Hello everyone. I hope you all enjoyed the end of your summer! By the time you all read this, children will be back in school and BBQ season will pretty much officially be over… a depressing thought, considering as I write this, I’m looking out of my window gazing at a picture perfect summer day! Hopefully September doesn’t have any sweltering forecasts up its sleeve, as I can say with certainty I’ve had my fill! But on to business.
August was a very productive month for our industry – between the TNC laws going into effect and talks with the TLC on the accessibility issue, I don’t recommend anyone hold their breath waiting for things to go back to the way they were in the “good old days.”
First up, I’d like to just quickly cover a change in traffic patterns in the vicinity of LaGuardia International Airport. On Saturday, August 16, new traffic changes instituted by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNY) went into effect. These changes, aimed at allowing vehicles more direct access to 94th Street and LaGuardia’s Terminals A, B, C and D, consist of several changes to exits along the westbound Grand Central Parkway.
First, Terminal B and 94th Street are no longer accessible via Exit 7. Instead, Exit 7 now only provides drivers access to Terminals C and D. Exit 5 now provides access to Terminal A, Long-Term Parking and Car Shuttle Rental areas. A new Exit 6 will provide drivers access to Terminal B and 94th Street.
Since these new traffic patterns have gone into effect, I have not heard any complaints regarding this new arrangement, and would ask that you all please let me know if you or any of your drivers encounter any issues. It is worth noting, however, that there is a significant amount of construction-related equipment along those sections of highway, inclusive of the exits, so I recommend giving yourself and your drivers more time to navigate into and within LaGuardia. There are visual aids, as well as a video of the new traffic pattern on the new BCAC website, www.NYBCAC.org. Go take a look!
Now, on to something I’m sure you’ve all been following – the TLC’s proposed FHV accessibility rules. For those of you who didn’t have a chance to read Black Car News last month, in my last column, I went into detail regarding the framework of the proposed rules as written, and explained how crippling a blow this would be to our industry. Other than that, I also made mention of the fact that the FHV industry was organizing to form a unified front to fight the proposed rules, and I discussed the importance of joining an industry group and becoming an active member. Well, here’s an update on that. Despite any and all of the issues each group may have with any other, the Black Car Assistance Corporation (BCAC), the Limo Association of New York (LANY), Livery Base Owners (LBO), Livery Round Table (LRT), Carmel, Uber, Lyft and Via, who combined represent over 100,000 drivers, came together to draft and send the TLC Board of Commissioners a letter outlining their issues with the proposed rules, as written.
The take-away from the letter was the desire for us as a coalition (as we’re being called) to meet with the TLC and discuss the proposal. Well, on August 18, that’s exactly what happened. In an hour and a half meeting with TLC brass, including Commissioner Meera Joshi, we brought forward our issues with the proposal and the effects its implementation would have, but other than that, we also came forward with the basic framework of a solution which will greatly increase accessibility and provide equivalent service for wheelchair users. While this solution is by no means finalized, what we have accomplished here is already stellar, and I would like to take the time to thank all the groups which make up this coalition. The TLC has agreed to continue the dialogue on this issue, and to continue to discuss possible solutions – a win all on its own. But beyond that, I think it is beyond safe to say that any individual familiar with the politics of our industry would laugh at the idea of companies like Uber joining forces with smaller companies and industry groups to form a united front against regulation, of all things.
Forgetting the proposed rules for just a second, what we’ve accomplished here is massive on multiple fronts. First, we’ve taken a great first step towards unity – always a fantastic step to be taken. Next, we’ve also officially affirmed our industry’s commitment to providing accessible service to our entire community. Our coalition understands that the time has come to ensure equal and reliable service is available for all, regardless of what type of service you wish to utilize. As you all know, it had been the sole burden of the yellow taxi industry to provide accessible service, with half of the citywide fleet mandated to be accessible by the year 2020.
Now, the rest of the industry sectors are committed to sharing that social responsibility. I am strongly encouraged by the unity I’ve seen form between industry stakeholders, often at odds, as well as encouraged by the TLC’s receptiveness to our ideas and concerns, and their commitment to continue this overly crucial dialogue. I hope that come the end of this process, the TLC will put something forward which will not, in effect, demolish an entire industry.
By the time I write you all again, the TLC public hearing on these proposed rules will have already taken place, and I hope many of you decided to testify against the rules, as written. Matthew Flamm of Crain’s New York put out a piece on August 18 regarding our meeting with the TLC, which I strongly encourage you all to read. Of course, I will keep you all updated on any developments, but encourage you all to follow the BCAC on social media to find out as soon as possible!
Now, as I stated earlier, the TNC laws regulating the TNC industry outside of the five boroughs have gone into effect, with service having begun on June 29. So far, I have not received any complaints and everything appears to be running smoothly upstate. The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance is expecting the first set of quarterly reports from upstate TNCs to be submitted no later than October 30, checking for compliance with the 4% sales tax charge required by Article 29-B of the Tax Law. We will continue to monitor their operations beyond the five boroughs and report back any issues. If anyone has encountered issues of any sort, I ask that you please let me know.
That seems to be it for me this month. Just to recap, I implore you all to attend the September 28 TLC Public Hearing on the proposed accessibility rules, testify against them, join an industry group which corresponds to your respective industry sector, report to me any issues regarding anything covered in my column, and finally, as always, be sure to follow The Black Car Fund and BCAC on social media to stay in the know.
For those of you with children set to return to school this month, we wish them all luck! Until next month…