One of the first big challenges of Bill de Blasio's administration centers around the future of the yellow taxi cab industry.
In the final months of his term, Mayor Bloomberg has been relentlessly pushing his Taxi of Tomorrow program, which would eventually have one car – the Nissan NV200 – serve as the model for most of the city's entire fleet of 13,000 cabs. But the taxi industry has bitterly fought the program – and is currently winning its battle in court, where the program has stalled.
Bloomberg has also already moved ahead with a separate "Green Taxi" program – which allows cabs in Upper Manhattan and the other four boroughs to pick up passengers on the street. Again, the taxi industry has pushed back against the program, worried that the green cabs will hurt the value of a medallion – the license needed to drive a yellow cab that’s currently worth more than $1.2 million.
Enter Bill de Blasio – who has received more than $350,000 in campaign contributions from taxi interests. De Blasio has already vowed to replace David Yassky, the head of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, but the real question is what he'll do with the legal fight over the Taxi of Tomorrow and the green cabs. In one of his general election debates with Joe Lhota, de Blasio raised questions about the green taxi program, which surprised many because the cabs are supposed to help residents of boroughs that are underserved by yellow cabs, including de Blasio's Brooklyn. It's unclear why he would have a problem with residents in the "other New York" finally getting cabs that are already omnipresent in the city's wealthiest neighborhods.
For years, the Taxi and Limousine Commission has been seen as little more than a rubber-stamp agency for the powerful medallion owners. That image changed during the Bloomberg administration. An early litmus test of policy versus politics for de Blasio may not center around universal pre-K but rather the direction of the taxi cab and the TLC.
All week long on "Road to City Hall" NY1's Bobby Cuza will be examining how the taxi industry is at a crossroads – and the different directions it could be going next year. Hail the show and take a ride.