Taxi Drivers Rally for Fare Hike and Healthcare Fund

| July 11, 2012 6:58 PM | Updated: July 12, 2012 2:36PM

Taxi drivers and union members gathered on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday, July 11. MetroFocus/ Georgia Kral

UPDATED: On Thursday, July 12, the Taxi & Limousine Commission voted to support a 17 percent fare increase, including the six cents for the drivers’ healthcare fund. Six members of the commission voted in favor; two voted against and one abstained. The commission also approved a small adjustment in the amount that taxi owners can charge cabbies to rent their vehicles for a shift.

“There comes a time you need to make sure people can earn a decent living,” said Commissioner David S. Yassky after the vote.

The fares will go into effect in September.


“The drivers united will never be defeated!”

That was the rallying cry heard across City Hall Park early Wednesday afternoon as taxi drivers and union members briefed members of the media on why drivers deserve a raise.

The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) will vote Thursday on whether to approve a 17 percent fare hike, which would be the first raise for drivers in eight years. Included in the proposal is the little-discussed creation of a taxi driver’s Health and Disability Fund — the first of its kind. If the proposal is approved, and the fund created, six cents from each taxi ride taken in the city will go into the fund.

According to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the union that represents the drivers, 50 percent of  all yellow cab drivers have no health insurance.

The TLC will also vote on Thursday whether to eliminate the five percent transaction fee drivers pay to their taxi company each time a trip is paid for by credit card. Replacing this arrangement would be a fee of $9 per shift.

It’s always a pressure on the brain. ‘What if I get sick?’ ‘What if I have to go to the doctor?’
—Kuldeep Singh

Bhairavi Desai is the executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. She says the healthcare fund is a critical component of the Taxi & Limousine Commission’s proposal, and will make a huge difference in the lives of the drivers.

Kuldeep Singh, 47, a resident of Floral Park, Queens, has been driving a taxi for 24 years. He buys private insurance for his family, which includes his wife and three children under 18. He says the insurance is about $800 per month for his whole family, and he can’t afford it.

“It [a workplace healthcare fund] would be a big help for us because it’s very expensive,” he said. “It’s always a pressure on the brain. ‘What if I get sick?’ ‘What if I have to go to the doctor?’ “

Here’s how the proposed 17 percent fare hike would shake out. The charge for each fifth of a mile traveled, or each 60 seconds in stopped or slow traffic, would be raised to 50 cents from 40 cents. There would also be a $7 increase in fares between Kennedy International Airport and Manhattan, amounting to $52, plus tolls. The surcharge on metered rides to Newark Liberty International Airport would also rise, to $17.50 from $15.

The last taxi fare increase was in 2004, when fares rose by 26 percent. In 2006, the city raised the price added for each minute that a cab was stopped or moved slowly in traffic, and in 2009, a 50-cent surcharge was added to help support the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the NY Taxi Workers Alliance, said 50 percent of taxi drivers do not have health insurance. MetroFocus/ Georgia Kral

Singh said the extra six cents for driver healthcare should be approved, especially considering the 50-cent surcharge for the MTA, which is basically just a bail-out.

“Health is more important,” he said.

Frederick Dsouza, 48, a cab driver from Elmhurst, Queens, is considered a low-income worker by the state of New York, and therefore receives healthcare through the government. But his coverage is limited.

“Everything is not covered,” he said, adding he often often buys medicine at the drug store instead of visiting a doctor.

But Singh and Dsouza are actually better off than 50 percent of cabbies. According to Desai, while the taxi drivers who pay for private insurance also stand to benefit from the healthcare fund, the uninsured will really see their lives change.

Bill Lindaur, 68, of Long Island City, Queens, drove a cab for 30 years, and he never had health insurance. He said he had to lie about his income in order to get Medicaid for his wife, who was suffering from a terminal illness. He later went bankrupt.

“I never went to doctors,” he said. “I was desperate.”

David S. Yassky, the TLC chairman, has said he expects the proposal to be adopted. If it is, it could go into effect as early as September of this year. As for the Healthcare and Disability Fund, how that will be organized and run remains to be seen. Desai says there will likely be a competitive bid process. The one definite is that disability coverage will also be included.

“Even when out of work, drivers have to pay for their lease to the taxi company,” she said. With the fund, “If you’re unable to work because of an injury or illness, you would receive compensation.”

Desai is optimistic the proposals will pass.

“This is the closest we’ve come to truly uplifting these exploitative conditions,” she said.


  • D~

    I live in Bayside Queens and take a cab from LGA airport. It’s 12 miles from the airport to my home. It is $22.00 & I tip 20%…total $26.40. If they get their 17% fare hike, then they will only get a 10% tip. I haven’t had a raise since 1998. The economy is bad in all areas & everything is going up in price. If they make $130/day and work 5 days/week that is $650/week. $650 minus 25% taxes is $487.50/week. $487.50 times 4 weeks is close to $2000/month. I haven’t added tips in at all. I’m going to guess the average person tips 15% and that is almost $400 more/month…probably more, because people are tipping on a larger amount than the $130 they claim they take home after fees. So lets say $2500/month for DRIVING A CAR! Why do we even tip??? Most of the time I have to beg for air conditioning & I get a lot of attitude when they find out they are going to Bayside Queens and not to the City.

    • Erceesay

      I do not know where you get your $ 130 per day, but it is wrong.I am a cab driver,but i can count the number of days in a month I get $130.00
      Most of the time drivers come home with less $50.00, after working for 12hrs.
      You base your calculation on hourly because you probably working on hourly,ours is different. You can go today and luckily gets $100.00, tomorrow you get $45 and other days you even have problem of paying your lease.

      • D~

        I got it from the news…they’ve been reporting that number ($130/day) everyday this week on the morning news & the evening news as well as in the news papers. It has to be somewhat valid or they wouldn’t report it. Keep in mind they report it to be an average…meaning some days less & some days more.

         I do find what you say interesting though, because everytime I’m in the city trying to get a cab, there are none to be found.  Right now a 3 mile ride is a $10.00 average soon to be $12.00. Are you saying there are days you can’t even get 4 $10.00 cab fares? Do you drive in NYC??? Are you a Yellow cab driver? I find that odd if you are a NYC Yellow cab driver.

        • Jaime10021

          I hope I can give you all a better idea of the direct operating costs of a taxi driver:
          12 hour taxi rental avg. $ 130.00
          Gas expense 12 hour shift avg. $ 60.00
          MTA tax 12 hour shift avg. $ 12.00
          Miscellaneous per shift expense avg $ 20.00
          After meeting these different operating cost a driver can start to make a profit.

      • D~

        …not to mention how many times I’ve been turned away in the city, when I tell the driver I’m going to queens. If drivers are that desperate for a fare, than why on earth would a driver turn away a $50 cab fare from the city to Queens. Really??? 

    • Frederick Dsouza

      I am a yellow cab driver. Now a days  its very hard to make 70$  after 12 hour shift. American life is suppose to be 40 hours a week considering our unpaid vacation and sick leave  and if we are expected to assimilate with  Americans who are middle class and rich class and super/ultra rich class our income should be even more or else these classes wont even allow us around them or do they even want us around them?. Seems one of the ways to “divide and rule” .we don’t get good car if we don’t tip the car dispatcher. Most give tips as if giving to beggars. Tips system must not exist.  Why the cab driver have to pay garages  5% of credit card fee even on Tolls, MTA tax .50 per trip(average 20 trips per 12hour shift) . In the past with fare increase , the garages too increased the car lease.

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