Hailing a cab to Brooklyn is harder than it used to be. A recently-released undercover video showing city taxi drivers refusing passengers because of their destinations underlies a 38 percent rise in service-refusal complaints from 1,963 incidences between July and December of 2009, to 2,341 during the last half of 2010, according to New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. Taxi drivers in the hidden video often lied to the customers, telling them that they had no idea where the destination was. The mayor joined city officials to call for increased penalties against drivers who try to avoid unwanted trips – up to $500 for a first offense and a $750 fine for a second offense within two years. There is also a push for a mandatory 30-day suspension for a second offense within 24 months. Currently, the fines are up to $350 for a first offense and up to $500 for a second offense. Any driver with a third offense within 36 months gets their license revoked.
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, says that drivers are refusing fares that take them outside of Manhattan because the trips often involve long traffic waits and drivers have a hard time finding passengers to fill the back seat during the trip back. To help solve the problem, Mr. Desai, suggested higher fares, lower taxi lease costs and taxi-only lanes.