Hello everyone….I hope you are all driving safely and enjoying the holiday season!
I’d like to update you all on the exciting month we’ve had on since my last column.
On December 4, the TLC hosted a yellow taxi driver job fair where individuals seeking to obtain a TLC medallion license can learn more about it. The fair was a collaborative effort involving virtually every segment of the taxi industry including, fleet owners, garages, agents, medallion brokers, lenders, insurance companies and more.
The 3,000+ attendees had an opportunity to speak with industry representatives and learn more about being a yellow taxi driver, and anyone who wanted to get a head start on their license application had an opportunity to meet with TLC licensing staffers, who answered all their questions and got the ball rolling for them.
It was truly one-stop shopping for attendees. Not only were they able to get their applications jumpstarted by TLC staff, but there were representatives available from taxi schools and the drug testing center on hand to schedule appointments on the spot to further shorten the time it takes to get a license.
We received hundreds of paper applications and nearly 100 online submissions at the event, and our Licensing Division will work speedily to process all of these new applications.
Without the participation, cooperation, and dedication of the industry stakeholders who enthusiastically attended and participated, the job fair would not have been the success that it so clearly was. I would like to thank each and every one of them for providing so much help to those seeking to become a driver. Thanks also to the tireless TLC staffers who did such a great job coordinating and planning this wonderful event. It was a herculean task, but the many hours spent in preparation really showed in the final product. Special shout out to Policy staffer Erika Leyva, who was out there helping prospective drivers just a few short days before giving birth to her beautiful baby girl Libby!
The TLC was invited to participate in a City Council oversight hearing on the very topical subject of apps on December 3, and I testified before the Transportation Committee about the TLC’s experience with the emerging taxi and for-hire vehicle (FHV) app technology. My testimony (if you’d like to read it: http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/testimony_12_03_14.pdf) described the changes made to the TLC rules as smartphone technology has become more prevalent in the TLC’s regulated industries. These changes, requiring FHV trip records in a standard format on a continuous basis, and prohibiting cross-class dispatching, first and foremost promote safe and reliable service for passengers, but they also protect drivers Workers Compensation coverage.
While many see this as a new innovation, it’s actually true that the FHV industry has used apps to connect passengers with available vehicles for years. Today, 42% of FHV bases utilize app technology, making use of more than 75 different custom-designed and off-the-shelf platforms. And, of course, the FHV industry is not alone in its use of apps. Through the TLC’s taxi e-hail pilot, which launched in 2013, over 600,000 passengers have enjoyed hailing in this unique way in the last year. We’ve extended the pilot program for a year, but in fact, we hope to make the program permanent long before then, and anticipate publishing e-hail rules that would emphasize consumer protections and accountability before the end of the year. As I’ve said before, New York City loves its street hail, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon, but app technology is quickly becoming more mainstream and passengers both demand and deserve options.
While there, I was also asked a few questions about recent reports of falling medallion prices. It is true that several recent medallion transactions have taken place at between 17% and 20% below record high numbers, but there is no question in my mind and the minds of many market experts that the industry remains strong and vital.
There was also some confusion about a chart, which was created some decades ago to serve as a tool to report transactions considered to be at an “arms-length” or within $10,000 of the previous month’s average. This chart was offered alongside another chart with the actual raw sales data, every month. The methodology behind this “average” chart was to determine whether or not the transaction required a waiver from the Department of Finance in order to apply the correct transfer tax.
The chart remained stagnant for a period of some months, but we did ultimately decide that it was no longer useful for the purpose it was designed and pulled it from our web site. From that point on, those interested in the medallion market could use the raw data chart (updated monthly and posted in tandem with the averages for the past five-plus years) that included every transaction occurring in a given month and average the numbers any way they saw fit.
While I understand the perfect storm of events and circumstances that have led to some expressing their concerns about the taxi industry and the value of medallions, I can tell you with confidence that the enthusiasm and energy we saw on display at the Taxi Driver Job Fair would, I think, go a very long way in dispelling those concerns.
I wish you and your families all a wonderful holiday season, and a New Year filled with peace, prosperity, happiness and health!