QUEENS — Every day, dozens of cabbies drive down Jamaica Avenue, aggressively competing for passengers. As they travel with their windows rolled down along one of the busiest commercial thoroughfares in the borough, they constantly honk and yell "taxi."
Most of them drive the so-called black or gypsy cabs, which carry no city logos and have no meters, but offer cheap fares, locals said.
There are also dollar vans, which take residents to Cambria Heights, Rochdale, St. Albans or Rockaway for $1.50 to $2.
But the green taxis, which launched in 2013 as part of the city's initiative seeking to provide reliable cab service to the outer boroughs, are nearly absent from the neighborhood’s streets.
“Our district is saturated with commuter vans and dollar cars," said Community Board 12 chair Adrienne Adams. “It has become part of the fabric of the community.”
Several green cab drivers acknowledged that they avoid Jamaica, because it’s hard to compete with so many other cabbies.
Data provided by the Taxi and Limousine Commission leaves little doubt that green cab drivers favor neighborhoods like Long Island City and Forest Hills, while others, like Jamaica and Ozone Park, are left out.
On June 24, 2014, the most recent data available, out of nearly 18,000 green taxi pickups, only 168 took place in Jamaica (in the area covered by four ZIP codes — 11423, 11435, 11432, 11433).
In other neighborhoods, the figures were even more dismal. In Ozone Park, only 13 pickups were recorded on that day.
That presents a stark contrast to other portions of the borough. There were 406 pickups in Forest Hills on that day, 711 in Elmhurst, and 581 in Jackson Heights.
But drivers said that every neighborhood has its own unique character.
In areas like Ozone Park, they said, where there are no big shopping centers or trendy bars, it’s nearly impossible to find passengers, because residents rely mostly on car service companies.
Many drivers also said that another reason preventing them from going to certain neighborhoods is lack of taxi stands.
In Jamaica, they said, the taxi stand in front of the Sutphin Boulevard station is reserved for cabs affiliated with Queens Village Car Service.
The arrangement was implemented in 2011, in an effort to improve safety and reduce congestion in the area.
But numerous gypsy cabs continue to illegally pick up passengers in front of the station, as do some green cab drivers, including Gurnam Singh, 60.
Singh, who lives in the area, said he has no choice, because “there is no [other] taxi stand here.”
Singh also said that green cab drivers often feel harassed by “black car” drivers.
“Black cars dominate here, and they don’t even have TLC plates,” Singh said. While green cab drivers often get tickets for waiting in front of the station, black cabs just drive away, he added.
Singh said he believes that taxi stands should be placed in front of all major subway stations, like Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, where drivers also pick up passengers illegally, or at Lefferts Boulevard and Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park, where the A train has its last stop.
Drivers who don’t want to cruise around often congregate at the very few taxi stands available in the borough, the most popular being the Forest Hills one, where cabbies have a large designated space.
Local residents had mixed opinions about the green cab service.
Kevin Rosado, 24, an accounting student who lives in Queens Village, said that “green cabs are cheaper, more affordable to use and more convenient [than livery cabs].”
“[Livery cabs] sometimes can charge you twice more than you are supposed to pay to get to a certain destination."
He said he uses green taxis mostly on weekends. “I usually rely on the MTA service but when I go out with my friends or I have an emergency, it’s late at night and I have to go home, I take the green service,” he said.
But others were less enthusiastic. Muriel Williams, 75, who lives near the LIRR train station in Downtown Jamaica, said that she doesn’t “like green cabs.”
“I don’t think we need them,” she said, adding that she uses mostly buses or trains. She said she calls a car service when she needs to go to the doctor. “This area is already too congested.”
But local Councilman Daneek Miller said that the green cabs are “cost effective."
“If you look at some of the fees that are charged by the livery [cabs], they are outrageous in comparison [with the green cabs],” he noted.
A car service company would charge $25 to $30 for a trip from Jamaica to JFK, Miller said. The same trip “with a meter” would cost about $17 to $18, he said.
"It should be an opportunity that should be brought to the community,” he said.