Hello to all! In typical New York fashion, the transition from Summer to Fall has been sudden and dramatic but I hope everyone is enjoying the cooler weather. As we enter the third Autumn season since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it’s humbling to see how far we’ve come. After a long time, the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) has rescinded its mask mandate for drivers and passengers. This was a big change as the TLC kept the mandate in place for a long time after masks requirements were lifted from other sectors and situations.

The TLC of course still recommends that drivers and passengers wear masks – which is good advice as the weather continues getting cooler and flu season picks up.

Moving on, there’s a lot to cover this month so let’s jump right into it…

In our world, the main issue that dominated everyone’s September was surely congestion pricing. As I wrote last month, the release of the MTA’s Environmental Assessment, which contained proposed tolling scenarios for congestion pricing, was nothing short of an existential threat to the entire for-hire vehicle industry. If we are ultimately subject to an uncapped congestion charge in the price range that is being suggested, it will be an absolute death blow to the black car and high volume for-hire vehicle (Uber and Lyft) industries.

Since late August, when the Environmental Assessment was released, many have come out against congestion pricing for various reasons. We have been working hard to make our argument clear and some are beginning to hear it. For example, the New York League of Conservation Voters, a pretty significant group, testified that TLC-licensed vehicles should be exempt since they already pay a congestion surcharge on every trip south of 96th street. This is a point that we have made repeatedly.

Unfortunately, this is still an uphill battle and the only way we can hope for a favorable decision is to continue being loud on this issue. If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage everyone to contact their local elected officials in the City Council, State Assembly and State Senate to voice your concerns and opposition. You can visit https://www.mygovnyc.org/ to find out who your representatives are. Write to them, call them, and show up to their community meetings to express your displeasure with congestion pricing and the possibility of losing your job.

Another issue that will affect the black car industry is the TLC’s release of their next FHV License Pause Report. This report was due in August and as of my writing this, has yet to be released. The TLC generally has released the report a little while after their “due dates” in February and August, but this time the delay is likely due to the wide expectation that the TLC will allow some type of expansion to the cap.

Multiple sources have hinted that the TLC will provide a number of additional licenses for electric vehicles and for long-term operators who have been driving for more than 10 years. It remains to be seen what the amounts will be, and if any other changes will be made. By the time you’re reading this, the report may very likely have been released and I encourage everyone to read it. You will be able to find it at the following link: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/tlc/about/industry-reports.page

In other TLC news, there are two important public hearings scheduled on October 6. Back in May, the TLC held back to back hearings on driver pay and now they have officially published new taximeterand high-volume FHV pay increase proposals. Long story short, yellow and green cabs would see a 22.9% increase in the taximeter rate, the first increase for drivers in 10 years. High Volume FHVs would see a 7.82% increase in the per-minute rate and a per-mile rate increase of 34.04%. These are significant changes and will likely be passed following the hearing.

On some lighter news, our new Black Car Fund Driver Education Center has been very well received and classes are happening now! The address for the new center is 3710 Skillman Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101 and this center is massive compared to the old one on Crescent street.

Visit www.blackcarsafetyclasses.com to learn more about our classes and sign up!

As always, our goal is to give you more opportunities to Earn While You Learn, and we’re very close to launching a new class that will focus on educating drivers on all the benefits that The Black Car Fund offers, as well as provide some additional safety instruction. When launched, this class will be available in-person and online! Our Covered Drivers will be eligible to receive a one-time payment of $200 for completing the class in person or $75 for completing it online. Keep an eye on our social media so you can be the first to sign up for the new class when it launches!

Lastly, The Black Car Fund is also working on a couple of new benefits that we will be announcing in the coming months. Without revealing too much, they will be related to accident only disability benefits and accidental injury medical expenses! We will be announcing more information on this by the end of the year so keep an eye out!

Until next time!

Article by Ira Goldstein

Ira Goldstein is Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund, Chief Operating Officer of the Black Car Assistance Corporation and Treasurer of the Coalition of Transportation Associations.

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