Brooklynites: Bloomy cab bill is one hail of a good idea

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This is one hail of a law!

Brooklynites cheered the state Senate’s passage on Friday of a Bloomberg Administration bill to put meters inside of livery cabs and allow them to make street pick-ups — a boon to black cab-catching Brooklynites who are fed up with rip-off fares quoted by unregulated drivers.

“It’s great to regulate them so you’d know exactly what price you’re going to get,” said Fort Greene resident Marie Schumacher outside the Atlantic Terminal Mall on the livery-loaded Flatbush Avenue.

Currently, only yellow cabs can make curbside pick-ups within the city. But if Gov. Cuomo signs the legislation, that right would be extended to as many as 30,000 car service vehicles — legalizing a common practice.

Livery cabbies who fork over $1,500 for a meter and on-street pick-up license would also receive credit card readers and navigation system locators — just like the equipment in yellow taxis. Licensed liveries will be painted a yet-to-be-decided uniformed color.

And just like in yellow taxis, passengers would likely not be taken for a ride while they’re being taken for a ride. Independent black cabs often charge whatever they want, as we found when we were offered three different rates for a trip from the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues to Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO in March.

All new livery cabs would have the same $.50 surcharge, which goes to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as yellow cabs. The city has not confirmed if the meter rates would be the same as yellow taxis, which charge $2.50 plus 40 cents for every 1/5 of a mile.

But the legislation has had a bumpy road, as yellow cab drivers oppose the bill because they claim that it would cut into their customer base and devalue the pricey medallions that give them exclusive rights to street pickups.

“Nobody will pay [hundreds of thousands of dollars] for a medallion to pick up a fare when you’re selling street hail rights for $1500 apiece,” said David Pollack, a spokesman for the lobbying group Coalition for Taxi Equality and Justice.

Yellow cabs will still have exclusive rights to the busiest parts of Manhattan and the airports.

And some livery cabbies say they won’t buy a meter and street hail license.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said driver Mohmed Koroma. “We’ll be competing with the yellow cabs.”

Participating liveries will benefit from no longer getting a $350 fine for accepting street hails. More than 3,000 illegal street hail summons were given out around the city this year and last Thursday enforcement officers caught a dozen cabbies in an elaborate sting on Court Street.

“We need [this law],” said Dervis Diaz, a driver with the Bushwick-based Puerto Rico Car Service.

Updated 12:30 am, June 28, 2011
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