I think what really leaps out at me to talk about this month is the word “new”. Lately, and this week in particular, we’ve been all about projects that are new, and never before been done.
This past Monday, we returned to the former Q74 stop at 150th Street/Melbourne Avenue to launch the first of five new Group Ride Vehicle service areas. Three others would start on September 20th, and the last remaining service area begins operation a week later, on September 27th. Readers of this space will remember that the idea was to invite proposals from private operators to offer spontaneous group ride transportation service in the areas previously served by five now-defunct MTA bus routes. It was almost three months to the day since we stood at that very site with Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Goldsmith, Council Speaker Quinn and several local Council Members to announce this bold new concept, not so much to replace the MTA’s discontinued service as to just lend some assistance to the people those cuts affected so dramatically. Yes, three months is 12 weeks, 90 days….not exactly the blink of an eye, but when you sit down and itemize everything that goes into an effort as truly herculean as this, from receiving and evaluating proposals to logistics planning, you realize just how speedily we achieved our goals.
We are fortunate to have an outstanding group of five operators who are truly dedicated to providing the highest level of service possible, and I have every confidence that they will put this new “hybrid” service, which combines the benefits of bus, taxi and livery service, on the proverbial map.
A scant two days later, I was privileged to be standing with Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Economic Development Corporation (EDC) officials and representatives of Staten Island elected officials to welcome – again, for the very first time – a new dedicated livery stand at the St. George Ferry Terminal. To those who think this sounds a bit mundane, let me say now, you couldn’t be farther from the truth. The way it works is simple….passengers exit the terminal, and give their destination to the dispatcher at a conveniently-located kiosk. The next authorized car in the queue car pulls up, and the dispatcher radios the fare to the driver, having just calculated the distance-specific amount on his computer.
This new service was a revelation – certainly to the several thousand riders it has already served in just a few days of operation, but also to the company itself, made up of five licensed livery bases that banded together to form a coalition entity known as “United Cars.” For them, this was an opportunity to serve their community without having to compete with the illegal “poachers” that had been present for so long, overcharging people, risking their safety, and just generally causing chaos. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our partners at the DOT and EDC for helping us to realize this amazing new service that is truly nothing short of revolutionary for Staten Island.
Last but not least, our External Affairs office successfully hosted several livery industry summit meetings this week in various boroughs throughout the city this week. The well-attended events facilitated communication with our licensee customers about important new rules and regulations that are not only empowering passengers with the ability to more clearly determine which vehicles are legitimate and safe, but are protecting them from the illegal operators that, like those I mentioned above, put passengers safety at risk.
This may not be a universal truth, but this week for certain, New is good!