December 2005 was quite a month, indeed. We made it through a three day transit strike – the first in 25 years, and hopefully the last we will ever see!
During my almost 1O years of having worked at the TLC, I have participated in planning for several citywide transit strikes that had thankfully never happened. My staff and I had also successfully implemented private bus strike contingency plans that provided us with the critical experience that was put to good use. After all those years of planning, I must say that I was very impressed with the plan that was developed, and even more so by the professionalism, dignity and skill with which it was implemented by our TLC team and our regulated industries.
As Mayor Bloomberg said, while all of us hoped for the best, we also needed to prepare for the worst, which is exactly what the City’s Contingency Plan did. The TLC’s portion of the plan was designed to “supplement – not replace” bus and subway service for displaced commuters by providing one of several alternate service options. The two primary goals of this plan were its “simplicity” and “efficiency.” The plan permitted “group riding” and provided additional economic incentives for drivers who picked-up additional passengers, promoting the most efficient use of for-hire ground transportation services. The plan also included a simple “zone fare” system that was the same for for-hire vehicles and taxicabs.
By and large, the system worked well, with drivers working hard to match their capacity with riders in need. The TLC’s regulated industries moved more passengers in three days than they have probably ever moved during any comparable period in New York City history. Despite media reports which highlighted the few glitches and problems that occurred, the number of complaints against drivers was less than expected given the new system and the increased number of passengers transported. The TLC received a record number of hits on its website, totaling approximately 1.3 Million for the week; and there were fewer questions than expected about how the plan worked, which was a testament to its simplicity.
There was a significant amount of media attention that was focused on alleged “price gouging” during the strike. I know that the overwhelming majority of business owners and drivers did the right thing by carrying out the plan legally and with a desire to help their fellow New Yorkers. However, there were unfortunately a handful of individuals who overcharged customers by not implementing the system correctly, or who were just downright greedy. Some passenger calls alleging price gouging actually turned out to be either venting about the increased fares under the plan or just simple misunderstandings about what they could be charged. However, you can rest assured that all complaints are under active investigation, and the few individuals who violated the law will be prosecuted to its full extent.
Over the next weeks and months, the TLC will be reviewing every aspect of the implementation of the Contingency Plan in conjunction with its government partners, including the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management and the New York City Department of Transportation. As a part of that review, the TLC will be looking for and hopefully collecting the stories that make up the most human side of why this plan worked so well, and the ways in which it could have worked even better. I hope your story will be among them.
I would like to again offer my most heartfelt thanks to the tens of thousands of men and women who make up New York City’s taxicab and for-hire vehicle industries. You helped New York City to shine, and although you could not truly replace the missing mass transit service, it never for a moment stopped you from trying..
Once again, thank you so much - and Happy New Year!