By Meera Joshi
Hello again, everyone… I hope you are all enjoying the change of season and cooler temperatures. It’s been another busy month for us, so let’s jump right into it!
During the TLC’s monthly Commission Meeting on October 15, the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved two new pilot programs, one of which will test GPS-based metering systems, and other streamlined taxi technology solutions. The second will allow for medallion owners to alter the current lease cap structure and the rates drivers pay for their shifts to allow them both to voluntarily explore a commission-based business model. Each of these pilot programs will last for up to one year.
The Alternative Technology Solution Pilot Program will test devices that would include a GPS-based “virtual” meter, which would use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and potentially other complementary systems to accurately calculate taxi fares using the same distance/wait time formula. Testing protocols for this new type of system will include running carefully-measured trips and comparing them to existing meter results and tolerances.
Today's meters use a software algorithm to take rotation and speed signals from sensors in the wheels and translate them into distance and wait time calculations. A GPS-enabled virtual meter uses laser-precise satellite "pings," among other things, to constantly update distance and time measurements. The TLC is an active participant in a national working group to define methods of testing and securing these types of meters and this pilot will allow us to stay on the forefront of the conversation and contribute valuable lessons learned and data to that working group in conjunction with the New York State Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Weights and Measures, which will be working closely with the TLC for the duration of the pilot.
The pilot’s overarching purpose is to see what advantages can be realized with this type of technology. Similar to some of our other pilot programs (E-Hail and Vehicle Safety Technology) we owe it to passengers and our regulated industries to explore the potential value of emerging technologies.
Just like with existing taxi technology, passengers will be able to follow the fare (and other information) on a well-positioned display pad. As prescribed by Local Law, the participants’ devices must be accessible to persons with visual impairments, in addition to utilizing the credit industry’s highest security standards.
The second approved pilot program, which we are calling the Taxi Fare Share Pilot, will enhance flexibility in the leasing arrangements made between medallion owners/agents and drivers. We’re cautiously optimistic that the changes to leasing structures for pilot participants will lead to increased service and income levels, while maintaining protections against driver overcharges.
This past spring, our staff conducted extensive outreach with taxi drivers as part of the biennial review of fares and lease caps. Throughout this process, we found drivers who took issue with lost fare opportunities resulting from the current shift change structure during the evening rush hours, which sets a strict return time for the vehicle, and the risk of a late fee. We also heard from some drivers who, aside from the concerns about the inflexibility of the current lease structures, referred to the stress associated with the fundamental issue of starting their shift “in the red” after paying a set lease price at the beginning of their shift. Additionally, TLC rules also require that medallion leases be available to drivers for 12 consecutive hours, which prohibits shorter leases.
Participating medallion owners will be exempt from the 12-consecutive-hour rule and will be permitted to lease medallions for shorter periods of time. They will also be exempt from requiring drivers to pay the traditional 12-hour lease rate governed by the TLC’s lease cap rules. Instead, drivers will pay a set percentage, which will be no more than 35%, of their farebox revenue.
We are hopeful that, by allowing for a more flexible leasing structure, pilot participants will be able to lease out more taxicabs during peak hours of demand, improving driver earnings, while potentially increasing the number of taxis available to passengers during the hours they need them the most.
With that being said, we are also open to contemplating other alternative lease structures, such as an hourly cap, and welcome the industries input.
Also, to help increase efficiencies for license processing, we are introducing a new appointment system for applicants who would like to submit their TLC driver’s license application in-person. Beginning on Monday, October 26, new applicants for medallion, FHV, paratransit and commuter van driver licenses, must first have an appointment in order to submit their application in-person. Walk-in applicants without an appointment will no longer be accepted after October 26.
Those wanting to file an in-person application must first submit an appointment request by going to the TLC’s website (www.nyc.gov/taxi). Every applicant will be required to have a valid e-mail address in order to submit an appointment request. All of the important information you will need about your appointment will be sent to the e-mail address you provide.
If you submit your application online through the TLC’s online transaction system (LARS), there will be no need for you to also fill out a separate appointment request. Once we receive your online application, we will then use that information to send you a future appointment date which will be needed in order to submit the additional documents required for licensure.
For more information about this process, please visit www.nyc.gov/tlc and read Industry Notice 15-41 by following the link in TLC News.
I would also like to remind everyone that if you file your application online, you can use the application filing receipt to sign-up for taxi school, Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) training, and your drug test while you wait for your appointment date. For more information about using your online receipt to sign-up for these other requirements, please visit our website and read Industry Notice 15-37.
That’s all I’ve got to share for this month. Until next time, stay safe, stay warm and drive like your family lives here!