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COMMISSIONER'S COLUMN

November 2006

Fare Adjustment Approved & Effective on November 30, 2006
The big news for the taxicab industry this month is the rate of fare adjustment for which I obtained Commission approval on October 25. This adjustment will provide a long-awaited modification to the wait-time component on the taximeter and the establishment of a flat fare from Manhattan to JFK Airport. On my many visits to the airports, speaking with and listening to drivers, these ideas and concerns were conveyed over-and-over again, and I am pleased to let you know that your voices have once again been heard. At a time when the taxicab industry is as healthy as it has ever been, it is important to plan for the future so that our licensed and experienced drivers stay in the industry, making it their profession for years to come – and for us to continue attracting hardworking people to join the ranks. For the first time, this fare adjustment will go entirely (100%) to the drivers – and it is truly well-deserved! There was no alteration to the lease cap, and fleet owners will not receive an increase. These new rates of fare will be implemented on November 30, 2006, so if you are a medallion owner, please make arrangements as soon as possible to visit a licensed taximeter business to ensure that your meters are updated to reflect this change.

Wait-Time Adjustment
The adjustment to the wait-time is expected to equalize the amount of compensation earned for drivers. Because there has not been a proportional increase in the wait-time for almost 17 years, a daily disparity has been perpetuated over the years based mostly on “luck” – where those drivers who pick-up passengers and move slow in traffic end-up making less than the average fare of most taxicab drivers. By doubling the wait-time from 40 cents per two minutes to 40 cents per minute, drivers are expected to on average earn an additional $2.64 per hour, bringing the average hourly wage to $15.60. More consistent take-home pay for our licensed drivers will hopefully ease tensions and daily stresses of the job while providing a steadier pay-check less affected by traffic nuances and passenger destinations.

New Flat Fare from Manhattan to JFK Airport
The second change made the flat fare to Manhattan from JFK Airport a “two-way street,” and will allow drivers to charge $45 for trips to JFK from Manhattan as well. The flat fare has proved popular with both drivers and the riding public over the years, and I hope that this initiative will especially encourage passengers at Manhattan hotels to use taxicabs more frequently when returning to the airport. I recently met with the President of the New York City Hotel Association, who assured me that we will work together will its member hotels to promote the use of taxicabs and information about the new flat fare to hotel staff and patrons. I know full well how frustrating it is for taxicab drivers to see illegal black cars and livery vehicles working with hotel doormen to by-pass yellow taxicabs and steer passengers in the wrong direction. It is my hope that this new fare and the public outreach we do together will help improve the situation.

Citizenship & Residency
Another significant change for all of our industries was adopted at the October 25 Commission meeting, to provide for clear and consistent proof of identification for all of our licensees. No longer will certain types of license holders need to prove their U.S. citizenship or residency status to the TLC in order to obtain a license. Instead, the most appropriate form of identification will be required of all driver, vehicle and business owner license applicants (from all of our regulated industries) - namely, a valid original social security card and any government-issued photo identification card. As a proud industry comprised mostly of immigrants, this change is consistent with the spirit of the Bloomberg Administration’s pro-immigrant policies, and will provide opportunities to our new neighbors who continue to make our City so great!

Garden-in-Transit Kick-Off
Another concept that I am happy to announce has become a reality is Garden in Transit. As announced by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg several months ago, Garden in Transit (GIT) is an unbeatable combination of taxicabs, kids, volunteers, and the powerful medium of public art. In brief, the Mayor’s Volunteer Center and Portraits of Hope (GIT’s parent organization) will oversee the painting, by thousands of New York City schoolchildren, of beautifully colorful floral panels that, starting in the fall of 2007 will be installed on many thousands of New York taxicabs for all the world to see and enjoy. I was privileged to participate in the GIT’s kick-off event at IS 291 in Bushwick, Brooklyn this week, and believe more strongly than ever that we are working together on a truly worthwhile and memorable effort that is history in the making. Whether you are a medallion owner, or an interested individual, I urge you to call 311 or visit the Mayor’s Volunteer Center at http://www.nyc.gov/html/mvc/html/press/press.shtml and get involved in making some history today! We need volunteers now and throughout next year for a variety of tasks, including not just supervising the painting of the decals, but also commitments from medallion owners to volunteer the use of their taxicabs to temporarily display these beautiful decals – and at the same time display their industry and City pride and commitment to the cause. I should also mention that Garden in Transit will play a prominent role in Taxi 07, our celebration alongside the Design Trust for Public Space of the metered taxicab’s centennial, taking place in April 2007.

International Association of Transportation Regulators – 2006 Conference
We recently returned from an outstanding conference in Seattle, Washington held by the International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR). The IATR is an organization comprised of for-hire ground transportation government regulators from around the world. In addition to exploring common issues such as accessibility and driver security, I was asked to organize a program for one
entire day of the conference focusing on alternative fuel vehicles and vehicle standards and development. I asked the regulators from large Cities and countries around the world, to share their experiences in how they ensure vehicle safety and cleanliness, including the inspection process and enforcement. The program also included high-level representatives from the automobile manufacturing industry, to discuss not only vehicle development and commitment to alternative fuel, but also efforts to design a purpose-built taxicab that meets the needs of all passengers, drivers and owners. New York City’s efforts were highlighted, including the TLC’s initiative to add hybrid-electric vehicles to its fleet, and its work with the Design Trust for Public Space. For more information about the work of the IATR, you can visit its website at www.iatr.org.

The Times Square Shuffle is Here!
Last but not least, in light of the amazing fact that a full two-thirds of all the vehicles traveling through the Times Square 7th Avenue/Broadway crossover are TLC-licensed vehicles, I did want to mention that the Times Square Shuffle is here! The Shuffle, if you did not already know, is a new initiative of the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) that will allow it to provide 50% more sidewalk space for pedestrians. Beginning November 4, the vehicle crossover between 7th Avenue and Broadway in Times Square will be closed, allowing the DOT to complete its evaluation of the closure's effects on both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.


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