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Commissioner’s Corner

May 2015

Commissioner’s Corner

By Meera Joshi

Hello again, everyone… I hope you’ve all been enjoying the warmer weather the spring has brought us. It’s been a busy month!

On March 30, the Taxi and Limousine Commission, in partnership with Families for Safe Streets, the NYC Department of Transportation and the NYC Police Department, presented a Vision Zero-inspired video we titled “Drive Like Your Family Lives Here.”  The video features five families, each telling their emotional story of losing a loved one due to traffic-related tragedies.

The TLC produced this video to be integrated into driver training programs for prospective taxi and For-Hire Vehicle drivers.  While it is important for our licensees to take the video’s message to heart, I also firmly believe that every driver will benefit from the video’s message and we are making great strides in achieving just that. So far, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services have both incorporated the video into their fleet driver training programs, and the NYPD will be showing the video regularly at its TrafficStat traffic analysis meetings.  More recently, the video has been added to the Governor Cuomo’s Traffic Safety Committee website.

My message to you, today, is that since everyone reading this will benefit from drivers making safer choices behind the wheel, I would like your help in bringing this video to the attention of every driver in the City.   To join the roughly 10,000 who’ve already seen the video online – and you should, as soon as possible -- visit the TLC’s homepage at www.nyc.gov/tlc or visit Youtube.com and search “Drive Like Your Family Lives Here.” You may also type in the URL directly into your web browser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAnSw3nzj0U.
In keeping with the theme of Vision Zero, on April 7, we announced that the first Vehicle Safety Technology (VST) pilot participant, IonFleets, Inc., has been approved. The VST pilot will test and evaluate the effectiveness of black boxes, anti-speeding technologies, driver alert systems, and related analytic software, in promoting safe driving of TLC-licensed vehicles.
IonFleets’ approval marks the beginning of this exciting yearlong pilot. If you are interested in participating in this pilot program using IonFleets’ technology, you can reach out to them at 917-387-3400 or visit their website, www.ionfleets.com for more information.

Yellow taxi drivers and passengers routinely face difficulty between the hours of 4pm and 6pm, due to a systemic problem more commonly referred to as shift-change.  On April 11, the TLC, in partnership with New York University Rudin Center for Transportation and Google, hosted the first-ever taxi data Hackathon, seeking a solution to this every day problem.  Members of government, academia, data enthusiasts, and civic technologists sifted through taxi and for-hire vehicle trip records to address the shift-change issue from technical, economic, logistical and policy angles.

As the data experts worked in hopes of finding a solution, five veteran taxi drivers with more than a century of collective experience brought in real world perspectives to the taxi trip record data.  Adding in a human element, which is a driver’s daily experience with the shift-change, was a key component to supporting the calculations and data manipulation undertaken by the data experts.

I’d like to thank Director Mitchell Moss and Digital Manager Sarah Kaufman from NYU’s Rudin Center, for their shared enthusiasm in this project and Google, for their invaluable support in making it happen.  I would also like to thank the taxi drivers, whose insight brought life to the statistics analyzed.  Last, but not least, I’d like to thank the TLC staff who worked so hard to make this event a success.

The data experts will continue to work on their projects with the guidance of the Rudin Center; and the TLC will review each of their submissions.  It is our hope that the hard work of these great minds will shed some light on way to improve the current issues surrounding shift-change.

Moving on to other topics, I’d like to take a moment and do a little bragging about our efforts to protect public safety AND our legitimate industries at New York City’s airports.    On April 9, our enforcement division conducted an undercover operation at JFK terminal four departures, which was exclusively reported by CBS TV.  Disguised as tourists, TLC inspectors attempted to hail vehicles dropping off departing passengers.  The successful operation yielded fourteen vehicle seizures and fourteen driver summonses for conducting illegal for-hire activity…..that’s 14 vehicles that won’t be seen poaching a legitimate licensee anytime soon.  If you’d like to check out CBS’s full coverage of the operation, you can use the following link: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/04/09/cbs2-exclusive-undercover-with-tlc-on-sting-targeting-illegal-taxis-at-airports/

It is important to note that, while the CBS story covers one operation, on one day, at one airport, the TLC is working hard to enforce against illegal operations at the airports on a daily basis. With dedicated squads responsible for patrolling the airport terminals for “hustlers,” our inspectors have already seized over 700 vehicles for engaging in illegal for-hire activity.
As the taxi and for-hire vehicle industries continue to expand, it is essential that our enforcement unit keeps pace.  Ensuring that everyone is playing by the rules is a top priority for the TLC, and a growing, well-trained staff of inspectors equips us to do so.  With months of intensive training both off and on the field under their belts, on April 15, the TLC’s newest class of inspector cadets officially joined the ranks of New York’s Proudest! I would like to take this time to congratulate each and every one of our new cadets for their great choice of a career in public service, and for the unwavering dedication they’ve demonstrated to ensuring the safety of the riding public – it is a responsibility that no one at this agency takes lightly.


Lastly, before I sign off, I would like to speak about the collection of the $0.30 Taxi Improvement Surcharge and for-hire vehicle trip data.

Beginning on January 1, 2015, a $0.30 per trip Taxi Improvement Surcharge went into effect for all yellow taxi and Street Hail Livery (SHL) trips.  This surcharge, paid by the passenger but collected by the owner, will help fund an increase in the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) on the road to assist in achieving the City’s goal of a 50% wheelchair accessible fleet by 2020.  I want to remind each medallion and SHL permit owner that you are responsible for submitting the collected surcharges to the TLC each quarter.  These funds will be divided into distinct pots -- a Vehicle Fund and a Driver Fund – and we will begin disbursing these funds to both WAV owners and drivers starting in 2016.

Each medallion owner/agent and SHL permit owner will receive a quarterly statement from their TPEP or LPEP provider.  TPEP and LPEP providers were required to make the quarterly surcharge statements available by April 5, with the final amounts having been confirmed on April 20.  This means that every medallion owner and SHL permit owner has 15 days to dispute any surcharge transaction which could have been produced in error.  Please use this 15-day challenge period to carefully review the invoice you receive from your TPEP or LPEP provider.

The Taxi Improvement Surcharge payment for the first quarter of 2015 is due on May 1, 2015. It is important to note that all surcharge payments must be submitted through the TLC’s Licensing Applications, Renewals & Summonses (LARS) website, which can be found at www1.nyc.gov/lars/.  All major credit/debit cards are accepted.  You can also pay with an e-check which comes with the perk of no processing fees.

I also want to remind everyone that statements or reminders will NOT be sent to you – you are responsible for checking-in with your TPEP or LPEP provider’s website in a timely manner to obtain the amount you owe.  Failure to submit a payment may result in a summons, with penalties that could include fines and/or possible suspension of your license until compliance.

For more information about the Taxi Improvement Surcharge, the submission timeline, and the process for submission, I encourage you all to please visit: http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/industry_notice_15_13.pdf.

Last but not least, on November 20, 2014, the TLC approved a set of FHV accountability rules which included a requirement that all FHV bases submit trips records to the TLC on a recurring basis.  By collecting valuable trip record information, which includes the base license number, driver license number, vehicle license number, date, time, and pick-up location, the TLC will be able to formulate informed policy on the FHV industry.  We will also be able to better reconnect passengers with their lost belongings as well as process consumer complaints and consumer commendations.

The TLC has already begun the process of collecting FHV trip records from bases.  To help base owners better understand the process to do so, we have created some very useful instruction guides explaining the submission process in great detail.  Throughout the month of April, we also held five information sessions, one in each borough, where base owners could come and ask questions about the submission process.  Since there are several ways in which a base can submit their trip records to the TLC, so it is important for each base owner to choose the process that works best with their current record keeping protocol.
To review these different methods, or to find instruction guides and other important submission information, please visit www.nyc.gov/triprecords.  If you are having trouble submitting your records or have a question, please call us at 718-391-5501 or send us an email at triprecords@tlc.nyc.gov....we’re here to help!
That’s all for this month. Until next time, Drive Like Your Family Lives Here!

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