(New York, NY) “I’m going to Park Slope Brooklyn.. you won’t take me?!” is what the microphone picked up 30 meters from a man, dressed in a suit on a corner at 5th Avenue and 44th street at 6pm on a Tuesday. The cab driver refused to take the passenger and tried to drive off.
Only the man asking to go to Brooklyn was the Commissioner of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, David Yassky. And what was actually going down, was a sting. In 2012, the TLC conducted more than two thousand ‘refusal tests,’ going on to issue 362 refusal summonses. However the numbers are translated – within a short span, Commissioner Yassky himself found 2 cab drivers who appeared to be refusing to operate legitimately.
The fines are stiff, some $350 for the infraction. Yet, as a PIX11 investigation found, on some nights illegal practices are used by cab drivers to pick and choose their customers. The practice is emboldened with the use of their ‘off-duty’ light while asking “where you going?” Drivers tell PIX11 that the unethical are willing to use the off duty light, hoping it will create enough doubt in the mind of passengers so they do not consider filing the incident with 3-1-1.
There are some 50,000 licensed cab drivers in New York City, the vast majority of them operating legitimately. And the TLC permits a ‘going my way?’ questioned being used during changeover for cabs – normally between 4p-5p, then again from 4a-5a. According to Yassky, drivers who ask “where you going?” are breaking the rule already, since it indicates the driver is picking the ride (also called, cherry-picking). “If a driver asks you where you’re going and refuses to take you and you suspect he’s not truly off-duty,” advised Yassky, “call 3-1-1, and we will follow up and see if the driver was truly off-duty, and if he wasn’t – we’ll take action against that driver.”