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COMMISSIONER'S COLUMN

February 2012
 

A new page of history over three decades in the making was written when Governor Cuomo signed the Five Borough Livery bill last month, in a form not at all dissimilar to the original concept as envisioned by mayor Bloomberg last January.

What do I mean by history?  Roughly three decades ago, a recommendation was made to Mayor Edward I Koch to serve the boroughs outside of Manhattan with a fleet of livery cars equipped to accept street hails.  The political realities of the day were such that this plan never saw the light of day, but here we are, 30 years later, poised – finally -- to make those proverbial wheels of government turn a little faster for the people we serve.

Just to remind everyone, this plan will create a class of license that would allow up to 18,000 qualified livery drivers – meaning the men and women who are working so hard to serve their communities today -- to equip their vehicles with meters, roof lights and GPS systems, and give them, for the first time ever, a real and tangible stake in the industry.  Twenty percent of these vehicles – or 3,600 -- must be wheelchair accessible, and the City will invest in over $50 million in subsidies to help make that happen.  The plan will also create 2,000 brand new accessible taxicab medallions, creating new service for a taxi-hungry city, and bringing more than $1 billion into the City’s general fund, some of which will be used to create the livery subsidy mentioned above.  The agreement also calls for the TLC to submit an accessibility plan to the State DOT for its review and approval.

Where else but in New York City can a new transportation mode create, instead of deplete, a City’s means of paying for firefighters, police officers, teachers, and other public services?  Sometimes government gets it right, and this was definitely one of those times.

The TLC’s Board has some applicable rules to consider, and we anticipate that process culminating in April.

As many of you know, just a few days after the governor signed the Five Borough Taxi legislation into law, a judge from the United States District Court issued summary judgment for the plaintiffs in a case requesting that all medallion taxicabs be made accessible.  In view of all of the efforts we have undertaken and will continue to undertake, we’ve expressed our disappointment in this ruling, and the City has filed an appeal.

Speaking of efforts, we are moving forward with all due speed to implement our Wheelchair Accessible Dispatch system, to match persons who use wheelchairs with spontaneous transportation options by calling 311.  We have executed a contract with Metro Taxi, Inc. to be the dispatcher for the medallion taxi dispatch service, and that contract will be going to the Comptroller shortly.  As soon as the Comptroller signs off, Metro Taxi will be invoicing medallion owners for the initial payment to fund the dispatch system.  The annual amount -- $98 – will fund the operations of the dispatch system, which will allow us to provide meaningful access to the taxi fleet to wheelchair users.  Medallion owners are required to pay this fee, per the rules we passed last month, and I would urge each medallion owner to pay this amount as soon as possible so that we can start providing this vital service.

2012 is shaping up to be quite an amazing year….until next month, take care and stay warm!


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