I thought I would take a final opportunity to take stock of the incredible year we at the Taxi and Limousine Commission have had in 2007. For one thing, the 100th anniversary of the first traditional, metered taxicab pick-up occurred in 2007.....on October 1, 2007 at the Plaza Hotel to be exact. I have a feeling that people will look back on 2007 as an equally historical year.
For one thing, 2007 was the year that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced PlaNYC...on Earth Day, appropriately enough. Only a short month later, on May 22, 2007, Mayor Bloomberg and I announced that the means were available to accelerate the plan and accomplish the full conversion of the city's taxi fleet to hybrid by the year 2012. Far from mere ripples in a pond, this announcement created a splash that has literally reverberated around the world, even making the cover of Russia's Pravda newspaper!
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced on May 22, 2007 that a fully hybrid taxi fleet will be a reality by 2012. Joining the Mayor are Councilman David Yassky and Commissioner Matthew W. Daus.
We celebrated the aforementioned centennial in a number of ways, not the least of which was our partnership with the Design Trust for Public Space in the Taxi 07 project, which took the Designing the Taxicab project to the next level. More specifically, Taxi 07 aimed to combine the ideas of sustainable mobility, clean fuel, access for all, and good design with the iconic yellow taxicab and the broader taxi system in time for the aforementioned centennial. The most "out there" aspect of the project - an ambitious exhibition of innovative taxi prototypes and related displays at the New York International Auto Show last April - struck a chord that truly reverberated around the world. Other aspects included a Cooper-Hewitt National Design Week panel on cab design; the designation of "Taxi Week" by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; and the lighting of the Empire State Building in yellow.
The culminating project of the year was a publication called "Taxi 07: Roads Forward", created by a team of fellows in such disciplines as urban planning, economics, information design and transportation, which analyzed the current taxi system and outlined suggested strategies to improve vehicles and service over the next decade. Using the graphic novel medium, the book also very cleverly lets the reader explore the ways in which the taxicab industry works, as well as the regulatory role of the TLC. Fittingly enough, we unveiled the book at the Crossroads of the World, Times Square, where only a few years earlier (August 1999) we threw a farewell party for the venerable last Checker Cab, complete with a Checker cab-shaped cheesecake from Junior's! The book may be viewed/downloaded at:http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/taxi_book.pdf.
Announcing "Taxi 07: Roads Forward" at the Crossroads of the World are Design Trust Director Deborah Marton and Commissioner Matthew W. Daus.
2007 was also the year that the Taxicab Customer Service Technology Enhancement project entered its final stages, allowing passengers to enjoy the improvements that were promised them four years ago. At this writing, we are approximately 60% equipped, and only a few short months away from reaching the 100% goal.
Not only is the taxicab regulatory world watching with tremendous interest, but so is the world of technology, a fact amply illustrated by the fact that Technology Project Manager and TLC Chief of Staff Ira Goldstein won the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications' Annual Award for Demonstrated Excellence in Project Management.
Then, of course, there was our getting the "Taxicab of Tomorrow" project off and running. In 1898, a competition was held to find the perfect motorized taxicab. This competition attracted 13 electric and one gasoline-powered vehicle. Flash forward 109 years, and yes, we New Yorkers still want it all!
The "Taxi of Tomorrow" project began with our choice of a professional contractor with relevant automotive manufacturing experience that will create the technical specifications necessary for the creation of a taxicab for New York City that will be capable of meeting the needs (and wants) of all passengers. The vehicle will ultimately be clean-air fueled, fully accessible, feature a reasonable purchase price, easily maintained, be appropriately proportioned to the city environment, provide a superior riding experience for both passengers and drivers in terms of comfort, and feature an appropriately "iconic" design in keeping with the New York City cab's ambassadorial role.
We've certainly come a long way from the starter fleet of 65 shiny red French-made Darracq taxicabs fielded by entrepreneur Harry N. Allen, one of which made the fabled first pick-up at the Plaza Hotel mentioned above.....but we've still got a long way to go!
Sadly, we will be saying goodbye to the colorful floral panels that made such a splash on New York taxicabs since early in the fall, but the Garden in Transit certainly made an impression on New Yorkers and visitors alike, garnering worldwide attention. The "tale of the tape" is as impressive as the project itself.....the project captured the creative energies of more than 23,000 children, resulting in over 750,000 square feet of specially-designed panels featuring 80,000 flowers that took root on New York City's fleet of taxicabs, transforming them into, well, a Garden in Transit!
Thanks to its partnership with the Mayor's Volunteer Center, the TLC, and a gamut of City agencies and taxi industry organizations and leaders, Garden in Transit captured imaginations and brought a smile to millions of faces.
Of course, those are just the highly visible projects. In 2007, the TLC continued in its successful quest to improve customer service to our licensees as well as to passengers. Our Licensing Division implemented a new customer service system that made it easier for licensees and applicants to accomplish their business with special carts equipped with computers to speed their transactions and answer their questions. Scheduling enhancements and the use of computers for Administrative Law Judges to draft their decisions have made the TLC Adjudication experience an easier one.
Our Safety and Emissions Division continues to improve services while reducing the time it takes to get inspected. Taxi owners no longer need to supplement their TLC inspections with a DMV inspection now that the TLC has been certified by the DMV, saving them time and money. Furthermore, an additional class of TLC Officers has enhanced field enforcement.
It will be hard to top the excitement and accomplishments of 2007, but looking ahead, I am confident that, continuing to work closely with our regulated industries, our best days are yet to come.
I wish you and your families all the most happy and healthy of New Years!