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New York hires students to sting cabbies for refusing fares

December 2, 2011 |  3:19 pm

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Since September, college students have been posing as taxi riders to help New York City catch drivers who refuse to take them to neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and parts of northern Manhattan -- all places it might be difficult for the drivers to land a return fare back to busier parts of the city.

More than 361 cab drivers face $500 fines for turning down the students' requests to go to the outer boroughs, according to the New York Daily News. Almost a third of the time, the students were waved off by drivers.

The city's Taxi Limousine Commission recruited students -- paying them $10 an hour -- because the cab drivers had gotten too good at spotting enforcement officials and warning other drivers to be on alert, the Daily News reported. The city began a crackdown after complaints increased; the fine was raised to $500 for the first infraction, $1,000 for the second, and a license revocation for the third.

“Our rules are crystal-clear: A taxi passenger is entitled to go to any of the five boroughs,” commission Chairman David Yassky told the News. “Our enforcement initiative is designed to make sure drivers understand that there will be a penalty for refusing service."

A representative of the taxi drivers told the News he thought the results were questionable -- that most cab drivers almost always will take someone at least to northern Manhattan at rush hour.

But Wai Yu, a John Jay College senior who regularly takes part in the sting operations, said he’d been turned down 70 times. “They would say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and give me a lot of excuses,” Yu said.

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-- Geraldine Baum in New York

Photo: Taxis and cars wind their way down Broadway in lower Manhattan. Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

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