Hello to all. These truly are strange times. New York, once the country’s epicenter of this pandemic, is now seeing the lowest number of new cases since March. Meanwhile, as a country, the pandemic is as bad as it’s ever been. Many states are consistently posting record levels of new cases and the threat of a second wave is something that New York will have to keep in mind as it continues its reopening.
New York City is on track to begin Phase 3 of its reopening on July 6th. While this is still being looked at, Phase 3 may bring back indoor dining at 50% capacity for restaurants, with tables at least 6 feet apart. It will also allow the reopening of nail salons, massage, spas, tanning, and tattoo and piercing stores. Phase 3 will also allow for outdoor recreation like basketball, tennis, volleyball, handball and soccer. We have come a long way since March and April and we, as a City, should be proud of what we have accomplished.
However, we need to look no further than states like Florida and Georgia to remind ourselves that the virus isn’t going anywhere and that we need to remain vigilant. As a driver, one of the best things you can do to keep yourself and your passengers safe is to install a temporary partition in your vehicle. As I wrote last month, the TLC announced that they are allowing all vehicles without partitions, the opportunity to have temporary partitions installed by approved partition installers. In the past, the TLC regulated partitions for taxis and liveries, which had to meet technical requirements. However, the TLC has stated that they are temporarily easing these restrictions in order to allow non-bulletproof partitions to be installed.
It’s important to note that, while previously there were never restrictions on black cars installing partitions, the TLC is now requiring everyone to use one of their approved installers. The TLC has created a newly updated list of approved installers and you can access it by clicking here!
Also in the interest of driver safety, The Black Car Fund has continued distributing safety kits with masks, gloves, and sanitizer to our Covered Drivers. We will continue handing out these kits at various locations until we run out of supplies! Make sure to follow us on social media so that you can get the latest updates on distribution locations. We are active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and our handle is @nybcf across all these platforms. Please follow us and stay connected!
As New York continues reopening and more and more people start returning to work, it’s likely that the demand for for-hire vehicle service will surge. Many people are still wary of public transportation, and riding in a for-hire vehicle is a much safer alternative. This is certainly welcome news for an industry that at one point saw as much as a 90% reduction in demand.
Unfortunately, this massive reduction in for-hire vehicle trips has also led to a significant falloff in funding for the benefits and programs offered by The Black Car Fund, and as of June 30th, we are no longer offering our vision benefits. However, we are of course continuing to provide Workers Compensation benefits to Covered Drivers who are involved in accidents while working, as well as our additional benefits such as Telemedicine and Mental Wellness. The mental wellness benefit, in particular, has been very important during this pandemic. Because of this, we expanded it by hiring additional personnel to work cases. We are also ready to resume our Enhanced Defensive Driving and Wellness STEP courses as soon as we are able to. Stay tuned for more information about all of our benefits, as we hope to be able to add new ones in the months to come.
Since the pandemic started, over 10,000 drivers have signed up with Drivers Benefits in order to access our free telemedicine benefit for themselves and their families. You could be next! I again encourage you to sign up now so you’re ready to use telemedicine when you need to. Click here to learn more and get started.
Moving onto some other City news, some of you may have heard that the City formed The Surface Transportation Advisory Council which is tasked with reviewing transportation issues and providing input for the City’s re-opening plans. This Council contains an Extension Committee created by the TLC which I was a part of, along with the Black Car Assistance Corporation’s President, Diana Clemente. With our collective input, the TLC is making some recommendations to the City that would certainly benefit the black car industry. Some of the big ones include:
- Calling for a temporary pause of the FHV congestion surcharge and redistributing the surcharge to benefit drivers.
- Asking the Port Authority to delay, cancel or redistribute the airport fees.
- Recommending the City allow taxis and FHVs to use bus lanes while also advocating for full implementation of congestion pricing.
- Implementing PSAs which would discourage personal car use and instead promote taxis and FHVs as the safe ride option.
It remains to be seen in what form these recommendations might be finalized or announced, and whether they will lead to the relevant agencies or the City Council enacting new laws or policies. We will keep monitoring this closely and I hope to have updates in next month’s column.
As I wrap up, I also wanted to make sure you heard that the City Council has officially legalized electric bikes and scooters in New York City. Legislation passed by the Council will allow electric bikes that travel up to 25 MPH, and electric scooters that can go up to 20 MPH, to travel in bicycle lanes throughout the city. Under another bill, the City will launch an e-scooter sharing program outside of Manhattan that will work like Citi Bikes and the Revel moped sharing program. The Mayor is expected to sign these bills, despite having previously ordered a crackdown on e-bikes that resulted in hundreds being seized by the police. It looks like driving in New York just keeps getting harder and harder.
As we continue through this summer, please remember to stay safe out there! Until next time!