Hello to all! It’s that time of year again; when time seems to speed up as we enter the busy holiday season. In the past two holiday seasons, we saw COVID-19 numbers spike and it seems as though this year will be no different. While vaccines and new treatments have improved the outcome for most COVID-19 cases, there’s still good reason to be as safe as possible. While the TLC no longer requires drivers or passengers to wear masks, it is still strongly recommended!

Also, we’ve entered flu season so it’s important to know that from now through the end of February, drivers enrolled with Drivers Benefits are eligible for free flu shots! Learn more and access this benefit by visiting https://ny.driversbenefits.org/benefits/free-flu-shots/.

Speaking of benefits, we have been working hard to identify what benefits could help drivers the most, and also speaking with drivers to learn about what you want. In our conversations and research, one benefit stood out from all others. Well, you spoke and we listened. I am extremely excited to announce that as of November 1st our newest benefit, an Accident Disability Insurance Plan, is live!

This benefit, which comes at no cost to our Covered Drivers, can provide income protection in the event that you’re injured outside of work due to a covered accident and you’re unable to work. Eligible drivers can receive payments of up to 70% of their net driving income, up to a maximum of $1,500 per month, for up to one year! I believe this will have a major impact on many drivers and it’s only going to get better. In January, another new benefit, which is related to this one, will begin and I look forward to announcing more details in next month’s issue.

To learn more about the Accident Disability Insurance benefit, including eligibility requirements and more details, please visit ny.driversbenefits.org and as always, make sure you’re signed up with Drivers Benefits so you can take advantage of this benefit and much more!

Moving on, I would like to quickly touch on the congestion pricing issue. There haven’t been any updates yet, as the Traffic Mobility Review Board is still working to determine the final toll structure. It will be interesting to see what happens after the elections this month are over. In the meantime, however, 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.

In October, the TLC finally released the long-awaited FHV License Pause Report that had been due in August. For weeks leading up to the release, we had heard credible information that TLC planned on issuing 1,000 additional FHV licenses that would be split between electric vehicles (EVs) and long-term drivers. Unfortunately, the reality was worse than expected. 1,000 new licenses will still be released but only EVs will be eligible for them. This decision doesn’t do much to help struggling black car bases due to the high cost of entry for EVs.

However, the distribution of these 1,000 licenses will still be split between long-term drivers and others. Details, such as eligibility requirements, are still being worked out by the TLC, but Commissioner Do has stated that 600 of these licenses will be for long-term drivers who are currently renting and want to own their own TLC vehicle license, while the other 400 will be for drivers who already have a plate or electric vehicle. In any case, the TLC will have to go through the rulemaking process once the details are ironed out so there is still some time before anything is final. In the meantime, I would like to reiterate Commissioner Do’s advice that drivers shouldn’t go out and purchase an electric vehicle in anticipation of receiving one of these licenses.

Circling back to congestion pricing, there was actually a small silver lining in the TLC’s report. Whether intentional or not, the TLC gave us a useful statement in their report as we continue to fight the congestion pricing issue.

The TLC stated, “Data from DOT indicate that bridge and tunnel traffic into the central business district (CBD) remains close to pre-pandemic levels. Furthermore, monthly Midtown traffic speeds, which rose in 2020 in the wake of the pandemic, have been decreasing year over year, approaching pre-pandemic lows. As seen in the trip data discussed above, this return of congestion shortly after the initial onset of the pandemic occurred while FHV trip counts remained low, indicating that the cause cannot be attributed to the FHV industry.”

I encourage you all to read the full, report which you can find at the following link: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/tlc/downloads/pdf/license-pause-report-2022-08.pdf

Now onto some good news. I’m happy to report that our Communications, Outreach, and Marketing Manager, Lionel Morales, was named a 40 Under 40 Rising Star by City & State. Each year, City & State profiles 40 young individuals whose professional endeavors are truly outstanding and are helping to shape New York city politics and policy. It’s a great honor and we couldn’t be happier for Lionel, who has been with us for nearly four years and plays a big role! We look forward to seeing his future accomplishments!

That’s all for this month. 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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