NEW YORK—Executives and members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance gathered at Pennsylvania Station on 31st Street and 8th Avenue Sunday to protest a 50-cent tax added to taxi fares starting the same day.
The alliance is enraged that the new stickers that the Taxi and Limousine Commission is requiring the taxi drivers to put on the cabs do not list the extra 50 cents as a tax. Instead, it’s included in the initial fare as a “State surcharge.” The taxi drivers will also have to pay for the sticker change as well.
“We’re not getting a penny from it,” says Bill Lindauer, Alliance Campaigns coordinator. “The state wants to call it a surcharge or fare increase, but it’s a tax.”
He worries the tax will affect future rate increases.
“Tips are lousy right now, and they’ll take it [the tax] out of the tips,” he says. “They’ll think it’s a fare hike, but it’s not a fare hike. They [the passengers] don’t like any kind of fare hike. They’ll take it out on the taxi drivers, and none of it goes into the taxi drivers’ pockets. We haven’t had a raise since 2004. What about when we need a raise? Another 50 cents?”
He says that 50 cents is a very high tax, as many passengers only take taxis for short trips and for trips under 5 dollars; thus, the tax could add up to over a 10-percent increase.
Committee Member Victor Salazar says this is an exploitation of taxi drivers. “When gas prices were 4 dollars, before the recession, we were told 50 cents is too much,” he says. “And now, when we are really struggling with fewer and fewer passengers, the officials want to steal our business and use us as tax collectors.”
Executive Director Bhairavi Desai says 50 cents a ride is enough to cover health insurance for every taxi driver in New York City, and there are better uses for the money.
The Alliance is calling for the tax to be temporary and for taxis to have the same traffic rights as buses.
“If we can be good enough to bail out the MTA,” says Desai, “then certainly we’re good enough to have the same traffic rights as MTA buses. We believe that occupied taxis should have a right to the bus lanes and should have turn rights just as other buses.”
The Alliance states that if they are to pay more because they are part of mass transit, then they deserve the same access and traffic rights as MTA buses.