In September of this year, the TLC received three petitions for rulemaking that were specific to the price of gasoline having skyrocketed due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These petitions requested that gasoline related surcharges be passed onto consumers to compensate them for rising costs, though each petition configured these surcharges differently.
We set about the task of analyzing the petitions while carefully tracking gasoline prices, which have now thankfully fallen to pre-Katrina levels. After careful consideration, which included a review of the research and analysis performed by TLC staff, and meetings between staff and the three petitioners, I determined that additional facts were required in order for the Commission to make a fully informed decision as to how we may proceed. It was for this reason that the petitions were denied. However, I invited the petitioners to appear at the TLC’s November 17 public meeting, to discuss the issue and to answer all relevant questions.
On a related note, I am pleased to report that we have successfully launched the first six hybrid-electric taxicabs to ply the streets of New York City, vehicles that I am pleased to note are carrying medallions purchased at our most recent auction. Between the success of the medallion sale and the TLC’s passage of regulations approving the full range of hybrid-electric vehicles, the road to making this initiative possible was a long and winding one, but there is no doubt that it has been worth it. The reality of hybrid-electric vehicles is that they will save their drivers money on gasoline, as well as through State and Federal tax incentives. These tax incentives and additional information about approved hybrid-electric taxicabs can be viewed at our website at http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/hybrid_elec_veh.pdf.
Being that the first batch of hybrid taxis happened to be Ford Escapes, the Ford Motor Company recently hosted a major press event in which we participated with Chairman Bill Ford. Most interesting for me was the way the event highlighted the coalition that has developed between government, manufacturers, environmental advocates and the taxi industry, a partnership that was the single most necessary aspect of making hybrid taxicabs a practical reality.
I had an opportunity to speak at length with Bill Ford, and was able to impress upon him the potential of taking a purpose-built approach to their upcoming stable of hybrid vehicles, as they do with the Crown Victoria. Mr. Ford promised to take the issue back to his engineers, and make it a topic of serious discussion. The future is looking bright……and clean..
Speaking of the future, we recently attended the exhibit opening for “Designing the Taxi: Rethinking New York City’s Movable Public Space,” a collaborative effort of the Design Trust for Public Space and Parsons School for Design. The exhibit was the culmination of a long and interesting exercise in which both the TLC and representatives of the taxicab industry closely participated with designers and architects. At its core, the project was about re-imagining the many ways in which taxicabs serve the public and are viewed by people. Many of its ideas mirror improvements that are already on the TLC’s drawing board in one stage or another -- such as new approaches to the partition, passenger information kiosks and universal credit/debit card acceptance -- but some others are on the cutting edge of imagination. Many of the ideas on display will require significant buy-in from automotive manufacturers, but this is exactly the kind of forum that can fuel the evolutionary process. It was also interesting to see just how many of these forward looking concepts owe their roots to the “good old” Checker cab. I encourage everyone to visit the exhibit, on view at the Parsons Manhattan Gallery at 2 West 13th Street until January 15 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can learn more about the project and exhibit by visiting the Design Trust’s web site at www.designtrust.org.