Updated 03/18/2010 01:25 PM
TLC Equips Cabs With New Fare Setting Alert
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The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has equipped more than 5,000 cabs with a new system to alert riders if they are being charged an out-of-town rate.
The move comes after the TLC announced thousands of drivers bilked passengers out of more than $8 million over the last two years.
They say some cabbies were switching the rate code for trips within the city to a higher code that's only supposed to be used for trips outside the five boroughs.
When the higher code is used, the rate doubles from 40 cents per one-fifth of a mile to 80 cents.
The large, red-lettered alert will appear on the in-taxi television screen when the rate changes to the out-of-town rate. The rate box will also read "4" instead of the "1" displayed in the city.
Passengers traveling within the city who see this alert are asked to report the incident to 311.
Those who spoke with NY1 said they support the new warning.
"I'm wondering why it wasn't done before," said one traveler.
"It's a good idea because it will help you from getting overcharged," said another. "But at the same time, the cabbie should be putting the right rate up there in the first place."
Some cab drivers said they favor the alert as well, because they sometimes accidentally hit the wrong button on the meter and activate the wrong rate.
"Unfortunately sometimes you press the higher rate and it jumps straight to four," said a taxi driver. "And there is no way you can reverse that."
The rest of the city's 13,000 cabs are expected to be equipped with the warning system over the next few days.
In addition, the TLC is working on an audio component to warn riders of the fare hike.
A longer-term solution that would keep drivers from manually changing the meter is also said to be in the works.
However, a spokesperson for the New York Taxi Workers Alliance says no problem existed until the city required the installation of the new TV screens and meters.
"By not acknowledging the malfunctions and failures of the meter, the TLC is continuing to just scapegoat the drivers and not offer the public a real solution," said NY Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai. "[...] These problems started only with the new meters which were overloaded by the TV screens, credit card reader, text message box and GPS tracking software. Basically, it wasn't broke until they fixed it."