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COMMISSIONER'S COLUMN

July 2009

In his State of the City address earlier this year, Mayor Bloomberg asked the TLC to explore and implement ride sharing programs and enhanced livery service – which will help the riding public get the biggest “bang for their buck”, allow drivers to earn more, and also make for a cleaner environment by maximizing our existing transportation resources. To this end, I am pleased to announce that at our last public meeting on May 28th, our Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to approve three separate - but related - pilot programs designed to explore and promote taxicab ride sharing and enhanced livery service via stands on private property.

Taxicab Ride Sharing - Multi-fare meters
Regarding the sharing of taxicabs, many New Yorkers remember doing just that during the 2005 transit strike, as cabs were permitted to pick up more than one fare during a single trip, with a flat fare structure that incentivized drivers to provide more service, even while they had the opportunity to earn considerably more per trip. Newspaper editorial boards embraced the concept as much as passengers did, leading them to ask the question, “why not do this all the time?” What we are now attempting to determine is how well the concept would work in non-emergency times. Our plan is to see as many as 1,000 taxicabs equipped with the necessary features to make ride-sharing easy and convenient. They would include “share cab” markings, meters able to calculate multiple fares at the same time, and electronic signs that tell potential passengers the direction and eventual destination of the cab. If a potential passenger spots one of these taxicabs going in his or her general direction, he/she can hail it and be picked-up even if the cab already has a rider. Once sharing the cab with another person, the part of the fare that is based on mileage and waiting time is discounted by 50 percent (not including the initial drop charge). When there is only one fare on the meter, the full rate would then be charged, and the individual fares would be conveyed to passengers via an electronic display. During the pilot period, drivers would not be permitted to transport more than two fare-payers at one time, though we anticipate expanding that to additional passengers if the pilot is successful. I anticipate that the ride sharing program will commence sometime in mid to late 2010.

Taxicab Group Riding
Another of our pilot programs would encourage group riding in a few selected transit-heavy corridors of Manhattan. Data that we have collected through GPS has pinpointed several of the most active passenger pick-up and drop-off locations, thereby aiding us in the planning process. Here is how the group riding program would work: taxi stands for this purpose would be established at such locations as Grand Central Terminal, the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Penn Station, with routes of travel extending in an uptown direction to 59th Street and Sixth Avenue. Up to four passengers would be able to board a taxicab, be charged a flat $3 or $4 rate, and then either go the distance or be let off anywhere along the “corridor” the taxicab is traveling. Other routes planned for the group riding program would take passengers to 42nd Street and Park Avenue from such points as 57th Street and Eighth Avenue, East 72nd Street and Third Avenue, and West 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue. Because of the discounted flat rate -- certainly less than what an average individual fare would be -- the potential savings for passengers is clear. It has been estimated that one passenger, depending on the actual distance traveled, could realize savings of up to 65%. What is also clear is the increased earning potential for drivers who are able to benefit from carrying multiple passengers on just one trip! Initial plans call for the group rides to operate only one-way during the morning rush hours. Once implemented, the feedback will guide us in making future decisions concerning the program’s direction. We anticipate launching the Group Riding plan sometime later this year.

Livery Stands
The TLC’s third pilot program would set up “livery stands” at busy locations on private property, such as shopping centers. These locations would become “virtual” satellite bases, at which there would be a dispatcher during peak hours who could respond to the transportation requests of prospective passengers. Our rules and regulations requiring prearrangement would in no way be comprised, and the “chain of accountability” that is so crucial to passenger service and safety would be as solid as it ever was. Rates of fare would be posted and there would be very close supervision of these bases by the TLC in their initial stages. The only difference being that it would offer greater convenience to passengers who otherwise may have been tempted by unsafe, unlicensed illegal operators. This pilot program is expected to start in late 2010, and would also run approximately 12 months and then be evaluated with a view toward any future changes or adjustments.

It is important to realize that all of these initiatives are pilot programs, and may or may not be instituted permanently. I can assure you that we will be including the input of industry stakeholders (as well as the riding public) every step of the way during this process. These ideas are very exciting and have enormous potential to take our industry to an even more progressive and beneficial service level. In short, it is sound and sensible public policy – or a “win-win” as they say. But of course, these plans will not be implemented without considerable effort, planning and the acceptance of both positive and critical feedback. We are ready – as always – for the challenge, and will keep you posted every step of the way.

Until next time………

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