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COMMISSIONER'S COLUMN

September 2011

Today we learned the results of an integrity test performed by the New York City Department of Investigation, with which the TLC worked so closely following the revelation last year that an unfortunately significant number of taxicab drivers were abusing the Rate Code 4 setting on their meters, which is reserved for our-of-city trips.

Before I go into the details, let me say that the news is mostly good.

 The test, performed purposely during the busy tourist season, consisted of undercover investigators performing 20 random hails with destinations in each of the five boroughs.  In all 20 rides, investigators noted no overcharges, perhaps, the report speculates, due to the presence of the GPS systems, public awareness about the differing rates of fare, and the deterrence that would be a natural result of the DOI’s bringing of felony and misdemeanor charges to 59 individuals last September.  For the record, 49 of these cases have resulted in convictions thus far.

 In fact, I am in complete agreement on this with DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn, whose vigilance and attention to this problem has been of great benefit to our city and to the taxicab industry in general.  Today, after much drama arising from the whole Rate Code 4 debacle, we can assure the riding public that they may hail in confidence, and that their taxicab driver is charging them the proper fare.

 So, like those years ago, when the TLC’s creative proactivity allowed the agency to claim victory in its battle against meter tampering and illegal meter accelerators, I feel comfortable in saying that both our efforts and the efforts of our industry partners have made Rate Code 4 abuses a thing of the past.  Before we break out the laurels to rest upon, however, let me tell you what else the DOI’s investigators found.

 In seven of the 20 undercover rides, investigators observed such serious violations as refusing to take a passenger to Staten Island, talking on a cell phone, failing to display their hack licenses, failing to return lost property, failing to immediately activate the meter and failing to activate the meter on a trip from Manhattan to JFK Airport.

 Passengers still complain about drivers and their cell phone-fueled lack of attention to their work.  Passengers are still frustrated by their lack of ability to identify a driver who was rude or otherwise inappropriate with them because they removed their license from its display harness.  Most of all, passengers still lament the difficulties they sometimes have convincing drivers to take them to the boroughs outside of Manhattan, as is their lawfully-provided right.  So, while we’re celebrating the fact that passengers can feel absolute confidence when their taxicab driver drops the flag, remember the things that they feel less confidence about.  While our success in the battle against rate Code 4 abuses tells me that no problem is insurmountable, we’ve still got a few to deal with, and we need to work together to make that happen.

I hope that you’re all having a productive and enjoyable summer -- until next month, take care and be well!

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