I would like to begin this column with hearty congratulations for my colleague, Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall. Commissioner Weinshall has accepted a top position with the City University of New York, as Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning & Construction Management. In her new role, Commissioner Weinshall will oversee, among other things, a five-year capital construction budget of more than $3 billion for the CUNY system’s 23 colleges and other schools. While City government will miss her talents and keen intellect at the DOT, we here at the TLC are fortunate indeed to be able to continue to benefit from her experience and dedication as she will remain on the Board of Commissioners after her April 13 DOT departure date.
I am also pleased to welcome a new member to the Board of Commissioners, Ms. Lauvienska Polanco, who will fill the vacant Manhattan seat. Commissioner Polanco arrives with an impressive list of professional qualifications and accomplishments; including time spent as an associate at Fitzgerald & Fitzgerald law firm, as a Court Attorney for New York State Civil Court, and as the Principal Law Clerk for the Bronx State Supreme Court. Commissioner Polanco has solid community credentials as well, such as her role (one of many) as treasurer/Board member of the Upper Manhattan Council Assisting Neighbors.
On other important subjects, I think it comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the TLC that we have a remarkably active year ahead of us. We have an ambitious regulatory agenda (posted on the Taxi and Limousine Commission web site at (http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/regulatory_agenda_2007.pdf) that is all about improving customer service, protecting the public, and generally enhancing the accountability of the industries we regulate.
Along those lines, we will be devoting much attention to the for-hire vehicle industry, and have already proposed rules that would make livery cars and black cars more identifiable to the riding public and more readily distinguishable from illegal, unlicensed vehicles. The proposed rules would also provide enhanced safety of for-hire vehicles (FHVs) and reduce air pollutants emitted by such vehicles, by requiring that they be inspected by the TLC once every two years.
These proposed rules require that a for-hire vehicle be inspected at the TLC inspection facility upon the issuance and every renewal of the for-hire vehicle’s license. At the present time, both taxicabs and for-hire vehicles are inspected three times per year, but only taxicabs are required to be inspected at the TLC’s own inspection facility. For-hire vehicles may be inspected at any inspection facility certified by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In September 2006, the TLC’s inspection facility was certified by DMV, and therefore inspection at TLC’s facility will satisfy the requirements of an inspection at a DMV-certified facility.
These proposed rules would also require that windshield and rear quarter window decals, to be provided by the TLC, be placed on for-hire vehicles at the TLC’s inspection facility.
The proposed rules would also require that the name of the base station with which the vehicle is affiliated be marked on the exterior of passenger doors on both sides of for-hire vehicles, in a minimum of one-and-one-half-inch lettering, the name of the base station with which the vehicle is affiliated, the base-assigned vehicle number, and the base station’s telephone number. Only non-detachable decals would be permitted. Lastly, the proposed rules would require that the for-hire operator’s license be posted inside the for-hire vehicle, as they are in yellow medallion taxicabs.
For safety’s sake, the proposed rules would also require that vehicle and base owners surrender the FHV permit of any vehicle the Commission determines to be unfit or unsafe, at which time the permit will be suspended.
On the medallion taxicab side, another proposed rule would amend existing taxicab specification rules to comply with Local Law 52 of 2006, by providing vehicle retirement extensions for eligible clean air and accessible taxicabs. The rule would apply to taxicabs hacked-up on or after April 17, 2007, as well as clean air and accessible taxicabs in service as of that date.
While there are an impressive number of hybrid-electric taxicabs on the road today, purchased voluntarily by visionary medallion owners and “driver owned vehicles” (DOVs) who lease their medallions, the proposed rules would create incentives for taxicab owners to use clean air taxicabs by removing retirement extensions other than those that exist for hybrid-electric and other alternative fuel vehicles. The same advantage would exist for the purchasers of wheelchair accessible taxicabs that satisfy the TLC’s specifications.
The proposed rules will base incentives on the vehicle’s actual cleanliness – with Level 1 Clean Air Vehicles receiving an additional 24 months, and Level 2 Clean Air Vehicles receiving an additional 12 months -- rather than simply by fuel type as had been done in the past.
Considering worldwide concerns about global warming and greenhouse gases, the TLC’s environmental priorities are right where they should be.