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March 2009

At the TLC we are always looking for innovative ways to provide transportation options for the greatest number of people.  Considering our economically challenging times, we must carefully balance the needs of the riding public and our regulated industries to achieve this goal.  With this purpose in mind, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in his recently-delivered State of the City address, announced that the TLC will be exploring group taxicab riding scenarios, as well as the possibility of creating new ways in which community liveries can serve the riding public. 

One approach now being seriously studied would involve taxicab passengers sharing their ride with other passengers who are traveling in the same general direction, an idea that echoes the City’s successful contingency plan for the 2005 transit strike.  The concept struck a highly positive chord with the public at the time, even receiving widespread editorial support. 

Mayor Bloomberg rightly views the taxi-sharing concept as a win-win situation in which passengers pay less individually, and drivers earn more.  Consider the following example: imagine a $20 cab ride from Downtown to Midtown being reconfigured to charge two customers $13 each or perhaps three customers at $10 each.  The two or three passengers riding together all pay less than the $20 they would pay if riding alone while the driver earns more than the $20 that would be charged to a single passenger. 

Still, there are many questions that need to be thought-through and answered before any passenger-sharing program can be implemented, and all are under study at this time.  We have begun by using GPS data to probe areas in which we simply need to have more information before moving ahead.  It will be necessary to spotlight those locations from which significant numbers of passengers take taxicabs to common destinations.  The workability of special cab stands created for the purpose of pairing riders needs to be explored.  In addition to reducing fare costs for passengers and increasing the earnings of drivers, we want to factor in the environmental benefits derived from the simple equation of more people in less taxicabs requiring less fuel and thus reducing pollution. 

As I alluded to above, this effort does not concentrate solely on taxicabs.  We are also studying the possibility of redefining the ways in which passengers pre-arrange livery rides.  Here we will be reviewing such obvious locations as airports, railroad stations and transportation hubs, shopping centers, etc…— locations where dispatchers can arrange rides for passengers without their having to contact the livery car base directly, as the law requires.  We are exploring the use of both public and private property for the institution of livery stands – that will of course be closely supervised to ensure that such stands are safe, efficient and that no unlicensed drivers crash the stands.

The TLC is exploring pilot programs to test taxi group rides and livery stands, and will ensure that any such transportation models work well before making them permanent.  As always, I look forward to discussing the possibilities with my fellow TLC Commissioners during and after the research phase.

While speaking of the livery industry, I am very pleased to announce that we will soon have a Livery Passengers’ Bill of Rights for the first time, similar to the successful Bill of Rights that has been in place in the taxicab industry for over a decade.  This project began its life in my office as a TLC initiative, and the New York City Council recently passed legislation (with input from the TLC and the Mayor’s Office) to codify this important document in law for the first time.  The Livery Passengers’ Bill of Rights will empower patrons of community car services to understand and expect the levels of service to which they are entitled, but perhaps more importantly, it will help them to understand their options to enforce these rights, should that level of service not be achieved.

This new law is part of a comprehensive TLC plan to raise livery industry standards, which we have successfully accomplished in the taxicab industry starting in the mid-1990s.  This spring, I plan to present a comprehensive reform and overhaul of the livery industry to increase accountability, promote safety and satisfy customer expectations for this vital community transportation service.  The  Bill of Rights is just a starting point in our efforts to enhance professional business standards that will accomplish many regulatory goals, including the drastic reduction of illegal and unlicensed activity that some licensed bases, vehicle owners and drivers have either intentionally engaged in or have not been diligent in preventing on their own.        

As you can see, 2009 is shaping up to be another landmark year for the TLC! 

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