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Commissioner’s Corner

September 2015

Commissioner’s Corner

By Meera Joshi

Hello again, everyone… I hope you all had a fantastic summer and were able to enjoy it while it lasted.  Lots to talk about this month, so let’s get into it!

On September 10, we hosted the TLC’s second annual Vision Zero Safe Driver Honor Roll event to spotlight the achievement of 256 of the city’s safest TLC-licensed drivers. In recognition of the crucial safety role played by the businesses that dispatch our taxis, For-Hire Vehicles (FHV) and commuter vans, the event also served to celebrate the achievements of a select group of outstanding, Vision Zero-committed taxi fleets and FHV/van bases with superior safety records. This year, the TLC also honored drivers who have gone above and beyond the call in providing outstanding accessible service to persons with disabilities.

The 256 professionals honored for their safe driving records during this ceremony represent a truly elite group. In choosing our honorees, we reviewed the records of over 135,000 licensed drivers and identified 256 drivers who, over five or more years, have not had a single crash involving injury, a single traffic violation, or a single violation of TLC safety-related rules. The honorees will each have a distinguishing “Vision Zero Driver Safety Honor Roll” card to display in their vehicles to let their passengers know they have one of the safest drivers in New York City at the wheel.

For more information about this year’s Driver Safety Honor Roll and to view a complete list of the honorees and photos of the event, please visit: http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/industry/tlc_safety_honor_roll.shtml

In yet another safety-related celebration, the TLC recently completed the bicentennial milestone of having visited 200 licensed for-hire vehicle bases and taxi garages to share vital safety information and lessons learned from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero action plan.  On September 22, Pia Car and Limo service on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, hosted the event which included a detailed interactive presentation by TLC staff and featured the participation of almost 100 of the base’s professional drivers.

As part of our Vision Zero commitments, we launched this hands-on educational campaign on May 19, 2014, to increase licensees’ knowledge of safe driving behavior through direct interaction.  Since that first visit in 2014, TLC staff members have crisscrossed the city numerous times, engaging drivers one-on-one and in both large and small groups, communicating the crucial messages of Vision Zero. At each base/garage visit, TLC staff presents testimonials from families who had lost loved ones due to traffic crashes, describe the goals of Vision Zero, and provide information about the top causes for traffic fatalities and offer practical driver safety tips.

These educational visits have been incredibly valuable in helping us to reach our Vision Zero goal.  Not only are we able to give drivers some practical tools to help protect themselves and their communities, but we’re also engaging with the owners and managers of these bases and fleets – who have the greatest connection with our drivers. Without their consistent support, these events would not have taken place, and without their active involvement, they certainly wouldn’t have been as successful.

If you are interested in the TLC staff coming to your base to learn about tips for safer driving, please contact us at TLCexternalaffairs@tlc.nyc.gov

I have just one last bit of safety news before we move on to other topics.  On September 14, I joined US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and my colleague NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and her staff to announce a $20 million Federal grant that the DOT will use to pilot connected vehicle technology, which essentially will tie our vehicles, our roadways and all of transportation monitoring systems together to make one comprehensive network that will make the future of transportation safer, cleaner, and more efficient.

Phase one of the project, which is set to begin in the near future, is dedicated to developing the equipment that will be used in the program.  The most exciting part of this news, however, was that TLC-licensed vehicles will be on the ground floor of this incredible leap in technology. TLC-licensed drivers, a pool of 130,000+ experienced professionals, will be asked to provide crucial input in developing connected vehicle equipment, answering such key questions as ‘what is the most effective way to alert a driver to a problem, a voice, a tone, an alarm?  Something entirely different?’ More news to come on that.  Phase two will be the actual program implementation. On a voluntary basis, and at no cost to the driver or vehicle owner, the newly-developed equipment will be installed in TLC-licensed vehicles that frequent Manhattan in order to test these proactive safety alerts work under practical circumstances.

I also wanted to take a moment to mention a story that some of you may have seen this week on channel 4, involving a very disturbing allegation made by a passenger against an app-dispatch driver, who allegedly said some very inappropriate and downright scary things to her.  Reporter Pei-Sze Chang reached out to us about it, and I took the opportunity to point out that, if a passenger complains only to the app-dispatch company, the most that could come of it would be for them to bounce that driver off their platform, which means that he would likely pop-up at another base, with no one the wiser.  I strongly encouraged passengers to reach out and report any such incidents to 311, so that the TLC could investigate and take the appropriate action – up to and including the suspension or revocation of that driver’s TLC license.  Why am I telling this tale to drivers, when it is more clearly a message for passengers?  I’ve said it before in this space, and I will say it again – there is no one more frustrated by an unprofessional driver than someone who represents the taxi and For-Hire Vehicle industry with honor and integrity, and who consistently does the right thing, and I wanted you to know how strongly we feel about seeing that you are not lumped in with those few bad apples.

Before signing off, I just wanted to share two important updates with you about our licensing operations going forward. The first update concerns online applications and taxi school.  On August 19, we issued industry notice #15–37, which outlines a new timesaving service for applicants who apply for a medallion taxicab driver’s license online.  If you apply for your medallion operator’s license online, you will now be able to simply use the online application receipt you receive after completion to immediately sign-up for taxi school, saving the applicant a step, and hopefully cutting down the time it takes to process a license.

I’m also pleased to announce that, as of November 12, our Licensing Division will relocate to the historic Falchi Building, located at 31-00 47th Avenue, Long Island City, 11101. This beautiful new facility will be more comfortable and convenient for our staff members and customers alike – and our licensees can even look forward to elevators that actually work!  Progress!

That’s all for now, so until next time, stay safe and drive like your family lives here!

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