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May 2008

I write these words following an historic - and unanimous -- Board of Commissioners vote to approve new fuel efficiency standards for the City's 10,000 black cars that, in tandem with a mandatory retirement component, will see the current crop of Town Cars replaced with clean-fueled vehicles by the year 2013.  What this means for our city is that 272,000 fewer tons of CO2 - representing 2% of the city's transportation-related emissions - will be released into our air, pollution that our children will no longer need to breathe.  Essentially, emissions from the city's black car industry will be chopped in half. This, of course, follows on the heels of similar regulations passed for yellow taxicabs that made news worldwide and inspired a plethora of major cities to either create or seriously consider similar regulations.  Primary thanks goes to Mayor Bloomberg for proposing these changes and demonstrating such exceptional vision and leadership, but these new rules could not have passed were it not for the support of our Commissioners, the black car users (represented by Kathy Wylde and the Partnership for NYC) as well as devoted industry leaders such as Victor Dizengoff and Berj Haroutunian, who ensured that their constituents concerns were well represented and addressed.

In a pre-hearing message I delivered at today's public meeting, I also mentioned that we would be treating our regulated industries equally - which means that we will be embarking on a plan to "green" our livery industry as well.  There will be more to come on this as we progress through the planning stages.  Furthermore, we will seek to prevent and deter luxury limousine and livery bases - located inside and outside New York City - from engaging in black car work or affiliating sedans with their bases in an effort to evade enforcement of the new minimum miles per gallon rules.  This will be accomplished by ensuring that only black cars are permitted to engage in "line work" at authorized staging areas and that any sedans affiliated with luxury limousine bases purchase the additional liability insurance required by our regulations (namely, $500,000 per person and $1 million per occurrence).  These new black car regulations, like the taxicab regulations, are based upon the achievement of minimum fuel efficiency ratings, which mean they do not close the door to the further development of alternative fuel technologies - such as compressed natural gas, clean diesel, hydrogen fuel cell and electric vehicles.  Other alternative fueled vehicles may be permitted under these new rules if they meet the minimum fuel efficiency standards after applying an energy conversion formula according to Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, as well as being eligible for TLC testing and pilot programs in the future if they do not.  Just as with the new taxicab regulations, I will ensure that a complete pre-implementation review is conducted by the Commission to ensure that appropriate hybrid-electric or other eligible vehicles and affordable financing are available.      

I am pleased to say that there is more good news to share this month as we have reached not one, but two important milestones.  First, congratulations are in order for TLC Chief of Staff Ira Goldstein and his technology team, on the occasion of the taxicab industry's reaching and surpassing the 10,000 mark for vehicles installed with T-PEP systems (a/k/a the Taxicab Passenger Enhancement Program)…..10,620 to be exact!  Credit card usage continues to climb as riders have come to expect the availability of the new payment options, and tips for taxi drivers are consistently averaging 20%.  I am pleased to report that due to incredibly high compliance with our Operation Secret Ride program, 99% of taxicab drivers tested by TLC undercover officers accepted credit card payments when asked. Also, now that the issues surrounding the bankrupted Taxi Tech Corp. have been resolved, the small number of affected owners will have some additional time to negotiate their best deals with the remaining three vendors.  This means every taxicab in New York City will be equipped with this increasingly popular technology by the end of this summer!  Next, I am proud to report that the number of hybrid-electric taxicabs on the streets of our city has hit and surpassed the 1,000 mark!  We have come a long way from the trepidation and caution that hybrids were met with back in October of 2005 when they were first approved! 

I am sorry to say that I must leave you with some bad news, however.  Within the last few weeks, we have lost two longstanding members of our TLC family. The first, former Commissioner Marvin Greenberg, whose three appointments to the TLC Board spanned a remarkable 27 years, passed away several weeks ago.  Aside from being a veteran and a highly respected businessman, Commissioner Greenberg was known for his sense of civic pride, which led him to volunteer on numerous boards and with philanthropic organizations.  As I pointed out at the most recent public meeting, Commissioner Greenberg was always a voice for the passengers and his integrity and independence were beyond reproach.  He always voted for what he truly thought was right, and was responsible for helping pass through a series of reforms in 1998 that truly transformed our agency and its regulated industries - making it safer and more customer-oriented, thereby leading to the TLC's worldwide recognition as an effective regulator of for-hire ground transportation.  Sadly, we also lost Administrative Judge Alex Sherman - a public servant whose tenure here at the TLC measured three full decades.  Working at the TLC up to the very end of his long and accomplished life, Judge Sherman passed away on his 95th birthday.  Also a veteran, Judge Sherman will be remembered as a man of great humor and compassion, as well as a fair and distinguished jurist.  Our condolences and prayers go out to the Sherman and Greenberg families at this very difficult time, and their presence will be sorely missed. 


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