BY JON CRONIN
John McDonagh—a cab driver of 40 years, activist, performer and Middle Village resident—recently testified before the city council’s Committee on For-Hire Vehicles regarding proposed taxes that could affect cab drivers.
The proposals for congestion or millionaires taxes to fund MTA repairs and the recent suicides of three men who were city TLC drivers has prompted fervent discussion among the livery community.
Frequently, elevated discourse after a tragedy brings results, but McDonagh noted that he was skeptical after the meeting. He stated that the different driving services are fighting too much for their own needs and not coming together.
“Thank you for allowing the working class of the city to come to the City Council and have a voice,” he said upon testifying. “I wish, on the Taxi & Limousine Commission, that someone would be appointed who is an actual driver and not professional politicians or failed political hacks who get appointed when they lose an election.”
McDonagh—who wrote and performed in a one-man play that the Queens Tribune chronicled last year—testified that the congestion tax would be an issue for cab drivers while passengers are watching the meter. He suspects that the tax will appear as a jump on the meter when they’re driving through Midtown.
“It affects them psychologically,” he said of the tax, adding that it would affect the tips drivers get.
He believes that since the yellow cabs are regulated by the city, they should be exempt from the tax, if it comes to pass.
After the nearly five-hour meeting, McDonagh stated that among those who wanted to speak, it took nearly the entire five hours before the committee started listening to the actual drivers.
“It’s so confusing when people get in the yellow cab,” McDonagh said. “Other services don’t show all the taxes, for whatever reason, yellow cabs have to show.”
He added that Uber and Lyft can tell their customers what a fare will be at the beginning of a ride. In regard to yellow cabs, he said, “I want everything on the initial drop, so the tip can be figured into the final fare.”
As riders watch their fares increase on a yellow cab’s dashboard, McDonah explained that passengers can see 50 cents of the fare going to the MTA, while 30 cents goes to a wheelchair tax that pays for yellow cabs to become handicapped accessible.
He further stated that various cab services are fighting for their own causes, rather than coming together and speaking as one strong voice.
“There are so many apps now. It’s just gotten ridiculous. It’s killed all the cab driving businesses,” said McDonagh.
He added that most of the driving services are now primarily used by an older population that is unfamiliar with the use of smartphones.