We’ve been hearing rumblings of a congestion pricing fee charged on For-hire Vehicle (FHV) and Taxi rides for many years now, but it’s finally here, going into effect next month (January 2019). The hard-fought battle to stop it now just appears to be another page in the history of the NYC transportation industry, which remains badly broken, and whose drivers, business owners and vendors continue to suffer from extreme financial stress and uncertainty.
The Black Car Assistance Corporation (BCAC), led by Executive Director Ira Goldstein, worked hard to ensure a level playing field for all segments of the industry, but the game itself is an odd one in that the fee will almost surely NOT improve traffic conditions in NYC.
There are also a couple of items still up in the air – but unfortunately, this is one of those months when a Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) meeting is being held just days after we go to press. There’s no stopping the presses, so we will be posting updates on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BlackCarNews/?ref=bookmarks) and will of course offer the latest details early next month.
To complicate matters, the Taxi industry is pushing to have “F-PEP systems” installed in all FHVs, modeled after the T-PEPs in Taxis. Some Taxi industry leaders claim that F-PEP systems are necessary to help audit every ride and transaction. I personally disagree with the premise that FHVs need this type of burdensome, expensive technology to track all trips, and hope that this does not come to fruition. I know that the Taxi industry has been badly battered, and they are looking for relief any way they can get it, but Black Car and Taxi services are apples and oranges in this regard.
By the time you read this, the TLC’s meeting on the topic will have come and gone, and I’m just hoping that cooler heads prevail, and the TLC sees that the technology isn’t necessary for FHVs. At the moment, the TLC appears to be on the right page. According to the proposed rules, as written, they don’t seem to be pushing any additional technology requirements on the FHV segment, but as we all know, anything can happen.
This can also be brought up at a later date, so we will be covering it as it progresses, and we encourage all FHV drivers, bases and industry groups to remain vigilant.
In the meantime, I’m both curious and skeptical about whether Gov. Cuomo will do something to actually address congestion, rather than implementing the current fee, which will not fix the problem. Congestion is a major issue in NYC, and it needs to be examined from all angles, but it would be far more effective if every car entering the city – not just TLC-regulated vehicles – paid it as well (including delivery services).
The city also keeps taking away parking spaces from cars and giving them to bicycles, which is frustrating. While I fully support programs to reduce pollution, the downside on the bike program currently outweighs the upside and needs to be fixed. Now, they’re talking about scooters, which will likely make the city’s streets more dangerous and potentially further reduce parking spaces, forcing FHV drivers to constantly circle city blocks as they await their next trip.
There is no question that something needs to be done to dramatically reduce NYC traffic congestion… it’s a widespread problem that’s hurting everyone who has to drive in the city. We just need better, more effective programs.
Free Flu Shots
In other news, I wanted to make sure all Black Car and app-based drivers know that they can get free flu shots, thanks to the Independent Drivers Guild and the Black Car Fund. Initially, the free flu shots were given out in November, but the program has been extended through December.
Drivers:Sign up at driversbenefits.org/fluor call 1-855-979-1445 and redeem at any Rite Aid, many of which have parking lots convenient for drivers. Drivers already enrolled in Drivers Benefits should call the toll-free number to get their voucher. The free flu shot program is a new offering from the IDG Benefits Fund, which provides free vision and telemedicine coverage, as well as health screenings, for New York’s app-based and Black Car drivers.
“Half a million New Yorkers ride with app-based and black car drivers every day and protecting drivers with free flu shots will strengthen the health and safety of riders and drivers alike,” said Andrew Greenblatt, executive director of IDG Benefits Fund. “A single driver can transport more than a dozen riders per day. A flu shot can help protect a driver from illness so that they can continue working, and it also can protect their family and their passengers.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that flu vaccination is the best protection against the flu, which usually begins in the fall and can continue through late spring The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone six months and older. Last year more than 48 million Americans got sick with the flu, the highest number of cases of influenza-associated illness since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic per the CDC.
“One of the most important things we hear from drivers is that they can’t afford to get sick,” added Greenblatt. “Any illness, whether its themselves or taking care of their family members, means they can’t work and puts their household in jeopardy. Providing free flu shots is another way we can help support working drivers while also protecting our communities.”