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COMMISSIONER'S COLUMN

June 2009

This past week, I testified before the New York City Council Joint Committees on Transportation and Finance on the TLC’s preliminary budget, as we do every year.  Once again, as is my typical experience, it gave me pause to think about everything that is on the TLC’s plate, and the progress we have been making on numerous fronts. 

I highlighted the fact that, despite some historic rises in the number of licensing transactions, the TLC has worked diligently to ensure that operational standards are not compromised.  While we have seen an 11% increase in transaction volume from FY’07 to FY’08 and a 6% increase in transaction volume when comparing the first half of Fiscal Year 2008 to the first half of Fiscal Year 2009, the average wait time at the licensing facility has actually decreased from 32 minutes in April ‘08 to 18 minutes in April ’09 which; is a 44% decrease.  Our recent creation of a new Licensee Support/Customer Relations Unit, which provides “hands-on” assistance to licensees, is one effort we can point to as having contributed to this success.  Also contributing to this success is our bilingual staff of greeters, informational kiosks, new signage and forms written in “plain language” that are more user-friendly, all of which is helping to facilitate TLC communication with licensees and expedite license transactions.

I also mentioned the fact that the TLC implemented access to “Language Line,” which provides free language translation services to licensees during the hearing process.  Our most recent records note 48 uses of the Language Line, with the majority of language requests in Spanish, and others requesting translations in such languages as Korean, Mandarin, Russian, French, Creole, Arabic, Polish, and Cantonese.  I also testified about the TLC’s “Rule Revision Project”, which is now in the second of three phases, and seeks to make our rules easier to understand, more concise and better organized.

Of course, I am only touching on a few of the many topics raised in the testimony, but I believe it very concisely illustrates an agency that truly cares about its customers, and is working hard to address their needs.  If you are interested in reading the testimony in full, it is available on the TLC’s Web site at:
http://nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/testimony_05_13_09.pdf.

Speaking of being responsive, I wanted to take this opportunity to speak a little about the TLC’s recently-related Request For Information (RFI) that seeks ideas and expert guidance on how to improve our current education programs.  The point of this program is to educate, train and test our licensed drivers in order to further their professionalism, maximize the standards they achieve, and thereby increase the level of service provided to their customers (the passengers we both must work to please!).

Upgrading the TLC’s education training program seems a natural and timely action to take in the aftermath of all that we have accomplished together in recent years to make our vehicles safer and cleaner for riders, while incorporating into New York City’s taxi fleet a vast array of technological conveniences.  Given the full nature of this progress, why not at this time return to so basic a subject as education to help us continue our progress in the most enlightened and informed manner possible? 

That is where the Education RFI enters the picture.  It begins the process that will enable us to move forward armed with the latest knowledge, as well as the most seasoned expert data and recommendations.  As you know, the TLC’s current driver education program applies only to taxicab drivers.  It is our intention to eventually expand that program so that all TLC-licensed drivers – whether they are behind the wheels of a livery, black car, luxury limousine, paratransit vehicle or commuter van – may benefit from training that will provide the skills to help them achieve the very maximum in professionalism (which is good for the passenger, and ultimately very good for the driver’s pocketbook!).

I should point out that the Education RFI is also fast-tracking the means of creating and implementing a Point-Reduction Program for all classes of licensees that would allow them to reduce accumulated license points by means of a structured, educational process.  The comment period for the Request for Information opens on April 28, 2009 and ends on August 1, 2009 (comments on Point Reduction Program component are due by June 1, 2009).  For those who would like to read the RFI in full, it is posted on the TLC Web site at: http://nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/news/edu_rfi_intro.shtml.

The RFI will be distributed to experts in the education community and asks a detailed series of questions about the most up-to-date training methods, as well as state-of-the-art advances in educational technology, so that we can explore the ways it could potentially make training and testing easier and more efficient.  Over the next few months, we hope to receive many responses to review, and to help us decide on next steps.  It promises to be an exciting process, and I look forward to sharing more with you about what we learn from it in upcoming columns.

Until next time………

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