By Meera Joshi
I wanted to start this month’s column with both thanks and congratulations to longtime friend and colleague Iris Weinshall, who, after 11 distinguished years, has stepped down from her role as a Taxi and Limousine Commission member. While we will certainly miss her wisdom and experience – not to mention her perspective as the daughter of a career NYC cab driver – we wish her well on her appointments as Chief Operating Officer of the New York Public Library, and as a mayoral representative on the MTA Board, as well as on her recent election to the Chair of the Prospect Park Alliance.
Until next month……
Okay, let’s talk about safety. As you all most likely know, the TLC is one of three lead agencies working toward the ambitious, but very reachable, goal of zero traffic fatalities set in Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan. While there are some enforcement tools built into Vision Zero that will be powerful deterrents against reckless driving, there is also a movement to thank and honor those drivers whose responsible driving serves as an influential example to their brothers and sisters behind the wheel.
I am pleased to announce that approximately 300 drivers from among the TLC’s regulated industries have met the criteria, and have secured a place on the TLC’s 2014 Vision Zero Driver Safety Honor Roll. To say thank you to these leading drivers, we will honor them all at a gala ceremony at Borough of Manhattan Community College in early September. Just to share a few fun facts about these safety achievers, 178 of them drive yellow taxis, 110 drive black cars or livery cars, and four of them drive both. Eighteen from both hack and FHV license types also drive Street Hail Liveries.
These “super drivers” are your neighbors! Thirty eight percent of Honor Roll drivers live in Queens; 27 percent live in Brooklyn; 20 percent in the Bronx; seven percent in Manhattan; two percent in Staten Island; and five percent outside NYC. They’re also experienced -- on average, Honor Roll drivers have held a TLC license for 13 years!
Honor Roll drivers driving yellow taxis have logged nearly 20 million miles with passengers since 2009, serving over eight million passengers. One Honor Roll member who drives a yellow taxi has driven over 190,000 passenger-miles since 2009, serving over 50,000 passengers. Well-deserved congratulations go out to Taxifleet Management, a Committee For Taxi Safety fleet, which was the fleet garage with the highest number of Honor Roll drivers leasing sometime from 2009 to mid-2014 with 41 drivers. The second highest number of drivers have leased from All Taxi Management (34 drivers), which is a Metropolitan Taxi Board of Trade fleet.
Let me finish with this thought…..we’ve attended many Vision Zero Town Hall meetings over these past few months, and we’ve hosted many information sessions that have been attended by hundreds if not thousands of drivers, and I have to admit that I had sometimes wondered how much these sobering facts and figures about safety and the terrible price of not heeding these common sense lessons really resonated with people. Any doubts I may have had about whether the lessons of Vision Zero were being heard, however, were dispelled by a single driver, in whose life it made a tangible difference. Without identifying the individual who wrote it, I’d like to share that message with you:
A month ago or so you came to my garage to address the cab drivers, in particular concerning the city’s speed limit.
I would have been involved in a ghastly accident last Monday morning by 5:00 am while driving west bound on West 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.
I was making about 28 miles per hour when a car going uptown on Amsterdam Avenue ran the red light while I was approaching the middle of the intersection.
He swerved to the left, avoiding my cab by only a few feet, at a speed of about 50 miles an hour. That brought home to me, how observing the 30 mph speed limit in the city could save lives.
I feel you need to hear this. It happened barely 24 hours ago. If I had entered the intersection at 32 mph, I would have either died or my body would have been mangled by the impact from side collision.
This was a powerful message from this driver, and I am so grateful for his sharing it with us, allowing me to share it with you all.
Last but not least! I wanted to mention that the TLC was recently honored to thank and congratulate Mr. Uppkar Thind, a medallion owner since 2006, for his exemplary contributions to the City’s Electric Vehicle Pilot Program.
Just to remind folks about this, on Earth Day 2013, we partnered with Nissan North America to launch a test of electric vehicles, not to test a particular vehicle, but to see how they fit into the business model of the New York taxi industry. It was visionary and generous of Nissan to do this, and we learned a LOT of valuable lessons from it.
But we couldn’t have done it without Uppkar Thind…..the word committed doesn’t really do Uppkar’s participation justice……he truly went above and beyond as a participant, making sure the vehicle stayed on the road each and every day when that was sometimes extremely challenging. For example, when no one was available to fix one of the level III quick chargers, he put his electrician’s background to work, opening up the complex charger and fixing it himself!
It’s safe to say that Uppkar’s participation is one of the main reasons for the pilot program’s success, so thanks, Uppkar, for the 31,894 electric miles you drove, and the 5,377 total trips you made, allowing New Yorkers to breathe a bit easier!