By Meera Joshi
So much has happened since we’ve last been in touch through this column, but I think the issue that has commanded the greatest amount of newsprint, ink and industry concern is the attempted encroachment of the so-called “rideshare” company, Lyft. For those catching up late on this, Lyft, which provides a form of for-hire service using non-professionally licensed drivers in their personal vehicles dispatched via smartphone app, wanted to expand to New York City, contrary to the rules and laws which govern for-hire transportation here. They are in operation in roughly 60 other US cities. While New York City has a well-founded reputation as a pioneer in welcoming new technology to improve the passenger experience, progress must never come at the expense of passenger safety and consumer protections, and fairness to the legitimate licensed industries we regulate.
Faced with the reality that TLC enforcement would take their unlicensed vehicles off the road as quickly as they’d dispatch them, Lyft agreed to amend their operating plan so that it used licensed drivers and vehicles, and was dispatched by a licensed base. Regardless of this, the TLC, joined by the Attorney General’s office and the NYS Department of Financial Services, sought a Temporary Restraining Order to ensure they would not launch illegally.
Today, I can report that Lyft was approved to take ownership of a Brooklyn Black Car Base, #B02510, known as Atlas Travel & Limousine. The takeaway from all of this is that a TLC license represents a promise to understand and abide by the rules that provide for passenger protection; rules that the New York FHV industry is proud to follow. If you’ve done the work and put in the time and effort to do things right, you should know – the TLC takes your promise seriously, and we’re not allowing anyone any shortcuts for them to get what you earned the hard way.
Since last we spoke, the TLC has submitted its Disability Accessibility Plan (DAP) to the State Department of Transportation on behalf of Governor Cuomo, as required by the law that created the framework for the Street Hail Livery program, as well as authorizing the sale of additional wheelchair accessible taxi medallions.
The state has 90 days to review the DAP, which takes us to late August. If approved, the DAP lets us move forward with what we all agree will be the appropriate percentage of accessible Street Hail Liveries (SHLs) – 50% -- to complement the 50% by 2020 accessibility target we’ve set in the medallion taxicab industry.
I’d like to take a moment to thank the very gracious people at Grand Limo & Car Service, which happens to be the city’s largest operator of Street Hail Liveries (SHLs, or green cabs). I visited the base recently to discuss the latest happenings in the world of SHLs – most notably that the next issuance of SHL permits will begin in late August as promised – and received the warmest response possible. I always feel at home when I’m talking to drivers!
Here I am with Grand owner Sharif Laskar
Last but far from least, we continue to move ahead aggressively on Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, most recently participating in the mayor’s signing of three key pieces of Vision Zero-related legislation that will give the TLC the tools it needs to hold drivers appropriately accountable for their driving safety. We’ve made this point many times in the media, as well as to our industry partners, but I will make it yet again for the readers of this column……the overwhelming vast majority of TLC-licensed drivers are the safest drivers on the road, but it only takes that one irresponsible bad apple to set people’s perceptions back to square one…..no one wants a bad driver off the road more than a good driver, and these new laws will help us to do just that.
Until next time, be well and stay cool!