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Cab Drivers Say Congestion Pricing 'Suicide Surcharge' Is Crushing Their Business

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Cab drivers call it a "suicide surcharge," the governor says it's a vital part of paying to fix the MTA, and all the while passengers are taking a hit in their wallets.

The new fees for taxi rides in Midtown are getting mixed - and heated - reactions.

Web Extra: Read Complete Congestion Pricing Plan

Penn Station is one of the few spots in the city where yellow cab driver Mohammed Rahim says he's guaranteed to find passengers. Rahim is among hundreds of cab drivers who say people are hailing fewer rides since the congestion pricing surcharge was applied last month.

"Less people are riding. People are complaining, and business went down more than 50 percent," Rahim said.

"Has that been hard on you?" asked CBS2's Natalie Duddridge.

"Of course. It affects drivers' life, livelihood," Rahim said.

The Taxi Drivers Alliance says so far there's been at least a 15-20 percent loss in revenue since the surcharge went into effect to help pay for the aging subway system and ease traffic.

The fee adds an extra $2.50 on top of base fares south of 96th Street. It's $2.75 for Uber or other car services.

"It's expensive for the passenger. They pay for the price," one Uber driver told Duddridge.

The ultimate price falls on drivers, the Taxi Driver's Alliance says. They call it the "suicide surcharge."

The Alliance says eight drivers and medallion owners have taken their lives and many are on the verge of bankruptcy.

"My friend drove a taxi for 33 years, owner since 1989. What happened to him, I don't want anybody to happen," said medallion owner Nicolae Hent.

Despite outrage and protests amongst drivers, officials say the fee is needed to generate $400 million a year to fix the subway. Cuomo's office says right now more than $1 million a day is going directly to the MTA. Riders hope that means the subway will run more smoothly, because they can no longer afford the increased taxi fare.

"It's a big price difference," said rider Nilajah Bryan.

"It's really expensive for people who don't have the means like that," said rideshare rider Brittany Johnson.

Some taxi and rideshare customers Duddridge spoke to say that while they have been taking fewer cabs, they don't believe the surcharge will reduce congestion as long as trucks and cars don't have to pay the fee.

"Many, many years ago it was just not this crowded. I don't think that's the answer to it," one woman told Duddridge.

Drivers believe the real answer is taxing the super rich. They say that would bring in more money than the congestion surcharge.

The New York State Assembly is seriously working on three big funding sources to include in the budget that would bring in more than $6 billion in revenue: Significantly more money than the surcharge on taxis and for-hire vehicles.

Taxi drivers have planned at least two more protests later this month, and will be in Albany protesting congestion pricing on March 20.

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