By KATIE HOOS
Looking to generate revenue and enhance the overall quality and value of taxi service in New Rochelle, the City Council proposed implementing a taxi medallion system beginning next year.
A medallion system is one in which a municipality sells the right for an individual or a taxicab company to operate a taxi. The purchaser owns the medallion and can choose to sell it in the future.
Typically, taxicabs that are registered through the city as operating under a medallion display a metal plate in the vehicle, signifying their status.
Currently, New Rochelle’s taxis operate under a license system in which companies and individuals hold a permit and pay an annual licensing fee of $140. The city issued 150 licenses this year and is permitted to issue a maximum of 175 total licenses per year.
Mayor Noam Bramson, a Democrat, said the benefits of a medallion system for both taxpayers and taxicab operators are threefold.
“It would provide a tangible asset that would increase in value and therefore be beneficial to taxi operators from a business perspective, create incentive to provide the highest quality taxi service and help generate income for taxpayers,” he said.
If the city were to implement the medallion system, the medallions would likely either be sold for a fixed price of $10,000 or auctioned off at an opening bid of $10,000 per medallion.
The city would also restrict the number of medallions to 130, lowering the overall number of cabs available in the city.
“We’ve heard from many cab operators that there may be too many cabs in operation today and as a result, business is spread thin,” Bramson said. “Somewhat of a lower number would make each of the taxis busier, more viable and increase their value.”
At the proposed fixed price of $10,000, the city would realize $1.3 million the first year.
If the city decided to auction the medallions, the revenue could be greater.
“I think the auction is the better way to go,” Bramson said. “I think it’s hard for us to be certain of the value of the medallion, and an auction would permit the marketplace to determine the value.”
White Plains, which has been operating under a medallion system since 2010 currently sells its medallions for $25,000 and has a wait list of more than 400 would-be cabbies.
“The fact that White Plains has a waiting list makes me think they may have underestimated the price,” Bramson said.
Auctioning medallions comes with a level of competition that some worry might lead to a monopolization of taxi services within the city.
“One of my concerns would be that some of the smaller companies would be extinguished,” Democratic Councilman Jared Rice, District 3, said. “Some of the smaller companies actually provide superior services to the larger companies in terms of the wherewithal to get around the city and reliable drivers.”
Currently, Union Taxi Company and Express City Taxi Company dominate the market, each holding 31 permits. Blue Bird Taxi follows close behind, holding 28 permits.
Republican Councilman Lou Trangucci, District 1, agreed with Rice, saying the auction process could push out some of the city’s best providers.
“If you go to auction…you’re going to take some of these small guys that don’t have the cash and you might just put them right out,” he said. “I think that some of these small individuals provide a tremendous service because it’s their only livelihood and they’ll go out of their way.”
While details of the legislation are still being worked out, Bramson said there will likely be a cap placed on how many permits one entity can purchase in order to prevent a monopolization of the market.
The taxi medallion legislation is being drafted by City Manager Chuck Strome and will be back on the agenda for the City Council to discuss and possibly vote on in July.
Blue Bird Taxi could not be reached for comment as of press time.