The Taxi and Limousine Commission of New York City announced that it will waive the renewal fees for the 11,286 yellow taxi medallion owners. By waiving these biennial fees, the city hopes to alleviate the financial struggle many medallion owners have been facing in recent years.
The medallions are permits that drivers are required to have in order to operate in New York City. While the yellow taxi cabs still stand as an iconic image of the Big Apple, the value of these medallions have been steadily dropping for years. In June, 139 medallions went to bankruptcy auction. These permits were once worth nearly $1.3 million, but were auctioned off for as low as $160,000.
Although over $300 billion is spent on business travel in the United States each year, most of that is not making it into the pockets of the city’s taxi drivers. Ride-hailing apps, such as Uber and Lyft, have been dominating the space of private transportation with their lower prices and smart phone convenience.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission has developed an app called Waave as the city’s version of a ride-hailing app. It is part of a two-year pilot program and will offer upfront, surge-free fare pricing to yellow and green taxi passengers. To combat the competition further, the New York City Council approved legislation in August that puts a temporary cap on the amount of ride-hailing vehicles that companies like Uber and Lyft can provide in the city.
Councilman Mark Levine, a Democrat from Washington Heights, has been fighting for more legislation to help drivers who are on the financial brink. He sees the waiving of renewal and inspection fees as a short-term step while they craft more legislation for a longer-term solution. In the past year, at least six taxi drivers have taken their own lives, primarily due to their rising financial burdens.
When Meera Joshi, head of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, announced the waiving of fees for the nearly 12,000 drivers, she also announced a fee reduction for drivers of accessible cabs. Rather than the typical $1,650 for the medallion renewal and inspection fees, the city’s 2,301 drivers of accessible cabs will owe just $540 for the inspections to ensure the vehicles are safe.
The total of waived fees for the city’s cab drivers comes to approximately $20 million. The city will likely try to recoup the fees in the future, once the economic burden on drivers has stabilized.