By Meera Joshi
Hello everyone, I hope you are all doing well, driving safely and enjoying the change of season.
I want to start this column by announcing a key personnel addition to the TLC team. On October 20, Jeffrey Roth took over the role of Deputy Commissioner of Policy and External Affairs, where he will help us accomplish our critical goals of protecting the public and effectively regulating the finest taxicab and for-hire vehicle industries in the world.
Jeff comes to us from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), where he served as Assistant Commissioner for Management Initiatives, overseeing Data Analytics, Reporting, and Internal Audit and Compliance. Before joining the FDNY in 2010, Jeff also worked as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Mayor’s Office of Operations for three years, so he is no stranger to managing and measuring progress!
Besides his work as a public servant here in NYC, Jeff serves our country as a Major in the Army National Guard where he is an Executive Officer in the Field Artillery 1-258 out of Jamaica, Queens. He also attends Army General Command and Staff College.
Jeff’s body of knowledge and work experience make him an outstanding asset to the agency, and we are very fortunate to have him onboard.
So, this month’s commission meeting was a particularly lively one, mostly with regard to the proposed For-Hire Vehicle Dispatch rules (http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/proposed_rule_fhv_dispatch_rules.pdf). It was really very gratifying to see such a large turnout from all segments of the industry, but it was especially appreciated that we were able to hear from so many drivers who were both for and against the proposed rules. Their input will be particularly important as we continue the dialogue on this important issue.
I’m happy to once again take a moment to bring up our good friend Fred Amoafo, who is quickly becoming a household name!
As I mentioned last month, Fred was named International Driver of the Year by the International Association of Transportation Regulators at the group’s annual conference in New Orleans!
Frederick Amoafo (at left) is congratulated by IATR President Matthew Daus, TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi and Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue.
As you all may recall, Fred, a proud medallion owner/driver, topped the list of driver-licensees who have driven the most safe miles over a five year period – 190,000 miles, to be exact -- but we can now add to that count the more than 1,300 miles he drove to New Orleans receive his award in a very special half yellow/half green taxicab!
A very different kind of hybrid!
Anyway, I may have previously mentioned how historic this was, but to reiterate, it’s the first time in the 27 year history of the IATR that a New York driver has been given this great honor, and we couldn’t be happier that he’s our neighbor. His achievement provides a real positive shining example to his fellow drivers, and we hope they will take it to heart, because there’s is nothing that we or our licensed drivers do that is more important than safety.
Of course, safety has been at the very core of many of the policy initiatives undertaken by the TLC this year, as has New York City as a whole. As part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero action plan, on November 7, New York City’s new default vehicular speed limit will be reduced from 30 to 25 mph.
On October 14, my colleagues DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan and I participated in an event in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn to start the 25-day countdown clock that will culminate on November 7, when the new speed limit takes effect.
The State Legislature, and more recently the City Council, approved this legislation that will be such an important tool to help us change the dynamic on our streets and save lives in the process. As one of the three lead Vision Zero agencies, the TLC will be working closely with DOT and NYPD to do its part to educate our licensees about this change. The TLC has been sending out messages to drivers though the Driver Information Monitor (DIM) since October 14. In addition to sending DIM messages we have been distributing fliers about the speed limit change at our Licensing and Inspection facility as well as informing the industry through industry notices and email blasts.
Consistent with the mission and goals of Vision Zero, the TLC has begun issuing warning letters to TLC licensees who have been caught on camera disobeying a red light traffic signal. As TLC licensees are rightly held to a higher standard, the agency will eventually seek to summons violators who have engaged in this dangerous behavior, but for now – and until the end of this year – the TLC will seek to create a means of deterring drivers with these warnings from continuing the practice of racing to yellow lights rather than slowing down, or simply ignoring these crucial lifesaving signals. The message to take away from this announcement is, learn these lessons now, because real summonses – with real ramifications – will be just around the corner!
It should be noted that each of the TLC’s regulated industries will be subject to these summonses, not just the ones equipped with TPEP and LPEP technology.
Let me leave this topic, however, by expressing my great confidence in our licensees. I do believe – and very strongly -- that drivers will overwhelmingly take these warnings to heart, and that enforcement will be the exception and – pardon the pun -- not the rule.
Before I sign off until next month, I want to recognize another one of our licensees who has gone above and beyond the call of duty. On October 10, little William Steinhaus very impatiently came into this world with a little help from his friend, medallion taxi driver Osama Hassan.
Among other things, when it became necessary to pull over as the baby was crowning, Mr. Hassan made sure the family had the space and privacy they needed, and did everything in his power to help make them feel comfortable during this amazing – but rather tense – event, which we’ve taken to calling the “Miracle on Madison.”
Mr. Hassan’s shift that day was a prime example that you can never know what to expect when on-duty, especially when transporting someone expecting a blessed event. We are proud to have such examples of drivers rising to the occasion in extraordinary situations, as Mr. Hassan did.
Once baby William is just a wee bit older, we look forward to inviting the family and Mr. Hassan to a future Commission Meeting so we can thank him in person for offering a helping hand to a certain tiny fellow New Yorker who was in need.
Until next month, stay well and DRIVE SAFELY!