De Blasio taxi commissioner vouches for green taxis

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Green taxi. (Paul Sableman)
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In the year since New York City issued its first green taxi permits, borough taxis have delivered more than 5.8 million rides to about 6.9 million customers, the city’s taxi commissioner testified during a City Council hearing this afternoon.

Put another way, the city’s still-formative fleet of taxis designed to provide street-hail service in the outer boroughs and Upper Manhattan, where regular yellow taxi service is scant, is now providing 43,000 rides a day.

That’s nearly quadruple the number of daily trips borough taxis were providing in November of last year.

“I think, overall, everybody’s accepted that it’s part of life in New York now,” said Meera Joshi, who chairs Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, in an interview with reporters after her testimony.

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Joshi said the green taxis’ ubiquity is “a testament to the idea itself, that it was a well-deserved, meaningful, needed service that the city now has.”

Joshi’s comments are notable, if only because they represent something of a departure from the taxi rhetoric of the mayor who hired her.

During his campaign, de Blasio raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from the yellow taxi industry, which argued the green taxis would poach business from yellow cabs and fought the program in court. (De Blasio, as public advocate, submitted an amicus brief on the industry's behalf.)

Today, Joshi indicated those fears were groundless and that, for yellow cabs, “the total fare box has actually gone up slightly," and medallion prices have remained healthy.

De Blasio also spoke often, if not quite clearly, about the need to “fix” the program. When he became mayor, he appointed one of his top taxi industry fund-raisers to be an assistant commissioner at the industry’s regulatory agency.

Then, via Joshi, the administration indicated it would not immediately issue the second round of borough taxi licenses. (The state law authorizing the program allows the city to issue three tranches of 6,000 each over the course of three years.)

After an uproar in the press, the administration relented.

Today, Joshi said that from her vantage point, there’s been no “real discernible difference” between green taxi policy under de Blasio and green taxi policy under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose administration concocted the idea for the green taxis and then, after extensive litigation, started rolling them out last year.

Green taxis have so far made 1.8 million trips in Upper Manhattan, 1.6 million in Queens, 1.4 million in Brooklyn, 600,000 in the Bronx, and 1,600 in Staten Island.

Before there were green taxis, livery cars would routinely and illegally pick up fares off the street. The green taxi program allows livery car drivers to provide the same service, legally. There are now 6,300 pre-qualified drivers on the waiting list for the second round of permits that will be issued in August.

"They have gone from simply having a job to owning a tangible stake in our city, and in their own future," Joshi said in her testimony.

Capital asked a de Blasio spokesman if he thought the program still needed to be fixed. He had no immediate comment.

Asked if she would be issuing the third round of 6,000 permits next year, as the law permits, Joshi was vaguely affirmative.

“We anticipate issuing a third tranche,” she said. “We have to sell all of the permits in the second tranche, which is not within our control. And if all of those permits are sold, then the third tranche would be available for sale.”