Bloomberg’s $1 billion in new taxi-medallion revenue is still a glimmer on a very distant horizon

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A taxi in Sunnyside. (chrisgoldny via flickr)
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 2013 budget is premised in part on the idea that the city will make $1 billion from the sale of new wheelchair-accessible taxi medallions. But it's going to be a good while before the city is in a position to see a penny of that revenue.

That's because before the city can proceed with the sale, which is part of Bloomberg's ambitious outer-borough taxi plan, the administration must first present to the Cuomo administration and, separately, to a judge, a plan detailing how it will make New York City's entire taxi and limousine fleet accessible to the wheelchair-bound.  The city has yet to do so.

There are a number of reasons for this. The plan in question will rely heavily on data that the administration gleans from the implementation of a pilot taxi-dispatch program for the disabled. And the implementation of that system, in turn, has to wait on the city comptroller to approve the Taxi and Limousine Commission's contract with a service provider named Metro Taxi, which is now under review.

Once the comptroller approves the contract, it should take about 30 days for implementation of the system, according to an administration source. The system will work by allowing the wheelchair-bound to call dispatchers, who will send out wheelchair-accessible cabs as needed.

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And then it will take a while longer for the city to be able to glean data from the implementation of that system, and then a while after that for the city to plug that data into an accessibility plan to present to the appropriate parties. Then, and only then, will those parties go about determining whether the city is abiding by their accessibility demands. Presumably only after that happens will the city be able to conclude the extensive litigation now under way, either via a final court ruling or a settlement.

And since the city's dispatch system plan accords with the mayor's belief, toxic to disabled advocates, that wheelchair-bound people can't hail cabs off the street anyway, its ultimate approval probably won't happen without yet another fight. 

Once a new plan is settled upon by the city, the governor and the courts, the city will finally be able to sell the 2,000 wheelchair-accessible taxi medallions approved as part of the Bloomberg's and Cuomo's grand December compromise, and to implement its outer-borough taxi scheme, which will bring street-hail service to the poorly served, heavily minority neighborhoods in the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan.

The city estimates that the taxi medallions, assuming each goes for $500,000, will bring in $1 billion. Medallions have sold for a million dollars in the past, although some industry sources have predicted that the value of the new medallions will be lower because of market dilution and new expenses related to accessibility compliance.