New License Gives Professional Drivers Freedom to Switch Cars

Members of the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission chat after wrapping up a short meeting on Sept 18. The TLC passed amendments to the new universal license, which goes into effect on Sept 26. The new license makes it so drivers can drive for cabs, liveries and black cars.

On September 18, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission unanimously approved amendments to the new universal driver’s license for taxicabs, liveries and black cars.

These amendments, which went into effect on Sept. 26, allow drivers who work for black car services, such as Uber and Lyft, to work for taxi companies, and vise versa, without having to apply for a new license. All existing TLC licenses will automatically convert to the new license.

The new license aims to help yellow cab companies retain and attract drivers as app-based companies have increasingly swallowed up drivers. These changes come as yellow cab rides are down 11 percent compared to the rides at the same time in 2015, continuing a downward trend as green cabs and newer app-based companies are competing for the same rides. The new license is the latest addition to a series of changes the Commission has made over the past year to make yellow cabs more attractive, including losing the English proficiency exam and focusing on illegal pickups.

David Pollack, director the Melrose Taxi Action Center, said he’s happy for the new license, because it makes it easier for drivers to switch. Melrose Taxi Action Center assists taxicab medallion renters with TLC regulations.

“The yellow industry has been appealing to drivers for a very long time now,” Pollack said. “They treat you with a sense of respect. I think (the new license) will give drivers the freedom to switch segments and therefore force new ideas into the industry.”

But Pollack said there needs to be more done to make the companies compete on an equal level. He said that the TLC should force app-based companies to have handicapped-accessible service comparable to the yellow cab industry.

“There is probably three times as many Uber cars as yellow cabs, so there should be three times as many accessible vehicles,” Pollack said.

Doucoure Rahem, a green cab driver, appeared at the Thursday TLC meeting to advocate for green cab drivers. He said the new license is an important step, but the fees that cab drivers are forced to pay are unfair. The TLC requires taxicabs to pay a $.50 surcharge for each trip, which subsidizes public transportation in the City. App-based services are only required to pay a sales tax, of which only three-eights of one percent goes to the MTA.

Victor Chisolo, the General Manager of Ann Service Corp., a yellow cab fleet located in Chelsea, said the TLC is doing a good job of requiring app-based services to fulfill the same requirements for operating a licensed vehicle, however he agrees that the extra fees required of cabs puts drivers at a disadvantage.

“(Paying the MTA fee), you’re essentially paying for the competition. It’s only fair that all the car services should have to do it.”

Chisolo said since the rise of Uber and Lyft he has not lost a lot of drivers, maybe six in the past year. But, he said the number of new drivers has decreased substantially.

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