Welcome to this, my last column of the year 2006. And what a year it has been. It started with a comprehensive streamlining of our licensing processes, which is something that we continued throughout the year, and will be ended on a taxicab fare adjustment.
This past week, it was hard to tune a channel anywhere on the radio or television dial (if such a thing still exists) and not hear something about the implementation of the adjustment, which went into effect on November 30. For those reading about it for the first time, however, the TLC recently undertook an analysis of the fare structure and determined that the wait time component was somewhat out of balance with the initial “drop” and mileage components. In fact, it was so far below the wait times other major taxi cities that doubling it to 40 cents per minute of wait time only placed New York City in the middle of the pack countrywide. As could be expected, coverage by the media was a mixed bag, though it reflected a surprising amount of understanding and acceptance from the riding public. Public response was, for the most part, very heartening, and ranged from taxi riders who reluctantly resigned themselves to paying the modest increase, to others who smiled and said that it was fair and that they were happy to do their part in generally supporting the taxi industry. There were also those that expressed approval of the fact that, for the first time, the adjustment’s additional revenue went exclusively to the drivers. I can only recall one or two of the many riders interviewed taking a more extreme approach, saying that they would withhold a tip to make up the difference. As I said during a live television interview on the day the adjustment kicked in, it is never easy to ask the public to pay more for a taxi ride, but it was the right thing to do to keep experienced drivers behind the wheel, keep the industry strong, and keep service levels appropriately high – right where New York City needs and deserves it to be. Congratulations, taxi drivers……well deserved!
In keeping with the year-end, new beginnings theme, I am pleased to announce that, as of January 1, 2007 the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles has certified the TLC’s Safety and Emissions division as a fully accredited Inspection facility. This means that taxi owners will no longer need to supplement the three annual inspections they receive at the TLC, and that the TLC Safety and Emissions “PASS” sticker will be honored by all law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions as being a valid NYS inspection sticker. Aside from the convenience factor, this will save vehicle owners $37 – the cost of a non-TLC NYS inspection – per year. More details will be available at the TLC’s web site at www.nyc.gov/taxi.
I’m happy to report that the Garden in Transit kick-off events held at schools in each of the five boroughs have gone terrifically well thanks to close coordination between the parent organization Portraits of Hope, the Mayor’s Volunteer Center and the TLC. So now the work has begun in earnest to hopefully see every taxicab in New York City transformed into a moving garden by this time next year, highlighting the artistic creativity of our children, and accomplishing one of the most ambitious public art projects ever conceived.
In closing, 2007 looks to be an amazing year for both the TLC and its regulated industries. Aside from seeing the exterior of our taxicabs transformed into rolling art this year, we will also see the new Customer Service Technology Enhancements implemented in every taxicab. This will also be the year that we celebrate the Centennial of the metered taxicab with an exciting range of events and activities surrounding TAXI ’07, alongside our partners the Design Trust for New York. There’s no doubt that 2006 will be a year to remember, but 2007 seems already on track to top it.
I wish you all a happy, healthy, safe and productive holiday season and New Year!