Hell on Wheels: What Students Risk When They Take Local Cabs

Hell on Wheels

Newburgh Express Taxi Cab parked in front of Sakac Hall (Photo by William Biersack)

by William Biersack

Two weeks ago, Geraldine Yniguez, a sophomore at Mount Saint Mary College, had an interesting experience with a driver affiliated with one of the local taxi companies. In her description of the events of the night, she said:

“There was a bunch of people in our van and the driver didn’t know that I spoke Spanish. So, he was telling the person on the other line, ‘Oh, I’m going to overcharge them.’ So, when we got there…he’s like, ‘Oh, two dollars a person,’ which is not true because normally from Newburgh to Newburgh it’s a dollar. So, I go, ‘No, no, no, I heard what you’re saying,’ in Spanish, and I said, ‘Here’s six dollars, there’s six people. Please, thank you, goodbye.’ He was shocked; they don’t realize that people are able to understand them. They’re just trying to take advantage of you.”

There seems to be a consensus among Mount students that a great deal of the local taxi drivers are prone to charging their customers with fares that are higher than what is advertised. Furthermore, these drivers have been described as being unprofessional with their customers and reckless while driving through Newburgh streets.

Students other than Yniguez have conveyed similar concerns and experiences. Freshman Nick Marano said, “They don’t come on time. I have literally been waiting for sometimes two hours….There’s a lot of arguments.” Junior Alyssa Russo made a similar statement, saying, “I used to use Newburgh Express. We pretty much just used it on Thursday nights and it usually was pretty good and cheap, but it wasn’t really all that reliable…like they wouldn’t show up when they said they would, a lot.”

After their negative experiences with these drivers, many Mount students have attempted to issue a complaint with the taxi companies over the phone, but were unable to do so because the operator began the conversation in a language other than English.

When asked to comment on the situation, Louie Mercado, an officer with the New Windsor Police Department, revealed that a number of these taxi drivers are working and living in the country illegally. Officer Mercado said, “Most of the cab drivers do not have drivers licenses or even permits due to their immigration status. The student body needs to know that if they get into a cab they may be at risk.”

As the drivers lack proper documentation and are in a position to be deported, they have also been known to drive away and evade the police when they get into car crashes. Mercado remarked that, “If someone happens to get the plate number…when the police show up at the registered owner’s place of business, they have claimed at times that the cab was stolen from the street. So there would be no one to blame.”

As a general warning to all students, it is recommended that you use caution when taking a cab from the Newburgh area. Take the time to notice if the driver has a permit hung up conspicuously in the taxi; it will serve as an indicator of the driver being a legal citizen and having a license. If you plan on checking the price of getting a ride, do it before the doors close and the car is in motion. Most importantly, use your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right with the taxi or its driver, there is no shame in changing travel plans. When in doubt, a safe and reliable option is to find a friend with a car and get a ride from them.