In the debate about Uber and cabs, those created to serve the outer boroughs are forgotten, writes Nancy Reynoso who is a green taxi driver who lives in Bronx, New York City.
When City Council Speaker Corey Johnson expressed his support during a recent radio interview for a package of bills that would better regulate Uber, he was asked whether the legislation would affect service in the outer boroughs. He replied that green taxis were created to service those boroughs and Upper Manhattan.
As one of the first green taxi permit holders who bought a permit back in 2013, I was heartened to hear that such a powerful elected official recognized our industry. The fact is, we often get conveniently left out of the discussion around Ubers and taxis.
Uber often claims that it stepped in to provide outer-borough service when yellows did not. This was never true and is not true today. Green taxis are the only type of vehicle created entirely to serve the boroughs and Upper Manhattan. We were picking up fares in our communities as liveries and now as green taxis long before Uber. We—not Uber—filled the gap in taxi service; Uber does most of its fares in Manhattan where we are prohibited from picking up passengers. And greens can be an even more powerful force. We have the ability to expand into more and more neighborhoods in the boroughs if Uber were properly regulated so it didn’t flood the market with tens of thousands of vehicles.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg created the green taxi program in 2013 to legalize the practice of livery drivers picking up street hails and to provide passengers with safe, legal and insured street hail service. This was not a giveaway to drivers. I spent thousands of dollars to buy a green-taxi permit from the city, paint my car green, install a meter and install “LPEP” technology for credit cards, GPS and Taxi and Limousine Commission data collection. Thousands of drivers joined me. An army of green taxis hit the road, successfully providing service to low- and middle-income communities of color throughout the Bronx, Upper Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
I empathize with the yellow taxi drivers who put their life savings into a medallion and are now struggling to make ends meet. The recent driver suicides of several yellow and livery drivers are tragic reminders that we need to get a handle on what’s happening to the yellow-cab industry. But don’t forget about us greens. We stepped up to the plate when the city launched the program. Many drivers came “out of the shadows” to become legalized, spending thousands of dollars in doing so.
Many of these drivers are suffering because Uber, a multibillion-dollar company based in San Francisco, has flooded New York with many more vehicles than our city needs. City Hall owes it to green taxi drivers to respect our permits and our rights—and that means ensuring that all drivers, owners and companies are regulated properly. That includes Uber, which has had a free ride for far too long and is the leading cause of the recent increase in congestion.
- Nancy Reynoso writes “Green taxis: We’re hurting too.”