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COMMISSIONER'S COLUMN

October 2011

Hello, everyone!  I hope you’re all enjoying the transition from summer to fall, because it seems to pass more quickly each year.  The best part is that it’s so pleasant to drive with the windows open these days.

Anyway, even with the hurricane behind us, we’ve had a particularly busy few weeks, culminating in our last regular Commission meeting which, as I write these words, was four days ago.  Most notable is the fact that the TLC’s Board of Commissioners voted to approve new rooftop ad regulations that, for the first time, address the issue of vehicle owners who object to certain ads on their vehicles.  The thing is, when the rooftop ad rules were first created, there were two scenarios – either you owned and operated your own medallion and car, or you leased both car and medallion from a fleet.  Today, DOVs – Driver Owned Vehicles -- are the taxi industry’s fastest-growing segment, accounting for more than a third of the City’s taxicabs, and it was time for the regulations to reflect that new reality.

DOVs use their vehicles as the family car, taking their children to school, picking up groceries, visiting places of worship, parking the vehicle in the driveway, and it was the right thing to do to put the ability to choose whether or not to display a particular ad in their hands.  I should point out that, initially, this was a simple matter of equanimity.  As the industry well knows, we’ve been updating our rules for several years now, and have a brand new rulebook that’s more concise, easier-to-read and understand and more logically structured.  Here, too, we wanted to update the rooftop ad rules to match the industry’s practical reality.  It was only after we had started the ball rolling to make these updates that we heard from a number of drivers that they had specific concerns with certain suggestive ads.  Their words were compelling – stories of children translating these ads into their own innocent perceptions, and tales of drivers hiding their faces and hurrying into their homes to avoid being connected to their vehicle by their neighbors.

Of course, these ads have yet another impact, considering the facts that taxicabs are considered by millions to be one of the quintessential symbols of New York City, and that it is a general perception that these ads are somehow sanctioned by the City of New York.  That said, we are very mindful of the government’s important role in avoiding censorship.  It is precisely for this reason that we have put the power to choose in the deserving hands of the DOVs themselves.
 

Speaking of updates that mirror new realities, I’m also pleased to report that we’ve modified the Owner Must Drive rules to allow the surviving spouses of individual medallion owners whose medallions were owned prior to the original rule’s passage in 1990 to continue to lease those medallions.  The rationale was simple; these medallions figured prominently into the retirement plans of these families, and so long as they are operated responsibly, there is no reason why they shouldn’t continue as the centerpiece of those plans.  As you can see from the adorable photo below, this was an emotional issue for these families, and I congratulate my fellow Commissioners for their caring and compassionate actions.

Until next month!

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