Following longstanding tradition, I am honored to say that I will now be contributing regularly to Commissioner’s Corner. As this is my first column, I’ll start by telling you a bit about myself, and an ongoing project of mine.
I began my TLC journey last May, after having served as the Director of the Department of For-Hire Vehicles (DFHV) in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, I served as Director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs. I originally hail from San Jose, CA. I am the son of Vietnamese immigrants, I love to drive, and I drive an EV.
I am also a TLC-licensed driver. I recently obtained my license after going through the same process as anyone. Don’t worry, I’m not interested in stealing anybody’s trips! My goal is to better understand the realities of working as a TLC-driver. I hear from drivers all the time about the difficulties of making a living behind the wheel, whether it’s getting ticketed in a bus lane, rising costs, or simply having trouble finding a convenient restroom. But secondhand knowledge is no substitute for experience, and my plan is to take what I learn and use it to improve conditions for drivers and the industry.
The first thing I’ve learned: The licensing process can be improved. I had trouble getting a drug-testing appointment, even though both the TLC and provider websites said one was available, and the listed hours didn’t match. There was also info (application date and number) that no one told me I’d need to take the drug test. When I was finally ready to take the 24-hour course, no one could say if my payment was received or not – four days before the course. These may sound like trivial complaints, but small frustrations like these add up, and they can mean the difference between an overall positive or negative customer experience. Luckily, I know some people. Some of these problems are already being addressed.
The 24-hour class itself was a pretty great experience. The instructor was helpful and insightful. He kept looking at me like he had seen me somewhere before, but I was able to remain anonymous for a day and half, until he played an informational video, and everyone saw… me.
Now that I have my license, my goal is to complete 100 trips before the end of the year. I’ll have to follow a few special rules set by the City’s Conflict of Interest Board. I’m not allowed to use my position for favorable treatment. If I’m pulled over, I’ll probably have to insist that I’m ticketed to avoid the mere appearance of special treatment. I’m also not allowed to charge anyone, so at the end of their trips my passengers are going to be pleasantly surprised: they just got the proverbial free ride.
As I continue this journey, I’ll report back to you here on what I’m learning and trying to fix. Drive safe, and I’ll see you on the road!
Commissioner, New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission