NEW YORK — Surge pricing could soon be implemented for yellow cab rides in New York City.
A task force led by Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council speaker Corey Johnson issued recommendations on Friday to help ease the burden on yellow cab drivers who face mountains of debt after the value of once pricey taxi medallions collapsed.
Yellow taxis in the city have long operated on a fixed fee using a meter system. Surge pricing — charging more for rides when demand is higher — would take away the predictability of what a yellow cab would cost for a ride.
Not all passengers are on board with the proposal.
"The price is high enough. As soon as you get into a cab, it's like $3.50; I think it's ridiculous," said New York City resident Shaye Johnson.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, a co-chair of the Taxi Medallion Task Force, promised surge pricing would not be as high as it is with ride-share apps.
"We should look at how the yellow should also use the surge price,” he said. “No surge pricing should go double than the regular price.”
Other recommendations from the panel include improvements to the app to better compete with ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft as well as a public-private initiative that would alleviate the $600 million in collective debt that taxi medallion owners are facing. If the initiative is implemented, the city would partner with private companies to buy off the now-worthless taxi medallions that have saddled many drivers with debt.
Many industry leaders are believed to have sold the medallions at artificially inflated prices ranging from $200,000 to more than $1 million in 2014, according to the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Jana Stroe, of Romania, and her husband purchased their medallion 30 years ago before his death. She said she's struggling to get by because she can't afford her loan payments.
"Our friend died, so many drivers kill themselves. I'm the next one to kill myself," Stroe said.
Taxi drivers gathered at City Hall on Friday for a rally demanding relief, chanting "no more suicide, no more bankruptcy." Several indebted cab drivers have killed themselves in recent years.
The cab drivers who met Friday support the proposed public-private initiative to ease their financial burdens.
The panel met for six months to draft the suggestions, though it’s up to the City Council and the mayor to move forward with implementing them.
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