Hello everyone! Well, the cold is finally here to stay, and if you listen to the weather forecasters, we’re in for quite a tumultuous season (and I wish I only meant the weather). Before this column takes a turn towards all business, I wanted to make sure I wished you all a very Happy and Healthy Holidays. The way the world is these days, spending time with those you love and care about has become even more crucial than ever before.
Since I wrote you all last, the FHV Coalition has met with City Hall and we now have some answers as to what will be happening with the Wheelchair Accessibility issue moving forward, although many other answers remain to be seen. While I’m sure all of you are well aware of the issues surrounding the TLC-proposed Wheelchair Accessibility rules, here is a brief overview of the situation and our progress.
The NYC TLC has put forward a proposed rule to address wheelchair accessibility in the FHV industry, requiring 25% of all FHV trips be dispatched to an accessible vehicle, regardless of whether or not the customer requested an accessible vehicle. The 25% requirement, reached in 2021 via 5% incremental phase-in beginning in 2018 at 10%, would be mandatory for all, with bases which fall short of the percentage corresponding to the year of phase-in being liable for TLC fines relative to the number by which they missed the mandated amount, as well as face suspension of their base license.
To be clear; while the proposed rules do not mandate each base to have 25% of its fleet comprised of accessible vehicles, what is clear to all is that the purchasing of additional accessible vehicles would be needed in order to meet the mandated percentages. To say the least, these vehicles are costlier to both purchase and maintain than traditional vehicles for a variety of reasons, and for many bases already suffering due to the changes in our market, the implementation of this rule would be the final nail in their coffins.
On September 28th at the TLC Public Hearing on Accessibility, I addressed the TLC Board of Commissioners, joined by my fellow Coalition members, and proposed a solution we feel makes sense for all of those within our industry, as well as the customers it is intended to serve. While I will not go in to the details of that plan now, you may read my columns from months prior for extensive detailed information. What I will get into now, however, is the new information on this issue, and our educated predictions based on that information.
Like I said earlier, the FHV Coalition met with officials at City Hall, and unfortunately, it looks like the TLC is going to be moving ahead with a vote on the proposed rules, likely inclusive of various small changes aimed at easing the undeniable and overly-onerous burden being placed upon small bases. Concerned the TLC would, at some point, include a provision in our proposed solution, imposing full implementation of the originally-proposed TLC accessibility rules upon the FHV industry, as written, should we fail to meet our promised service goals. Unwilling to accept that catastrophic framework as a possibility, the FHV Coalition proposed to the TLC the running of a dual-pilot program, to last two years, accompanied by their withdrawal of the proposed rules, allowing both frameworks to enter the market and have bases make their own decisions about which route they would rather take. Both pilots would be measured by the same metrics of success, which is a key take away.
Now, the TLC will be allowing the FHV Coalition to move forward with the pilot. However, it looks like the TLC has no plans to postpone a vote on the proposed accessibility rules by the Board of Commissioners, making it clear they have no intention of withdrawing it. We are very disappointed that the TLC has chosen not to put both proposals on even footing, which would have allowed for the most informative and educational pilot program possible. We are, of course, hopeful that this pilot program will be successful.
Once the TLC goes ahead and publishes the date and time of the Commission Hearing for a vote, I, along with the FHV Coalition will be able to review the full and final version of the proposed rule language up for vote, and I will be reporting back immediately.
Also worth knowing is that New York City is slated to endure 10 days of dreaded gridlock over the 2017 holiday season, as determined by DOT. By the time you read this, 7 of those days may still be ahead; and those days are: December 8th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 20th, 21st and 22nd.
This will be my last column published in 2017, so I want to leave you all with nothing but the best wishes of happiness, health and prosperity for us all in 2018, and of the endurance and prosperity of the FHV industry. To stay up to date, follow the BCAC on social media.
Until next time…
Ira J. Goldstein is the Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund, Chief Operating Officer of the Black Car Assistance Corp. (BCAC), and Treasurer of the Coalition of Transportation Associations (COTA).