to look at the economics of the industry.”

  • car free nation

    So is Cuomo going to sign this or what?

    It’s going to be a huge quality of life improvement for my family. We don’t have a car, and would use the service much on weekends getting around downtown Brooklyn…

  • Driver

     Hailing livery cabs is already common place in many neighborhoods where livery cabs are abundant.  This law would simply eliminate the risk for the driver when picking up these fares.  
    In neighborhoods where this is not common place, you can get usually get a livery cab in 10-15 minutes by calling for one. I don’t see how this law would in anyway result in  people getting rid of their cars as Mr Yassky claims.

  • car free nation


    It’s just one of the many tools that those of us without cars use to get around. Sure you can hail a gypsie cab, but it’s a little scary, and certainly not something I’d do unless I had to (it’s not just the drivers who are at risk). Calling for a car service works, but again, it’s not a good solution if you’re out and about. And 15 minutes is a long time, when you have other options. While you’re waiting you think, “Man, I wish I had a car.”

    There’s something magical about holding up your hand and getting a cab when you need one. 

  • Driver

    I’m not saying it’s a bad idea.  I think it is definitely helpful to people who already use livery or gypsy cabs.  What I disagree with is the claim that this law will reduce car ownership. 

    A question about the hailing of “gypsy” cabs.  Aren’t people hailing essentially the same livery cabs that come when you call the dispatch?  Of course not the same exact cab or driver, but from what I see, livery cab hails are generally made with cars with TLC plates.  I’m sure there are some non-TLC cars driving around looking for fares, but in general I see regular livery cabs being hailed.  I don’t see how it’s any riskier than calling for a livery cab. 

  • Anonymous

    Accepting credit cards and having set rates will make them much easier to deal with, imo.  I hate the huge cash/credit price difference, exorbitant minimums and the negotiation/size-up that is often part of the livery cab transaction.  I ride in yellow taxis much more frequently than I did before they started accepting cards.

  • kevd

    “I don’t see how it’s any riskier than calling for a livery cab.” I don’t either.  But there certainly people who would not illegally hail a livery cab because it is illegal, or because of the price negotiation (which some people don’t even realize needs to be done BEFORE starting the journey).  Will the legislation reduce car ownership?  Maybe a very, tiny, little bit.  

    I would be more inclined to dispute his statement that “Those are all things that you need a car to do outside Manhattan if there’s no decent taxi service.”
    Which is a completely ridiculous and demonstrably untrue statement.  Otherwise, how would the more the 50% of Brooklyn and Bronx households without a car  survive?  What planet does this guy live on that he thinks even most outborough residents own cars?

  • Driver

    ” Otherwise, how would the more the 50% of Brooklyn and Bronx households without a car  survive?”
    Seriously, there are a LOT of livery cabs in parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx.  Riding in them seems to be a regular part of a lot of peoples lives in these dense neighborhoods.

  • kevd

    “THEY USE LIVERY CABS!”  and more will now.  Some just walk.  Some ride a bike.  

  • Tom

    Please remember our extensive public transportation in NYC, a blessing to us all, is what is not mentioned here.  This proposal is only a poor alternative to properly funding mass transit in Albany.

  • Driver

    How would funding mass transit in Albany help us here in NYC?
    Just teasing of course =P

  • Driver

    I agree that this is a good thing for people who use livery cabs.
     All caps guy?  Come on, when have you ever seen me use all caps before?
    It was a very non-serious yelling of what I thought was an obvious action by people who sometimes need cars but do not have them.  I should know better, the intended inflection is always hard to convey in text. 

  • kevd

    Fair Enough.  I was only referring to this one instance….  
    And I intended “all caps guy” to a be a bit humorous as well.

  • Driver

    LOL like I said, it never reads right in text.  Sorry for the misunderstanding. 

  • Driver

    LOL like I said, it never reads right in text.  Sorry for the misunderstanding. 

  • c.r.e.a.m.

    Dollar vans, anyone? You don’t know what you’re missing.

  • Fred

    There is no data whatsoever to back up the assertion that the taxi plan will reduce auto ownership.  None.  

    My concern:  All these livery cabs that now park at their base waiting for calls will be cruising for passengers.  What does that do to the traffic on our already congested streets?

  • Livery cabs can really be a solution to traffic safety. Hopefully,
    the drivers will practice road safety measures themselves in order to ensure
    everyone’s safety on the road. Thanks for this very relevant article.


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