The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) held a hearing on July 23 regarding rules seeking to extend the cap on new For-Hire Vehicles (potentially permanently) and reduce the amount of time High-Volume FHVs (HVFHVs) can spend “cruising” empty between jobs in the city’s “congestion zone” (south of 96thStreet). Dozens of drivers, industry leaders, base owners, passengers and others offered testimony that ranged from sad and tragic and to angry and desperate.

By the time you read this, it’s entirely possible the TLC will already have voted on the rules, although I am hoping the commissioners will take a step back, pay close attention to the testimonies they heard in July, and move forward a bit more cautiously – particularly in light of the fact that the Mayor decided to pull his choice to head the TLC, Jeffrey Roth, after a contentious City Council hearing; much of the testimony heard on July 23 also involved significant, negative, unintended consequences from the FHV cap in place this past year.

Diana Clemente, President of the Black Car Assistance Corporation (BCAC) offered what I thought was a solid and reasonable alternative to a blanket cap on all FHVs, that has caused serious trouble for traditional Black Car and Livery bases. I have long said it makes no sense that a 250-car, traditional Black Car base can’t add five vehicles to service new clients, due to the cap – and a continuation of that policy would be absolutely devastating.

The following are highlights from the testimony given by Ms. Clemente, who as President of the BCAC represents a majority of traditional Black Car bases in NYC, many of whom have been providing transportation to clients for many decades. Ms. Clemente also represented the companies she owns, Big Apple Car and VIP Gold.

On behalf of my fellow Black Car operators, I stand here today to ask you to consider a reasonable request, a request that will give us a chance to survive. More specifically, I’m addressing the expected continued moratorium on new vehicle licenses for anything other than wheelchair accessible and fully-electric vehicles [in the FHV sector].

Currently, the deck is stacked against us, against the Liveries, and against the Yellows. The high-volume app-based services are here to stay, and we ask only that you give us a lifeline that will allow us to operate in their shadow.

Under the existing rules, and the modifications that are envisioned, we don’t really stand a chance. When Uber’s pricing is high, we lose our drivers; when their pricing is low, we lose our customers. The situation is daunting, but there is a solution that would give us a fighting chance.

We ask that you permit legacy Black Car companies, Luxury bases and Liveries to replace lost vehicles with new “restricted” vehicle licenses that don’t limit the type of replacement vehicle to a WAV or electric vehicle. Corporate customers want luxury cars, and while a Tesla certainly qualifies, its price point is out of range for struggling drivers.

Please give us the opportunity to grow with a restricted vehicle license that would only permit drivers to operate within a designated class. In this scenario, a restricted Black Car license wouldn’t limit the driver to provide service only to a single Black Car base – but rather, they would be permitted to provide service to any Black Car or Luxury base. They would simply be prohibited from providing service to high-volume app-based services or Livery bases.

Conversely, let the Liveries grow with a restricted license, and provide service only for other licensed Livery bases.

The Black Car industry’s position is only aimed at challenging a TOTAL moratorium, with the caveat that NEW licenses be restricted to a particular class. This WOULD NOT affect existing licenses.

By allowing legacy Black Car companies, Luxury bases and Livery bases to add vehicles in this fashion, we would have a fighting chance to provide service to our customer base, even during “surges.”

Our growth in this scenario would barely make a noticeable mark in the number of licensed FHVs because collectively our work is down by almost 70%, due to our inability to service clients under the current rules, and the rule modifications that are being proposed.

I implore the TLC and City Council to recognize that… people have devoted their lives to this industry… and many of those lives are being destroyed. By allowing Black Car companies to at least survive, you will be providing a lifeline to thousands of families. How often does life let someone in a position of power make such a small concession that can greatly help so many families? I doubt there is any greater gift, and our collective gratitude will be heartfelt.

I strongly feel that Ms. Clemente’s proposal was reasonable to all parties involved, without the risk of adding to the already-terrible traffic that the city is fighting to get under control. A tremendous number of concessions have been made for the companies that are most responsible for the mess that the city is currently suffering from. I think it’s time to make some small concessions to companies that have been operating in the city for decades, providing stable jobs to tens of thousands of drivers and providing transportation services to countless millions who live in or are visiting the great city of New York.

The vote on these rules is scheduled for early August, so I urge everyone to stay up to date on this topic by “liking” our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BlackCarNews/?ref=bookmarks, visiting our website at www.blackcarnews.comor emailing me directly at neil@blackcarnews.com.

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Article by Neil Weiss

Neil Weiss is the Editor/Publisher/Owner of Black Car News and Livery Times. He has been involved in the ground transportation industry since 1991, writing thousands of articles on a wide variety of subjects.

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