Hello to all. We are finally saying goodbye to the cold, and welcoming the warmer days that Spring brings. Although every month has its share of new developments, April has been historic. There is a lot to talk about since my last column, so I’ll jump right into it.

As you all have likely heard by now, it’s official: New York will become the first city in the United States to implement a congestion pricing system. A big “thank you” to our lovely politicians, who have cravenly given Cuomo what he wanted, instead of standing up for the hard-working people of this city, who depend on their cars.

The congestion pricing plan is full of promises and big ideas, but it’s no surprise that our politicians punted away their responsibility for the hard decisions and left the plan thin on actual details. What we do know is that it will be established and administered by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) and the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT). It will apply to drivers traveling in Manhattan anywhere below 60th Street, only excluding the West Side Highway, FDR Drive and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Additionally, drivers will only be charged once a day.

The plan is expected to generate $1 billion in annual revenue, which will go towards upgrading and modernizing the MTA. Eighty percent is expected to go towards subway and bus capital projects, with the remaining 20% being split equally between Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).

The important details, such as what the actual toll will be and who will be eligible for exemptions, will be ironed out by the newly formed Traffic Mobility Review Board, who will make their recommendations to the TBTA. This board will consist of six members, one of whom will be chosen by the Mayor, and the rest by the Governor. Of those chosen by Cuomo, at least one will live in an area served by the LIRR and another in Metro-North territory.

Lastly, the deadline to implement congestion pricing is December 20th, 2020; which conveniently happens to come after the November elections for the State politicians who are ramming this plan down our throats against the wishes of a majority of New Yorkers. They won’t forget, and neither will the tens of thousands of FHV and Taxi drivers who may be subject to additional fees once the proposal is finalized.

We will always fight for parity for our drivers when it comes to any potential additional fees. Government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers.

In the end, the effectiveness of this plan will remain to be seen. Revenue targets need to be met, and the TBTA will have to issue reports on whether the plan is living up to its promises on congestion reduction and air quality. While other cities, such as London, experienced positive results at first, their congestion problems have recently grown worse than ever.

In other news, earlier this month I attended the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions’ (IAIABC) annual CompCon Forum, where regulators and industry stakeholders meet to discuss current issues affecting workers’ compensation throughout the country. I participated in the Industry Perspectives Panel and discussed the history of The Black Car Fund (BCF), our business model and how we have grown over the years to provide our drivers with many additional benefits beyond just workers’ compensation. Our unique model, which many cities and states seek to emulate, allows us to expand the portable benefits we offer to drivers who often work for more than one company. As long as they’re part of our member list, we’ve got you covered!

Learn more about The Forum at the following link: https://www.iaiabc.org/assnfe/ev.asp?ID=527

In the last couple of weeks, we have hosted a couple of Drivers’ Health and Wellness workshops where we are joined by the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) and Workers Benefits to raise awareness about the benefits we offer and provide a direct opportunity for drivers to take advantage of them. Make sure to follow us on social media for future events where you can sign up to get paid for taking our Defensive Driving Course, the BCF’s Wellness, Safety and Education Program (STEP), or simply ask questions about the benefits you’re entitled to.

If you’d like to register for one of these classes, visit the following link and click on “Signup” to get started: http://www.blackcarsafetyclasses.com/signup.php.

Our Vision Van is also always on hand at these events to provide free eye exams and a pair of glasses if you need them. If you can’t make it to the Vision Van, click the following link to find a convenient location near you to receive your free eye exam: https://generalvision.com/appointments/

You’ll recall in last month’s column I touched upon our work with the IDG to address mental health. In the coming weeks, we will be formally announcing our new Mental Health and Wellness Program that will establish a lineup of free counseling services and classes to prevent crisis situations and provide our drivers with the support and services they need to take care of their mental health. Look out for full details in next month’s column.

For my final announcement, I’d like to introduce Lionel Morales, our new Communications and External Affairs Specialist who started working with us last week. He’s excited to join the team!

Until next time!

Article by Ira Goldstein

Ira J. Goldstein is the Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund and Advisor to the Black Car Assistance Corp. (BCAC).

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