Watch out, cabbies. Your next fare could be an undercover agent for the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, posing as a passenger to check for rule violations. That includes a rule that passengers must be able to pay by credit card in certain cabs and a rule barring cabbies from chatting on cellphones while driving.
The commission said on Wednesday that it would send out 60 to 100 undercover agents each day as part of an ongoing sting operation, which it is calling Operation: Secret Rider. Matthew W. Daus, the commission’s chairman, said that agents will board cabs posing as normal riders and instruct the cabby to take a trip of about 10 blocks. Afterward the agents will insist on paying with a credit card.
If the drivers refuse to allow the credit card payment, they will be fined. The commission last year began requiring cabs to install a package of high tech gear, including credit card readers. About 65 percent of cabs have already converted and the commission expects all cabs to have the equipment by the middle of this year.
But many passengers have complained that cabbies frequently resist taking credit cards, sometimes falsely claiming that the card reader is broken or that they do not have to accept card payments. “The word on the street from New Yorkers is that there are still some service issues with the cab drivers,” Mr. Daus said. “I felt this was a good time to go back to the basics.”
He said that agents will fine drivers who break the rules. That includes being discourteous (a $150 fine) or talking on a cellphone while driving (a $200 fine). Refusing credit card payment can carry a fine as high as $350.
The commission also announced on Wednesday that credit card use is slowly increasing, although cards are still used to pay for only a small percentage of overall taxi trips.
In cabs that had credit card readers, cards were used to pay for 5.3 percent of trips taken in December, the commission said. That was an increase from 4.7 percent of trips in November and 4.3 percent of trips in October.