Winter 2004, p.14

Safe Streets
Mayor Wants 900 More Cabs 

At a January 12th New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission public hearing, T.A. called for further study of public safety issues and the effect of different levels of fare hikes before the Commission adds 900 new cabs to New York City’s taxi fleet. Currently, there are 12,187 medallion cabs on city streets. There has been a strong push to sell more taxi medallions to raise money for the city budget and because of complaints about rush hour taxi shortages.

T.A. remains concerned that more cabs will result in more crashes with pedestrians and bicyclists. Since cab drivers often start and stop in traffic lanes or crosswalks, they frequently endanger bicyclists, who risk being doored or picked off by a passing vehicle as they ride around the stopped cab. Additionally, the Taxi and Limousine Commission recommends mitigating the traffic impact of the additional medallions by re-timing traffic lights. Changing light signal timing may jeopardize pedestrian safety because it may create shorter crossing times and reduced opportunities for the installation of Leading Pedestrian Intervals.

Finally, economics show that a fare hike will reduce demand for cabs, increase their availability and potentially eliminate any need for 900 new cabs. The Taxi and Limousine Commission needs to assess what the impact of various levels of fare hikes would be on cab availability, driver and owner incomes and public safety. It is likely that taxi service and availability—and most importantly, safety—would all improve with a fare hike and without the sale of additional medallions.

How much traffic would 900 new cabs create?

The Taxi and Limousine Commission’s traffic consultant, Urbitran, says that 900 more cabs will not add much traffic, at least if traffic lights are re-timed. The firm reached this conclusion after conducting detailed traffic modeling as part of the City’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

But transportation analyst Charles Komanoff, using his own model, found that adding 900 cabs would be the equivalent of jamming 27,000 more cars everyday into Manhattan south of 96th Street and would produce costly traffic delays.

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