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Commissioner’s Corner

February 2015

Hello everyone…  I hope you all enjoyed the holiday season.

I’d now like to update everyone on what’s been going so far in 2015.

On January 12, I testified before the New York City Council Committee on Transportation on four proposed items of legislation that directly affect operations of industries licensed by the TLC.  The bills being discussed at the hearing were Intros 47, 556, 559 and 615 (my testimony: http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/testimony_01_12_15.pdf).

Intro. 47 seeks to remove the off-street parking requirement for livery bases.  The TLC supports this legislation simply because it is an unnecessary expense for livery bases since drivers often don’t take advantage of this off-street alternative. I want to remind every driver that, when you are parked in front of someone’s home or business, please be courteous.  Be mindful of your surroundings and be sure not to litter, make excessive amounts of noise, or disregard the posted parking regulations.  Your base (and you!) have a vested interest in being a good neighbor, as your neighbors are your customers.  

Intro. 556 would prohibit for-hire vehicles from charging excessive rates.  As it is currently drafted, we do not support this bill, however, we do support the bill’s intention to limit what a for-hire car service base can charge a passenger over and above their normal rate of fare.  In general, I believe that car service bases and consumers should be able to agree upon a price and proceed with a transaction so long as both are willing, but there is a breaking point.  There must be consumer protections in place for vulnerable passengers who may have no choice but to accept a ride at an unconscionable price.

More importantly, we need to ensure that passengers are well aware of what their ride is going to cost, or at least be able to accurately estimate what their final bill will be.  Passengers should never be in a situation where they experience sticker shock. We have begun working on a set of rules which would require additional price transparency to ensure passengers have the information they need, right from the beginning, to make an informed decision.

The third item of proposed legislation was Intro. 559, which relates to agreements between livery bases.  We have concerns about this legislation primarily because we believe it is not in the best interest of our licensed drivers to require agreements between bases. It may jeopardize the drivers’ status as independent contractors and would negatively impact the opportunities available to them when their affiliated base doesn’t have enough work to keep them busy.

The final proposed item of legislation was Intro. 615, which would allow the TLC to consider improved versions of the current trouble light.  We strongly support this measure, and we thank the Council for considering this small, yet potentially very impactful, legislative change.  Currently, the TLC is limited by local law to only permit the existing “lollipop” trouble lights. The proposed legislation would remove that requirement giving the TLC greater flexibility, allowing us to research a new trouble light configuration that can be more useful to law enforcement and ultimately keep drivers safer.

On to other topics.

The media recently reported about the way the TPEP vendors have been calculating the pre-set suggested tip amounts passengers may select at the end of their trip.  While TLC rules do not specify the formula that a TPEP provider uses to calculate those pre-set tip suggestions, we do require that passengers always have the option to enter in their own tip amount and have the ability to select a preset amount of twenty percent.  The issue was that one company used a calculation that included the tax and tolls in figuring the percentage of suggested tip, while the other provider used the fare only as a basis.  The media coverage sparked some debate on the issue, and within 24 hours, both systems were calculating the pre-set suggested tip amount with the fare, taxes and tolls included – a wise market driven resolution

Before I sign-off, I would like to brief everyone one about some new rules that are being proposed at the TLC’s next Commission meeting on January 29.  The first of these seeks to establish a permanent regulatory framework that would allow passengers to “e-hail” yellow taxis and Street Hail Liveries through an app on their smartphones.  The TLC has been testing e-hail technology with since April 2013 through a pilot program and the data we have collected confirms that E-Hail apps make it easier for passengers and drivers to connect, without infringing on the hallmark New York City hand-hail for other passengers.  Between June 2013 and May 2014, over 7,500 drivers provided trips to 652,590 E-Hail passengers.  While this may seem like many drivers and trips, they actually accounted for only 0.37% of all taxi trips during this period.  For more information about the proposed E-Hail rules, visit: http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/proposed_rules_ehail_app_12_29_14.pdf

Another set of rules up for consideration involve changes to the current Owner-Must-Drive (OMD) rules, for Individual Owner/Drivers.  The OMD rules promote both safety and quality customer service, on the principal that taxicab drivers who own their own medallion would operate even more conscientiously and responsibly because of their financial stake.  Keeping with the theme of Vision Zero, however, we recognize the need for all taxi drivers to drive safely, regardless of medallion or vehicle ownership.  This is why we propose relaxing the OMD requirements from number of shifts driven to the number of cumulative hours driven.  OMD medallion owners should find it easier to meet this proposed requirement.
We are also seeking to reduce the penalty for owners who are not meeting the required number of hours driven, as well as the penalties for OMD medallion owners who select another driver to fulfill their OMD requirements.  Lastly, we want to increase the amount of time for which a Medical Waiver may be granted.  With these proposed rule changes, it is our hope to make owning a medallion easier, and more importantly, to make driving it safer.  For more information about the proposed OMD rules, visit: http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/proposed_rules_owner_must_drive_12_29_14.pdf
That’s all for now.  Until next time, stay warm and drive safely!

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