Congestion surcharges on taxis and other for-hire vehicles in Manhattan will begin soon after a judge lifted a temporary restriction of the fees on Thursday, the New York Timesreports. The new fees were supposed to start on January 1st but a coalition of taxi drivers filed a last-minute lawsuit against the “suicide surcharge,” fearing that the new policy will drive away customers and deal another significant blow to the ailing industry. The proposed fee of $2.50 for yellow taxis and $2.75 for other for-hire vehicles will bring the minimum taxi fare up to $5.80 while the minimum cost for an Uber, which already has an $8 base fare in Manhattan, will see an increase to $10.75.
The fees were approved by the state legislature last year and are the first step in passing a congestion pricing plan for Manhattan that will help reduce gridlock. Money raised from the additional fees—projected at $1 million a day— will go to the MTA for subway repairs. Thursday’s decision is “a positive step in our efforts to find a dedicated revenue stream for our subways and buses, as well as easing congestion in Manhattan’s central business district,” said Patrick Muncie, a representative of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office.
In their lawsuit, the taxi coalition argued that the fees will “drive the final nail in the proverbial coffin by making medallion taxicab rides so financially unattractive to consumers that the industry is sure to collapse in its entirety.” As 6sqft previously reported, the growing concern comes after eight TLC-licensed drivers committed suicide last year, a trend that is attributed to the financial hardships cab drivers face as the price of taxi medallions (which used to be worth more than $1 million) continues to decline and competition from app-based services increases. Meera Joshi, the outgoing commissioner of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, echoed these concerns and said the latest fees would be “potentially devastating.”
Despite ruling that the new ride fees could proceed, Judge Lynn R. Kotler of State Supreme Court also dismissed the state’s request to throw out the case entirely, so the taxi coalition’s lawsuit will continue.
“We’re calling on the governor not to move forward with fees that will force drivers to choose between food and medicine,” New York Taxi Worker Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai wrote in a statement. “That is how dire the poverty is now among this workforce that has lost eight of our brothers to suicide in less than a year.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo said the city will be “moving forward vigorously with a full congestion pricing plan” that will also include charges on private cars. A start date for the ride fees has not been announced yet.