BY IRA GOLDSTEINThere's been a lot going on in New York in the past few months, but I'd like to kick off this column with the wildly successful and informative Industry Breakfast that the Black Car Assistance Corporation (BCAC) held January 18 in Long Island City. Generously sponsored by Zendrive, Datatrack 247, and Ionfleets, it was a record-breaking event for BCAC in terms of attendance, where all involved could network with fellow industry members—some local, some crossing state lines by bridge and some by air to attend. It was an active discussion regarding some of the massive issues facing our NYC black car industry today, such as the driver anti-fatigue rules proposed by the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC), black box technologies, and our industry’s dealings with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ), not to mention the legislation under consideration this legislative session up in our state capital. Special thanks to Matt Daus, partner and chair of the Transportation Practice Group at Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf and former NYC TLC Commissioner & Chair, for speaking and offering his insights.
This past month, we saw a public hearing on the TLC’s proposed and updated driver anti-fatigue rules—a set of rules aimed at curbing tired, overworked drivers in an effort to achieve NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” initiative—which cap hours behind the wheel to no more than 10 per 24-hour period, and 60 hours per week of actual “passenger time.” The primary issue for many was the TLC’s request that for-hire vehicle (FHV) bases submit drop-off information in the same manner as they do with pickup information. An overwhelming number of safety advocates came out in support of the proposal.
Things become more complicated when you also take into account the undue and onerous burden that would be placed on small businesses with requirements such as additional reporting. I happen to share the concern of many regarding the number of weekly hours a driver is permitted to drive: 60 hours simply is not enough. By the time you read this, the TLC will have completed a review of the testimony given and other feedback, and they will have already reconvened for a vote; however, I am hopeful that they will have revisited these issues prior to this anticipated vote. You can view the hearing at livestream.com/nyctaxi.
It has been quite an active time in New York’s capital this past month due to the massive push to get Uber and other app companies approved for use throughout the rest of the state, and not just confined to New York City. There are currently two pending bills: one from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget, and one which was introduced in the New York State Senate by Senator James Seward. It is also expected that a bill will be introduced in the New York State Assembly. These bills, as written, are heavy with proposals that would undoubtedly hurt downstate New York bases. To those of you who may be black car base owners in New York, the Black Car Fund’s interests have always been, and will continue to be, the safety, accountability, and fairness for all our member bases and drivers. BCF even recently announced a new member benefit for taxis: goo.gl/47CrQ.
Regarding the current situation with PANYNJ, officials are talking about imposing various different fees, recordkeeping requirements, etc., that would be extraordinarily burdensome on small businesses. (Editor’s note: PANYNJ recently proposed a $4 “access fee” for taxis and for-hire companies in mid-February.) We have been pushing for parity across all of New York’s ground transportation sectors, recently meeting with not only PANYNJ, but also New York City Public Advocate Letitia James. She has taken a keen interest in this particular issue on behalf of the FHV industry, and as a service to the general public, as well.
It seems remiss for me to end this column without bringing attention to recent protest activities at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). On January 28, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) sent out a tweet calling for all member drivers to halt serving the airport between the hours of 6 and 7 pm, in response to President Trump’s new immigration measures (which have commonly been referred to in the media as a “Muslim ban”). The strike drew massive media attention and caused insurmountable traffic issues in the surrounding area. Sometime around 10 that same night, Uber NYC tweeted that it turned off surge pricing at JFK, presumably in an effort to break up the strike. What it actually resulted in was the mass exodus of Uber users in the form of app deletion, as well as the creation of a new and trending hashtag, #DeleteUber. Perhaps the most monumental thing to have come of this, at least in terms of our industry, is Lyft almost immediately shot up as the fourth most downloaded app in the Apple Store, far surpassing Uber’s ranking. The move by Uber, popularly considered by most to be its way of putting an end to the protest, was made that much more infuriating to many due to CEO Travis Kalanick’s acceptance of a position on President Trump’s newly formed business advisory group—from which he promptly resigned a day after the controversy arose. [CD0317]
Ira Goldstein is the Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund and the Black Car Assistance Corp. (BCAC), and is both a TLPA board member and co-chair for its Limousine & Sedan Steering Committee. He can be reached at email@example.com.