New Orleans Taxi Moratorium is Illegal, Some Say

From: The Times-Picayune
  • Michelle Krupa
  • Posted:  04/02/2012 7:00 AM

About a year ago, a key piece of Joseph Lange Jr.’s business skidded to a halt. A lender who for more than 40 years has offered financing to cab drivers and owners — using their city-issued taxi permits as collateral — Lange has been unable to open new loans or close settled debts since Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration last spring imposed a moratorium on the transfer of taxi permits.

Most frustrating, Lange said, has been his inability to help older drivers who want to sell their permits and retire. Cabbies long have treated the permits, which before the moratorium were worth a reported $65,000 on the city-regulated secondary market, as long-term investments that are relatively easy to liquidate.

“This moratorium has been an absolute disaster,” Lange said. “We’ve done hundreds and hundreds of transfers over the years, and over the course of the past year, they’ve made it almost impossible to just conduct business.”

A Landrieu spokesman last week said the stoppage aims to give the administration a chance “to better assess and audit” records of the city’s 1,600 for-hire vehicle permits, known as certificates of public necessity and convenience, or CPNCs.

It started soon after a former president of United Cabs Inc., the city’s largest taxi company, signed a sworn affidavit saying a Ground Transportation Bureau employee, Kewana Fortune, regularly accepted tips from him.

Fortune, who processed permit transfers and other taxi paperwork, resigned in June.

Many in the taxi industry, however, claim the moratorium flies in the face of city law. And some suspect the city’s real goal is to prevent transfers until the City Council passes legislation — now on the table — that would allow it to take a much larger cut of transfer fees.

Critics have complained in the past that the city takes too little money from permit transaction, given the assets’ enormous value.

During a heated City Council hearing last week, a local lawyer who represents 240 cabbies argued that current ordinances give the administration no choice but to grant transfers to parties who file the necessary paperwork and pay a fee of $150 or $350, depending on how many times the permit has changed hands.

The city code states that “the CPNC shall be transferred,” provided the requirements are met.

“This moratorium that’s been in effect for a year by the administration — unilaterally, without City Council approval — is unlawful,” attorney Daniel Davillier said.

Asked what steps the mayor took to impose the stoppage, Berni said transfers “were administratively halted.” He would not elaborate.

Davillier speculated that the moratorium was engineered to allow Landrieu to push through the council a slate of 32 changes to taxi policy, including a six-fold increase in the fee City Hall collects for permits transfers. The measure would boost the transfer fee to $2,000 or 20 percent of a permit’s negotiated sale price, whichever is greater.

“You haven’t allowed transfers for the last year in direct violation of the existing ordinances in the city, and now you want to charge a 20 percent fee for any transfers once they’re allowed,” Davillier said. “It almost looks like there’s some intent for the city to take money from these folks that own these.”

Berni declined to address the claim directly.

“The city is now engaged in reforming the entire ground transportation industry, including the transfer process,” he said via email. “We plan to allow transfers to resume in the coming months.”

City Hall last year processed just 21 CPNC transfers, compared with 148 in 2010, and 159 the previous year, Berni said. None have been completed in 2012.

The city in 2009 and 2010 collected an average of between $23,100 and $53,900 per year from CPNC transfers. Under the proposed fee structure, the same volume of business would net City Hall at least $308,000 annually.

Michael Tifft, a former deputy city attorney and director of the council’s utilities regulatory office, agreed with Davillier that because the moratorium wasn’t authorized by the City Council, “then I think these people are being messed around with.”

Lange said he hopes the moratorium is lifted soon so he can resume making loans to fledgling drivers and owners, who often use the money to pay off their first cab.

“We’ve helped hundreds and hundreds of people become individual business owners over the years,” he said, “and that’s what I want to keep doing.”

Though the council could take up the package of draft ordinances as soon as Thursday, Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, the proposals’ sponsor, said at the close of the committee meeting that she may delay the votes to give the parties more time to review them.

Other proposed changes include mandates that cabs have on-board credit card machines, global-positioning equipment and surveillance cameras, and that taxis more than 10 years old be banned, with the maximum age dropping to seven years in 2014.

Landrieu has said the changes are needed to improve a critical component of tourists’ and business travelers’ experience in New Orleans. City officials say the changes would cost about $2,000 per vehicle, but drivers and owners say the expenses would be closer to $20,000.


Michelle Krupa can be reached at or 504.826.3312.

Jamming in a Taxi

From the: Cape Argus

  • April 2, 2012
  • Nontando Mposo, STAFF REPORTER

SPOTTED your favourite band riding around the city in a minibus taxi lately and wondered if they have fallen on hard times?

Don’t fret, they are probably shooting a music video with TaxiJam.

“(It is) unedited, raw and unplugged music videos to showcase South African music talent at its best,” said TaxiJam founder and producer Simon Wall.

A TaxiJam entails filming and recording bands playing inside a minibus taxi.

Wall said he and his partner, cousin Richard, were inspired by London’s Black Cab Sessions, where music videos are recorded in the back of a black cab as it makes its way through London.

TaxiJam was formed two years ago and Wall, 35, describes it as a labour of love and a hobby.

“Although I don’t play any musical instrument, I have always been involved in music.

“We fell in love with the UK’s Black Cab Sessions idea and thought it was a good way to get into the South African music scene,” said Wall, who is also a director at outdoor advertising agency Tractor Group.

Since its inception, TaxiJam has produced more than 50 “intimate” music videos for Freshlyground, Johnny Clegg, Prime Circle, aKing, Jack Parow, 340ml and Die Antwoord.

“These days it’s expensive for artists to shoot and produce their own music videos. TaxiJam is a quick and cheap way for them to get immediate exposure. We do everything ourselves and fund it out of our own pockets.”

Last February, Die Antwoord’s TaxiJam video got 100 000 hits the first day it was posted on

It has since been watched about five million times.

“It was before they were famous. I was surprised the video went viral that quickly. They (Die Antwood) are now huge here and abroad, and I am still living in Gardens,” he joked.

TaxiJam was nominated in the Men’s Health Men Of The Year 2010 awards for promoting SA musicians.

“A video is quick to shoot; it takes about half an hour to five minutes of driving around Kloof Street.

“We use very little equipment… to bring out the bands’ raw, acoustic sounds without the bells and whistles of stage lights and special effects.”

Wall said they used about 20 taxis regularly.

“It depends on the kind of bands we are shooting for; sometimes we need a very silent taxi that doesn’t sound like the engine is exploding.”

For a spontaneous performance, Wall said they sometimes filmed a video with a taxi full of unsuspecting passengers on their way home, like the video they did for Quite a White Ou, a local white guy who sings in Xhosa.

“The expression on the people’s faces was priceless and real.”

Their latest projects include a cable car jam video that they did for Freshlyground shot in Table Mountain’s cable car.

TaxiJam will also be producing a pilot music talent search documentary, where they will be travelling around SA in a taxi looking for undiscovered talent.

“We want to grow the TaxiJam brand into an African thing, where we will travel around Africa looking and showcasing talented musicians,” he said.

l Watch the videos at

In Crackdown on Unlicensed Taxis, City Runs Out of Room

From: New York Times
Published: March 20, 2012
In a bid to clear the streets of unlicensed taxis, dozens of newly hired officers at the Taxi and Limousine Commission have, in recent weeks, flagged down, fined and seized so many cars that New York City has run out of space to keep them.

With the city’s violation tow pounds at or near capacity, the commission has resorted to holding the seized vehicles in a parking lot at its safety and emissions center in Woodside, Queens, where as many as 500 taxis are inspected every day.

Finding space has become such a challenge that the commission plans to issue a request for proposals for parking lots next week; in some cases, because of the lack of space, the commission has not been able to tow away as many unlicensed taxis as it would like.

“We would seize more,” said David S. Yassky, chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, referring to its enforcement officers. “Day to day, when they are out doing their deployments, their instructions for the mission depend on how much space they have.”

On Monday morning, Mr. Yassky strolled through the parking lot in Woodside, which was filled with 69 unlicensed Lincoln Town Cars, stretch Hummers and limousines that officials had picked up since Friday. Ray Scanlon, a deputy commissioner who runs inspections and the uniformed services bureau, said 15 cars were picked up at Kennedy and La Guardia Airports on Friday. More unlicensed cars were seized near clubs in Manhattan, in the meatpacking district and in the theater district on Saturday.

On Sunday, officers seized 20 more cars in Queens from drivers who were not licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission and were illegally picking up passengers at shopping malls.

But the city had space for only four vehicles at its tow pounds over the weekend – so the commission squeezed the remaining cars into the parking lot in Woodside, where yellow taxis lined up on Monday morning for quarterly inspections.

Mr. Scanlon said he expected most of the drivers to pay their fines and retrieve their cars as soon as they could. He said he hoped the packed lot in Woodside would clear out soon, to accommodate all the taxis coming in for inspection.

“These cars, more than likely, will be retrieved by Tuesday afternoon,” Mr. Scanlon said.

Allan J. Fromberg, a spokesman for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, said, “We’ve never had a car sitting for weeks or months in the yard.”

The space problems started late last year, when the commission began doubling the size of its 100-person force in anticipation of the enforcement effort in the boroughs outside Manhattan that are served by livery cabs, which are not allowed to pick up street hails. In the past six months, the commission has hired 61 officers, 40 of whom are already in the field picking up illegal vehicles. By the end of the year, the commission hopes to have hired 100 new officers.

Avik Kabessa, a member of the board at the Livery Roundtable, a group representing livery drivers and chauffeurs, and a partner in Carmel Car and Limousine Service, said he remained skeptical about the effort. He said he was afraid that the commission would use the new officers and any added parking spaces to prey on livery drivers picking up unauthorized fares, rather than drivers who are not licensed at all.

“We often welcome more enforcement,” Mr. Kabessa said. “But

In Crackdown on Unlicensed Taxis, City Runs Out of Room

Yellow taxis lined up for inspections on Monday at a safety center in Queens, where the lot had been filled with seized cabs.

unfortunately, instead of going after those who are truly illegal, they are going after those who have the Taxi and Limousine Commission plates. Usually they’re going after the low-hanging fruit like the livery drivers.”

Mr. Yassky said he hoped that the additional enforcement measures would keep more riders safe from all types of unlicensed drivers.

“The job will still be enormous,” he said. “But at that point, it will be manageable.”

New Orleans taxi cab drivers threaten to strike during Final Four


NEW ORLEANS — Taxi Cab companies in New Orleans are threatening to strike later this month when the NCAA Final Four comes to town.

Drivers, upset by the city’s push to reform the industry, even protested on Monday afternoon.

“Malachi, must go! Malachi, must go! Malachi, must go!” the frustrated voices of taxi cab drivers echoed outside City Hall.


Taxi News

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