Last Month, the Administration Announced Legislative Agenda for Increased Fines for Taxi Ride Refusals;
Bill to be Introduced by Council Member James Vacca

Videos of the Undercover Operations are Available at

Mayor Bloomberg updates New Yorkers on efforts to prevent taxi drivers from illegally refusing passengers
based on destination and unveils videos of recent TLC undercover operations. March 09, 2011.

Photos: Spencer T Tucker


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky disclosed to New Yorkers of the Administration's efforts to prevent taxi drivers from illegally refusing to serve passengers and unveiled video of recent undercover operations. The videos were taken by Taxi and Limousine Commission "Secret Shoppers," who are part of the commission's ongoing efforts to crack down on illegal taxi refusals.

New York City cab drivers are required by Local Law to take a passenger to any destination within the five boroughs, or to destinations in Nassau and Westchester Counties, and to Newark Airport. The requirement is also part of the contract that drivers agree to when they are licensed and it's clearly written in the Taxicab Rider Bill of Rights which is available through Passenger Information Monitors in the backseat of every cab. Last month, the Administration proposed increasing the penalties for drivers that illegally refuse passengers. Passengers should report illegal refusals by noting the taxi's medallion number, the time and place of the incident and calling 311 or going to 311Online on

The Mayor was joined at the announcement in the Blue Room of City Hall by City Council Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca, who will introduce a bill later this month to increase penalties for drivers that illegally refuse rides. City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn is supporting the legislation.

"We are a city of five boroughs and it doesn't matter which borough you are coming from or which borough you're going to. If you want to hail a cab drivers are required by law to take you to any destination in the city. Period. End of story," said Mayor Bloomberg. "We have been stepping up our enforcement efforts to ensure every person who puts a hand in the air to hail a cab is treated the same, charged the same way and taken to where they want to go without argument."

"A cornerstone of New York taxi service is that the passenger can go anywhere in the five boroughs not just anywhere in Manhattan," said Commissioner Yassky.

"With the substantial increase in fines we hope that cabbies will think twice before they decide to refuse a fare," said Speaker Quinn. "Incidents like what allegedly happened this weekend that left a young man severely injured would not have occurred if the cabbie had simply done his job. While we recognize the hard work our cab drivers do every day we also expect them to abide by the law."

"I've had it with drivers who think they can choose which laws to obey and which not to obey," said Council Member Vacca. "Too many passengers seeking to go outside Manhattan are being told to take a hike when it is the cabbies who flout the law who should take a hike. Raising fines for refusing service sends a clear message that the era of picking and choosing where to take passengers must come to an end."

The number of service refusals reported to the Taxi and Limousine Commission have been on the rise this Fiscal Year increasing from 2,128 reported refusals between July 2009 and February 2010 to 2,887 reported refusals between July 2010 and February 2011 – an increase of more than 36 percent.

The penalties for illegal refusals are set by Local Law, and require City Council authorization to modify.

The Administration's proposed new penalties are:

  • $500 for a first offense;

  • $750 and a 30 day suspension for a second offense within 24 months; and

  • Mandatory TLC license revocation for a third offense within 36 months.

The current penalty structure is:

  • $200-$350 for a first offense;

  • $350-$500 and a possible 30 day suspension for a second offense within 24 months; and

  • Mandatory TLC license revocation for a third offense within 36 months.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission also regularly uses "secret shoppers," who look for various violations, including illegal cell phone use, illegal livery pick-ups, and other customer service violations. The commission recently enhanced its illegal service refusal enforcement efforts by partnering with Baruch College's School of Public Affairs and deploying students as secret shoppers in the evening and nighttime. The students receive training and are supervised.

Transcripts of some the videos taken by Taxi and Limousine Commission Officers are below. The attempted street hails took place in Manhattan and the drivers were issued appropriate summonses.

Street hail #1.
Destination Brooklyn:

Driver: I don't have GPS.

Passenger: What was that?

Driver: I don't have GPS, that's why.

Passenger: You don't have a GPS?

Well, it's 3rd Avenue and Union Street in Brooklyn.

Driver: I don't know…..Brooklyn Bridge….if they show me I would take them, but otherwise…

Passenger: You don't have a map, or a….

Driver: I don't have a map.

Passenger: All right, all right. (Driver flees) Yo, Yo, Yo. Yo. Yo. 5p60. 5p60 (The medallion number).

This was the driver's first summons for an illegal refusal.

Street hail #2.
Destination Queens:

Passenger: I'm going to Liberty and Lefferts in Queens.

Driver: Liberty and Lefferts.

Passenger: In Queens. In Richmond Hill.

Driver: You know your way? Liberty, because…

Passenger: I know you go over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Driver: You go on the Brooklyn Bridge. When you say

Liberty, I don't know Liberty…

Passenger: Liberty Avenue.

Driver: Liberty, I don't know.

Passenger: Do you have a map that we could follow?

Driver: No, no. No, take somebody else.

Passenger: Why, what's the problem?

This driver has two previous violations for illegal refusal. If this summons is upheld his license will be revoked.

All licensed taxi drivers in New York City are required to have a five borough map and claiming to not know directions to a location is not a permissible reason to refuse a fare. It is a frequently used tactic by drivers that want to avoid a trip to the boroughs outside of Manhattan.

© 2013 TLC Magazine Online, Inc.