I begin this column on a sad note, as the industry just experienced several losses within the last month. I am saddened to report that a true taxicab industry trailblazer, Mr. Arthur Levine, passed away recently. Arthur Levine helped to set and define industry standards for decades, and not only was he successful in business, but he successfully made his family a part of his business life. We send our most sincere condolences to his son, Michael Levine, and the entire Levine family at this very difficult time. We also mourn the sudden loss of a member of the TLC's Taxi Advisory Board, Mr. James Beatrice. "Jimmy" was a taxicab owner/operator and entrepreneur who was always available to help his drivers, passengers and the TLC in so many ways. Throughout his long career as a small businessman and as a New York City Police Officer, some of his greatest accomplishments include promoting and placing the first minivans into taxi service. We will miss him dearly and offer our deepest condolences to his family and his drivers.
As the TLC puts the finishing touches on recruiting its next class of Inspectors, a new beginning is in the cards for our top enforcement officer, Joseph Midolo, who retired in early June 2005. Joe served as an Inspector, rising through the ranks over his career in public service to become the TLC's Deputy Commissioner of its Uniformed Service Bureau (USB). Not only has Joe been a friend, but he has worked in the administrations of several TLC Commissioners, always serving with pride and true concern for his colleagues. Although we will miss him, he has left his mark on the USB and we thank him for his service.
Just to update you on the technology front, progress is the watchword for our Customer Service Initiative, which saw the target date pass this week for proposals submitted in response to the RFP released several months ago. At this stage, the submissions will be carefully evaluated before choices will be made as to which products should and will be tested in the next phase. Just the prospect of exploring the way these technologies will be employed is an exciting one. While each of the capabilities - credit/debit card acceptance, passenger information monitor, vehicle locator, text messaging - exists in one form or another, this will be the first time anywhere that they will be combined in one comprehensive system. Certainly, the pioneering efforts to advance in-vehicle technologies in the black car and limousine industries have been quite inspirational to the TLC. My recent visits to some of the largest black car and luxury limousine bases reconfirm that their use of technology was essential to exponentially build their businesses and effectively serve their customers.
Speaking of inspirations, you may have read of the TLC's participation in a project to "define the ideal taxi and taxi system of the future." Led by the Design Trust
for Public Space (a not-for profit organization), a group of 58 participants that included architects, designers, taxi industry representatives and City officials met in late May to put pen to paper and kick-around some very interesting ideas. On Thursday, June 16, that group will reconvene to present its ideas at a public workshop. A steering committee, on which the TLC sits, has been overseeing the project, and I can tell you now that the ideas have been flowing like water. One idea whose time has not come, however, is that of changing the color of the medallion taxicab. Just for the record, I think yellow suits our taxicabs just fine, thank you very much......