Council Transportation Committee Hearing Opening Remarks By Chair Ydanis Rodriguez

Today Monday, September 25th at 1:00pm the New York City Committee on Transportation held an oversight hearing on the topic of “Taxi Medallion Values” and introduced bill 963 which would create a task force to study.

“Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing of the City Council Transportation Committee. I am Ydanis Rodriguez, the Chair of the Committee. First, let me recognize my colleagues who are here with us today…

Today’s hearing focuses on an issue vitally important not only to transportation in our city but to its very identity and character. As I said when we last held a hearing on these issues in February, the yellow taxi is an icon of New York City. Since the days of the Checkered Cab, yellow taxis have been synonymous with New York, for decades serving a vital role in our city’s transportation system for those who live, work, and visit here. It is also no secret that today the industry is facing unprecedented difficulties. Fares and ridership are down considerably. Daily fare-box revenues for yellow taxis were 10 percent lower in December 2016 than in the prior year and 25 percent lower compared to December 2012. Total yellow taxi trips per day in April 2017 were down 15.8 percent compared to April 2016 and down 33.7 percent compared to April 2010. And earlier this month, 46 foreclosed medallions were bought by a hedge fund for just 186,000 dollars each, well below the price than many current medallion owners paid for their medallions, yet another troubling sign for the industry.

In recent years, major credit unions that have historically served the industry have faced mounting red ink and been taken over by State authorities. Many taxis now sit idle, even at the busiest times of day, instead of being out on the road serving passengers. And many individual medallion owners are facing foreclosure and bankruptcy, upending their personal lives and destroying their savings. These are small business owners, many of them immigrants who invested in a medallion in hopes of achieving their slice of the American Dream.

It has long been my position that there can be a place for everyone in our taxi and for-hire vehicle industry. New York is a city of opportunity and innovation. We welcome those who want to come here and offer New Yorkers new options for transportation and for making a living. But this does not have to come at the expense of those who have invested their savings in the taxi industry, looking to find success in New York while serving all of us by moving us around our great city.

That is why I am proud to have worked closely with the TLC to streamline the medallion system and lessen some of the administrative burdens of both owning and driving in the yellow taxi industry. In April of 2016 the Council passed legislation, which I was proud to have introduced, that ended the distinction between taxi and for-hire-vehicle licenses for drivers, creating one universal driver’s license for both of these sectors. Now, drivers can more easily move between sectors based on their own individual needs and preferences, and owners now have a much bigger pool of drivers to recruit from.

This past March we passed two additional bills that I introduced which eliminated the distinction between individual and mini-fleet medallions, in addition to loosening other requirements related to medallion ownership and lowering the medallion transfer tax. Now medallions owners can more easily buy and sell their medallions, freed from some of the most limiting restrictions they had previously faced. The TLC has also taken its own actions, including eliminating the owner-must-drive rules, extending vehicle retirement schedules, and instituting a pilot program that allows drivers to pay a percentage of their earnings during a shift to lease a taxi instead of having to pay a flat fee up front.

Despite all of this, it is clear that the industry is still facing unprecedented challenges. That is why I have introduced Intro. 963, which would create a task force to study the issue and recommend further changes the city can make to stabilize the industry and increase medallion values. When it comes to the taxi and for-hire vehicle industry, our role is to protect the rights and safety of passengers and drivers and to ensure that the public is being served in the best way possible. It is certainly not our job to stand in the way of investment and opportunity as long as any action we take does not imperil those important objectives.

I would like to welcome Chair Meera Joshi and the other representatives of the TLC who are here with us today. Thank you for being here. I look forward to hearing from you about how TLC has approached this important issue and to discussing what more should be done.”

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