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COMMISSIONER'S COLUMN

February 2009

The TLC has had great success in employing new and innovative technologies to help improve customer service, enhance safety and help improve revenue and the way our industries do business.  This has been a priority of the Bloomberg Administration and throughout my tenure I have made every effort to keep an open mind to explore and consider every new idea that comes through our doors.  No idea is too big or too small, and the pilot program procedures that have been put into place have greatly facilitated our contemplation, implementation and testing of new equipment that is open, transparent and fair to those with competing ideas and products.  After all, the New York City Charter charges the TLC to “innovate and experiment” with equipment and service.    

Consistent with our mission, as we enter 2009 we are thinking ahead on two technological fronts: (1) to test in-vehicle cameras to enhance the safety of taxicab drivers, passengers as well as other motorists and pedestrians; and (2) to explore how we can bring the Taxicab Passenger Enhancement Project (T-PEP) to the next level.

First, the Commission has approved our testing of technology in taxicabs that would use vehicle-mounted cameras to record and provide information that can encourage responsible driving and improve overall safety.  Our primary focus and interest is in the use of these cameras to record video images outside of the vehicle, the camera being triggered to start recording when there is a sudden forceful movement of the vehicle.  This would include both accidents and near accidents, where business owners can analyze the videos and counsel their drivers to correct bad or unsafe driving habits so that future accidents can be avoided.    This information will provide the industry with better risk management and potential insurance premium reductions – and will help to prevent injuries and save lives.

Systems of this nature have already been installed and utilized for many years by several luxury limousine and black car bases.  According to company officials from every one of these bases – as well as from the insurance companies that provide their vehicles with coverage – they have performed impressively – reducing accidents and claims upwards considerably (and in some cases more than 50%), as well as absolving drivers of blame in accidents and other incidents.

Following on the heels of the Commission’s approval in December of a pilot program to test this technology, the TLC issued a Request for Information (RFI) to obtain the widest possible participation by manufacturers of various in-vehicle camera products. The technology that would be tested combines both forward- and rear-facing cameras and an integrated computer that can store short video clips triggered by certain “G-force” events, monitoring such vehicle activity as acceleration/de-acceleration speeds, and even providing emissions data if needed.  I am hopeful there will be an enthusiastic pool of participants for 13-month testing period, allowing up to 20 vehicles per company to be equipped with cameras.

Taxicab and for-hire vehicle accidents have been trending downward for some time, with Department of Motor Vehicles statistics confirming a 25% drop in accidents over several years, and I would like to see those numbers continue in that direction.  This is due in part to the enforcement of safety-oriented regulations of the TLC (including the critical driver point system).  Now is the time to build on this success and do everything we can to continue that downward trend by using proven camera technology and any other efforts we can.  

The second front on which the TLC is thinking ahead to the future is our Taxicab Passenger Enhancement Program, or T-PEP, as it has become known.  When we achieved 100% implementation of T-PEP systems in each of the city’s 13,237 medallion taxicabs last year, we were gratified as it was the culmination of four years of conceptualization, research, transparent governmental process, and solid technical work.  But it is one of the inevitable truths of today’s world that the moment new technology is introduced, it starts to become obsolete!  While no one had ever seen anything like T-PEP before, which makes it far from obsolete; it is time for us to think about the directions we could go in the future.  The time to ask these questions, of course, is now, when there is still time left on the City’s contracts with its T-PEP vendors, and things are going well.

Within the next month or two, we hope to distribute an RFI with the goal of pursuing thoughts, ideas, suggestions and solid proposals on how to move T-PEP to the next level…….T-PEP 2.0, if you will.  This RFI would be targeted at the taxi industry, the vendor community, the technology community, and perhaps most importantly, the riding public.  What do people like?  What do they not like?  What is possible today or tomorrow that wasn’t possible yesterday?  We will keep you posted on our progress…..

Until next month, stay warm!

_________________________________________

 

From left to right, celebrating the life and legacy of former Councilman and Commissioner Stanley Michels,are family friend Steve Simon, Karen Michels, Commissioner Matthew Daus, Mrs. Molly Michels, and New York Civil Court Judge Shari R. Michels.  A duplicate of the pictured plaque will be displayed in a place of honor at the TLC’s headquarters.
From left to right, celebrating the life and legacy of former Councilman and Commissioner Stanley Michels,are family friend Steve Simon, Karen Michels, Commissioner Matthew Daus, Mrs. Molly Michels, and New York Civil Court Judge Shari R. Michels.  A duplicate of the pictured plaque will be displayed in a place of honor at the TLC’s headquarters.

At the TLC’s January 8 public meeting, Commissioner Matthew Daus and the TLC paused to honor the memory of former Councilman and former TLC Commission Member Stanley Michels, who passed away after a long and valiant battle with cancer last August.  While he will likely be remembered more for his distinguished 24-year tenure on the City Council and his outspoken advocacy of environmental protection laws, he was also a much-respected presence on the Taxi and Limousine Commission, where he served with great vigor for over two years.  A commemorative plaque was presented to his wife and family, a duplicate of which will hang in a place of honor at the TLC’s Rector Street headquarters.  The language of the plaque is below:

 In Memoriam
Commissioner Stanley E. Michels
1933-2008

For your unifying presence, for your humility;
For your love of our city, which you served so long and so well,
You have earned our everlasting respect and gratitude.

 While the two years you spent at the Taxi and Limousine Commission were just
A distinguished fraction of your long and illustrious public service career,
You left an indelible mark on those of us who were privileged to work with you;

Your intelligence and passion inspired us to be better,
And we are proud that a small part of your legacy of leadership rests here with us.

Presented by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission
January 2009




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