Although there has been some controversy over a few of the people Mayor Eric Adams chose for his administration, one thing seems clear: he is taking seriously his promises to fix and reshape long-standing issues with the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC). Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of City Council’s Transportation Committee, will be in charge of the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT). Former TLC chair Meera Joshi has been appointed a Deputy Mayor. And Frank Carone, a former TLC commissioner, is expected to take on the role of Adams’ Chief of Staff.
A recent Crain’s New York Business article complained that, “Adams has chosen… bureaucrats whose policies helped steer the city in its current direction,” with some of that criticism aimed at his decision to keep Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk on as TLC chairwoman – but I would argue that many of the problems the industry continues to face should fall more squarely on the shoulders of the outgoing Mayor. With Adams at the helm steering policy, their combined industry experience should instead be beneficial. None of these people will need to learn the ropes of an industry directly affected by critical decisions they will need to make in short order.
Rodriguez not only chaired the Transportation Committee, he has been a long-time advocate for our industry, and was himself a Livery driver many years ago. Joshi, Carone and Heredia Jarmoszuk each have a deep understanding of the TLC (including its many flaws), as well as the plight of the battered industries it regulates. I’m confident they are all well aware of the damage inflicted on drivers and companies over the past decade, and each has a strong motivation to help correct issues that caused severe financial pain and even led to multiple suicides.
In a recent press release, Adams explained: “Our city’s transportation system faces major challenges, from surging traffic fatalities to increased congestion on our streets. We need proven leaders who are ready to roll up their sleeves on Day One and address these issues.”
No doubt, but we also need his administration to work closely with industry leaders and heed their informed advice. Just before Adams took over as Mayor, the TLC released a final report from its Black Car and Livery Task Force, providing valuable data and a long list of recommendations for policy changes. Thanks to the hard work of task force members like Diana Clemente and Cira Angeles, it looks like traditional Black Car and Livery bases could soon see an end to the cap on new FHV licenses, allowing struggling companies to accommodate new clients as business begins to rebound from the ongoing pandemic.
According to the TLC, “The Task Force, created by Local Law 92 of 2020, brought together industry experts, stakeholders, and the TLC to review challenges facing the Black Car and Livery transportation sectors in New York City. The Task Force met between June and November of 2021 to discuss the current state of the sectors and develop policy recommendations to strengthen these traditional segments.”
On his way out the door, Bill de Blasio said: “I strongly believe that the issuance of a targeted number of new Black Car and Livery licenses is an idea whose time has come. It’s an important way to support an indispensable sector of this industry, while not impacting congestion or the stability of other sectors, and I urge the Commission to move forward with it in the new year.”
A lot of grief and stress could have been avoided if de Blasio had come to this conclusion sooner, but I guess we’ll take it.
The Task Force, which was chaired by Heredia Jarmoszuk, included the following members:
- Cira Angeles, Spokeswoman, the Livery Base Owners Association; Co-Founder, President, and CEO, LA Riverside
- Charles Bai, President and Owner, Charlie Black Car
- Diana Clemente, President, Black Car Assistance Corp. and Big Apple Car
- Sarah Kaufman, Associate Director, Rudin Center for Transportation, Wagner School of Public Service, NYU
- Nancy Reynoso, owner and driver, New York City green taxi
- Sergio Rodriguez, Executive Director, New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers; Executive Director, Hispanics Across America
- Mario Sena, Owner and CEO, Agape Luxury Corporation; former New York City taxi driver
- Roberto Rodriguez, livery driver
- Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Transportation Committee
- Alhagi Ebou Cham, President, United Gambians Association; experienced TLC driver and manager
The data reviewed by the Task Force and the personal experiences of its members showed that the Black Car and Livery industries are in a dire state, having steadily lost ground to high-volume for-hire services since their arrival almost ten years ago. The report laid out recommendations that the City and State can pursue, together with industry partners, to ensure these sectors remain vital. The recommendations focus on modernizing the Black Car and Livery industries, refining TLC enforcement, improving for-hire licensing rules and practices, supporting traditional bases as an essential component to the city’s transportation network, and reforming the regulatory environment.
According to the report: “The Task Force recommends increasing the number of vehicles affiliated with Black Car and Livery bases. While the FHV license pause has had its desired effect of reigning in an oversaturated market, several Black Car and Livery bases are struggling to compete with HVFHSs for drivers. Traditional base owners have reported that a shortage of drivers has resulted in an inability to meet passenger demand, leaving them to either offer long response times or decline trip requests altogether. Many Task Force members felt very strongly that a certain number of new licenses should be issued, or expiring licenses be repurposed, for vehicles that perform trips exclusively for Black Car and Livery bases. A pilot program could include data collection and analysis to gauge driver interest and evaluate the effects on service.”
Additional topics included incentives for drivers to affiliate with traditional Black Car and Livery bases, improvements to the wheelchair accessible vehicle network, stronger enforcement against predatory leasing practices, ways to improve financing mechanisms to help drivers afford new vehicles, plans to increase electric vehicle usage, enforcement against illegal street hails and unlicensed vehicles, outreach programs between enforcement officers and TLC-licensed drivers, the expansion of pick-up and drop-off zones and Taxi/FHV stands, congestion pricing, and insurance reform that improves competition and lowers rates.
Clearly, Mayor Adams has a lot to deal with as he begins his first month in office – but choosing people who know and understand the industry was an important first step. Now, let’s see what happens in the coming months.
Best wishes to you and your loved ones for a Happy, Healthy, Safe and (hopefully more) Prosperous New Year!