Hail of a Decision

It took decades to formulate and months to litigate, but at last the good people of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island will be able to enjoy the simple pleasure of hailing a cab from the street.

The State Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of City Hall’s long-sought proposal to allow street hails outside of Manhattan. This welcome decision clears the way for the city to issue 18,000 more hack licenses, instantly transforming the art of getting from here to there in a city where simple mobility can challenge even the most patient of souls.

Credit the Bloomberg administration, particularly Taxi Commissioner David Yassky, for patience and persistence. Operators of traditional yellow cabs were determined—and powerful enough—to block reform for years. Sound familiar? From the schools to the streets, entrenched interests have sought to freeze the municipal calendar somewhere in the mid-20th century, when times were good and the living was easy.

Luckily for the rest of us, successive administrations in City Hall have recognized that the new century required new ways of thinking, from tracking crime statistics to reimagining how New Yorkers negotiate the streets on which they live. The new street-hail plan is part of this new, creative thinking in City Hall.

It’s also a recognition of reality. Livery cars have been picking up street hails in the boroughs and Northern Manhattan for years, providing a needed—albeit illegal—transportation alternative for those without access to the yellow cabs that serve Midtown and downtown Manhattan. But the livery cabs won’t be horning in on the yellow-cab action in Manhattan—the new plan prohibits them from picking up street hails south of East 96th Street or West 110th Street.

The court ruling also clears the way for City Hall to auction off 2,000 medallions for wheelchair-accessible cabs, a plan that figures to bring in about $1 billion—money the Bloomberg administration has been counting on. The yellow-cab industry opposed that reform as well.

City Hall is well aware that we are in the second decade of the 21st century, even if some of the city’s special interests still operate as though it’s still 1955.