Taxi Scam Scope Still Unclear

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Taxis.

    More than a month after New York City learned some taxi drivers were overcharging riders, officials still don't have a clear idea of how many passengers were bilked.

    The head of the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission said repeatedly during a City Council hearing Wednesday that authorities had no more specifics about the scope of the problem than they did when it was first revealed.

    "It would be rushing it for me to give you a number before we're prepared to back that number up," said TLC Chairman David Yassky.

    The TLC said a month ago that it had discovered what appeared to be one of the largest taxi scams ever known. Officials said 35,558 drivers overcharged passengers on 1.8 million trips within city limits over the past two years by using a higher rate code designated for trips to the suburbs.

    But a few weeks later, the TLC said it had looked closer at the data and concluded "a fairly significant number" of those trips were likely not overcharged and were simply a case of drivers fumbling with the buttons.

    The TLC said it appeared the button that activates the higher rate code was pressed at the end of many of the trips, when the taxi was already stopped, so many trips were not overcharged as initially believed.

    A group of drivers attended Wednesday's hearing, holding up signs that said "We deserve an apology," and the TLC drew fire from council members who said New Yorkers deserve to know whether the scam was widespread or isolated among a few drivers.

    "I don't understand why you're so vague," Councilman Oliver Koppell told TLC officials.

    The investigation has been complicated by the fact that the city's 13,000 yellow cabs use meters from three vendors, and the data captured by each are slightly different.

    For example, the data from one vendor don't indicate when the higher rate code was activated and data from another don't show it at all.

    Yassky also said the probe has been slow because the vendors control the data and cannot be ordered to provide everything officials need on demand.

    He said the TLC is methodically looking at the data and would not give a timeline for when the city expects to have more details.

    The Manhattan district attorney and the city's Department of Investigation are examining the case.