Let me begin this column with the hope that the Summer is treating everyone well. We have had a few very hot days - and there is more strain on every taxicab and for-hire vehicle to run with air-conditioners at capacity - so please remember to keep-up with preventive vehicle maintenance….. when in doubt, check it out!
One of the matters foremost on the minds of those of our regulated industries this Summer is the high price of fuel. I must regretfully inform our readers that the taxicab industry petitions – exclusively requesting various types of fuel surcharges – were rejected in early July. While I understand that most of the drivers reading this column will be frustrated and angry, please understand that we truly believe it is in the best interests of both the industry and the riding public not to add more “surcharges” to the taximeter. While we sympathize with the legitimate concerns of our hardworking drivers about the increased fuel costs they must bear, please trust that the next TLC fare increase will address rising fuel prices. Please bear in mind that the price of fuel is one of several expenses that may individually decrease or increase over time, and must be analyzed to determine whether the overall levels of driver and owner income are appropriate and sufficient. While gasoline costs have risen, the average level of driver income remains within the amounts targeted by the last fare increase in 2004 – where the TLC built-in “extra cushion” to prepare for situations such as this. You can rest assured that we will report back to the industry in the near future about this issue, and for now, I humbly ask that all of you try to weather the increased gas prices a little longer.
Rounding out a most eventful month, there was much fanfare and media attention devoted to the outcome of the recent medallion sales. The record prices and robust bidding are certainly an indication of both confidence and support for the future of New York City and its taxicab industry. First, it was nice to see the tangible evidence of our outreach efforts to prospective bidders – attracting many more bidders than medallions offered for sale. Prospective bidders received direct mail, viewed television and print advertisements, listened to live radio interviews, watched televisions interviews and commercials, attended our workshops and informational seminars (or watched the seminars on streaming video), and received up-to-the-minute auction news via our new automatic e-mail update system as well as a comprehensive companion TLC website devoted just to the auctions. The result? In the case of the accessible medallion sale, for example, a ten-to-one ratio of available medallions to bids! Second, the auctions send a strong signal about the vitality of the taxicab industry and our City. While expenses and medallion market prices go up and down over small periods of time, when one looks at the “big picture”, it is an excellent investment which some financial experts have deemed better than some real estate, stocks and bonds. The “big-picture” is that New York City tourism is at an all-time high, with the expectation that more records will be broken in the coming years; that hotel occupancy and airline travel to our area has increased; the City is safer than it’s ever been; and the economic development plans of the Bloomberg Administration for the years to come will ensure that more people continue to come to the City to live, work and visit. In sum, congratulations to the winning bidders! I am confident that you made the right decision and now have one of the best investments around.
For those who have been following border disputes and reciprocity issues over the years, I am pleased to announce our achievement of a legislative solution to the challenge of regulating intra-state for-hire ground transportation. While the ink is not yet fully dry on the New York State Senate and Assembly’s passage of The Inter-Jurisdictional Pre-Arranged For-Hire Vehicle Operation Act (S8400/A11540), I am hopeful that the Governor will sign this Act into law before the end of the Summer. This legislation, which was drafted and conceived by the TLC and the Bloomberg Administration, creates a more equitable system that now guarantees the right for New York City licensed for-hire vehicles to drop-off passengers in Nassau and Westchester counties, and for these counties to voluntarily “opt-in” to the reciprocity statute’s protections if its licensing standards and other requirements are met. In addition to firmly establishing equitable “drop-off” procedures, the legislation eliminates the need for for-hire vehicle owners and drivers to apply for Tier II or III permits and/or licenses within each participating jurisdiction where they operate. It also clearly sets forth the criteria necessary for government regulators to qualify for reciprocity. The legislative solution sought was based primarily upon our desire to not only provide for consistency and fair play under the law, but also to create an incentive for our neighboring licensed businesses and government entities to raise their licensing standards. This new law is consistent with my strongly held belief that it is neither good business nor good government to perpetuate disputes and impose burdensome licensing regulations which may have an adverse impact on both “inter-state” and “intra-state” for-hire vehicle travel.
Until next time, may the remainder of your summer be happy, healthy and cool!