Hello and welcome to spring! Welcome also to something new about the way the TLC and its customers communicate with each other. Think about the space in which you are reading this column as a window; a window through which you can see the things the TLC is doing to help its regulated industries stay strong and viable, and a window through which readers can reach out to the TLC for answers to important questions, or just to raise issues for discussion. To put it more succinctly, it will be a new and convenient location for a meeting of the minds.
I will be using this space to share my thoughts with you in a regular column, but more importantly I am also inviting you to send us your letters so that we may use this page to answer as many of your questions, and represent as many of your opinions as possible each issue. These letters may be sent to: New York CityTaxi and Limousine Commission, 40 Rector Street, New York NY 10006, Attention: Public Affairs (important: please also mention the publication you are reading on the attention line!).
The idea for this new page came as I was recently indulging in one of my favorite duties as TLC commissioner, which was meeting and greeting many dozens of drivers at the taxi hold lots of JFK and LaGuardia Airports. As always, the circle of interested individuals started small, but soon grew to the extent that even an hour or more of answering questions and discussing important issues and concerns wasn’t nearly enough to suit the purpose. Here in this space, we will have the ability to explore ideas and issues with more than just a sentence or two. If we need a diagram to illustrate a point, then we’ll use one. If it is statistics that will tell the story, we will provide them.
Before I go, let me take a moment to address one issue that has been on quite a few people’s minds recently – new technology. While I cannot attribute this to anything other than misunderstanding and apprehension, let me say now for the record that this technology will literally represent one of the greatest advances in taxicab service in the City’s history. Many of our thoughts on technology were inspired by the For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) industry, in which many bases have enjoyed a position on the cutting edge of technology to manage their dispatch operations for years. Although the systems used in the FHV industry are for entirely different purposes, the location and communication technology can be applied for useful purposes in the taxicab industry.
The new technology will enable us, among other things, to:
- communicate, two-way, with drivers to notify them of business opportunities, traffic reports and offer emergency information;
- provide data to use in the consideration of important policy issues, such as where to place taxi stands;
- eliminate the paper trip sheet, which takes drivers and owners considerable time and effort to complete and store; and
- offer the riding public new payment options including debit and credit card capabilities which we hope will increase taxicab usage and tips, and require drivers to carry less cash.
At our last Commission meeting, the TLC’s Board of Commissioners also opened the door allowing limited advertising sponsorship and media content to generate revenue, which is expected to partially offset equipment costs for taxicab owners. However, the use of advertising is entirely voluntary and a decision to be made by each individual taxicab owner. In terms of where we are in the project currently, I am pleased to report that we are on track, on schedule and moving forward aggressively. We expect to receive bids from companies in June and to have a pilot program to test devices on the road in a limited number of participating taxicabs by this November.
I look forward to continuing to explain this and other ongoing projects of interest to our readers in the months ahead, in response to mail and questions from the industry. Enjoy the better weather – it’s finally here!
Matthew W. Daus