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COMMISSIONER'S COLUMN

December 2009

Interesting reading on the cover of this past Sunday’s New York Times – A1 above the fold, no less.  It seems that the TLC’s new data-collection capabilities have led to the confirmation of projections we had made as much as five years ago.  These projections, most notably, include our contention that tips would increase to the point where they would offset any additional costs, and that credit card capability would become an intrinsic customer service feature.  (Of course, our predictions have likewise come true with regard to the public’s acceptance of the systems’ informational and entertainment capabilities, but that’s a story for another day.)

Anyway, the point of the story was that, despite a major economic crisis, New York City’s taxicab industry has fared unusually well as compared to other cities due to a “perfect storm” of events and decisions ranging from ensuring that passengers get to swipe their own cards to including tip calculators that have resulted in drivers receiving record high tips.  In fact, the article goes as far as to say that the “back-of-the-cab swipe has emerged as an unlikely savior for New York’s taxi industry, even as other cities’ fleets struggle to find fares in a deep recession.”  (See it for yourself at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/nyregion/08taxi.html?scp=3&sq=Daus&st=cse).

What I think is most interesting is that the systems have not only been a hit with passengers, but they have the built-in capability to provide the data to measure their own success.

While this five-year-long process has certainly had its share of difficult days, with protests, demonstrations, threatened strikes, etc., it is nice to see that after all this time, and all the projections and promises, we can finally match the facts with the predictions and everyone from the drivers to the passengers can claim victory.

Even as we here in New York City are poised to step up to the system’s next generation –
“Taxi Technology 2.0” – the article points out that other major cities are poised to get on board the technology train, and we are only too happy to have laid the tracks!

In other important regulatory news, it should be noted that, after everyone in the For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) industry has had virtually limitless opportunities to come into compliance with our new For-Hire Vehicle Industry Rules, enforcement will begin sometime in the near future on a date to be announced.

You will all remember that the TLC enacted a package of new rules and regulations with the goal of putting illegal FHVs out of business, and helping the riding public to understand what a truly legitimate FHV looks and acts like.

What this means is that, on the aforementioned date to be  announced, TLC Enforcement Officers will be deployed throughout the five boroughs, making sure that For-Hire Vehicles (FHVs) are in full compliance with all of the requirements that we have spent over a year reaching out to and communicating with the industry about – among them the need to have the round licensing labels on their rear passenger windows, the base information on the car, and the driver’s license and For-Hire Vehicle Passenger’s Bill of Rights on display for the passenger’s convenience.

Of course, the TLC has already begun the process of successfully inspecting new FHVs as of September 1, subjecting them to the TLC’s DMV-certified, one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art inspection process.  We will begin inspecting renewing vehicles as of February 1, 2010, and we fully expect that process to be every bit as smooth and successful as it has been for new vehicles.

The point is that, after one of the most ambitious outreach campaigns ever undertaken by the TLC, and literally dozens of meetings, forums and summits throughout the five boroughs, we are at last fully confident that the FHV industry is ready, willing and able to stand-up and highlight its responsibility and accountability.

Of course, this isn’t now, nor has it ever been about writing summonses – if it were, we would have begun enforcement many months ago.  What it’s about is protecting the riding public, and doing it in a smart way that simultaneously protects the industry from opportunistic business thieves.  That having been said, it is inevitably true that there will be summonses, and there will be points assessed to drivers and bases in violation of these important rules and regulations.  With some good planning on the industry’s part, these violations should be kept to an absolute minimum, and nothing would please us more than this.

While I am certain that the aforementioned planning has taken place and that everyone is indeed ready, I do strongly urge another visit to the popular section in our Web site that is devoted to these new rules -- http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/rules/new_fhv_licensee_faq.shtml#4.  It contains answers to every question you could possibly have, and more besides!

Before I sign off, I’d like to wish everyone and their families a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!  Until next month…….

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