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TLC-Approved Plan Allowing Livery Cab Street Hails Faces Two Court Challenges

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TWC News: TLC-Approved Plan Allowing Livery Cab Street Hails Faces Two Court Challenges
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The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission voted 7-2 Thursday in favor of the five borough taxi plan which will allow livery cabs to pick up street hails in Upper Manhattan and the other four boroughs.

The commission-approved plan taking effect in June contains rules covering livery hail cabs, as well as traditional livery cars and yellow taxis.

The city will now be able to issue 18,000 permits for livery cabs over three years, so drivers can pick up street hails above 96th Street on Manhattan's East Side and 110th Street on the West Side.

The rates will be the same as ones used in yellow cabs.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and and the TLC claim the plan will also increase service to under-served areas besides Manhattan.

"They're picking up passengers today in Midtown Manhattan, Downtown Manhattan, at the airports. They're not picking up passengers in Pelham and in Corona, and in Sheepshead Bay," said TLC Commissioner David Yassky.

However, yellow cab owners disagree, claiming it will devalue the high cost of their medallions. Between January to November in 2011, the average cost of a medallion rose from $634,000 to $696,000.

"The city sold that on the basis they had the exclusive right to pick up street hails in the City of New York. Now the same city is saying you no longer have that right," said Michael Woloz of the Metropolitan Taxi Cab Board of Trade.

"People want to make what we worked hard for. Let 'em go on the same route we went on. I didn't grow up easy. Our biggest enjoyment was buying a bottle of cream soda on Sunday. So everybody wants what I got," argued one yellow cab driver.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill back in December allowing the city to issue the new permits.

The bill also allows the city to issue an additional 2,000 yellow cab medallions.

Meantime, the vote comes just a day after the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade sued to prevent the new rules from advancing.

If the lawsuit is successful, it could jeopardize $1 billion of revenue the city planned to get from the sale of the new medallions.

On Thursday, the city also appeared in federal court to fight a lawsuit over wheelchair access in cabs.

Disability advocates claim the city's taxi policies violate the Americans with disabilities act.

"You need to be able to move around spontaneously if you live in New York City. It's just that simple," said Terry Moakley of the United Spinal Association.

The city says it is not restricting wheelchair access.

"Any taxi owner can if he or she wants can purchase an accessible taxi. The problem is the accessible taxis are more expensive to purchase, more expensive to maintain," said City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo.

As of this point, there is no timeline for either court to decide.

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