Hello to all! I hope everyone is as excited as I am for Spring and the warmer weather it brings.

The biggest story from March, which most of you are probably familiar with, was the TLC’s rollout of the 1,000 new licenses for electric vehicles (EVs). On March 15th, the TLC released the Statement of Purpose form for drivers to claim the first 600 of these licenses. The first 600 were meant for individual drivers who did not already have a TLC vehicle license. The TLC, however, did not anticipate the overwhelming demand that there would be, and the Statement of Purpose form was live for less than 5 minutes before completely maxing out. Over 25,000 unique visitors visited the TLC website that morning.

This resulted in a lot of criticism for the TLC in how they handled and designed this entire process. The remaining 400 licenses, which are open to anyone, were expected to be released on March 29th in the same manner. The decision to release them in the same manner was also met with criticism, but at the end of the day, the TLC was likely constrained by the rules that were passed to issue these 1,000 licenses. The 400 remaining licenses were almost certain to disappear even faster than the first wave, but the TLC has made assurances that if any future licenses are issued, they’ll be done on something more akin to a lottery basis.

In other TLC news, a public hearing on some proposed rules has been scheduled for April 19th at 10:00am. There are several rule changes that are being considered, including: consolidating the TLC’s Critical Driver Program into the Persistent Violator Program, amending insurance provisions to reflect State legislative changes, reducing the amount of time in which licensees can answer a directive, clarifying that a licensee must have a state-issued Chauffeur’s license in good standing and valid NYS driving privileges in order to drive for-hire, and clarifying that a for-hire vehicle (FHV) license terminates immediately upon being revoked or surrendered, or if the vehicle’s state license plates are voluntarily surrendered.

These are actually pretty significant changes, so I encourage everyone to read the details of the proposed rules to familiarize yourselves with the changes and decide if you want to provide testimony at the hearing. You can read the proposed rules here: https://www.nyc.gov/assets/tlc/downloads/pdf/proposed_rules_ins_req_per_vio_prog.pdf.

Moving on, I have previously written about Intro 501-A, introduced by Council Member Lincoln Restler which would give citizens the power to report vehicles blocking bike and bus lanes, as well as vehicles that block entrances or exits of school buildings, sidewalks and crosswalks. If you recall, when I originally wrote about this, I mentioned the bill also would have provided the citizen reporters with 25% of any penalties collected.

I immediately recognized the dangerous consequences this bill could spell for drivers so I began working to ensure that our concerns are heard during the legislative process. In March, an updated and watered-down version of the bill was released, which no longer provides any kickback to those who report violations. However, that really means that the only people who will be reporting these violations now are zealots, so this change isn’t necessarily good news. Also, the bill was changed so that by year three after its passage, it would apply to the entire city, rather than the zones that were previously determined.

Furthermore, the major issue I have with this bill still remains: There is no burden of proof outlined in its provisions. Take for instance a similar bill that passed, allowing citizens to report idling trucks. In order to submit these violations, the citizen needs to provide a 3-minute video of the truck idling. Without a similar requirement, there is nothing stopping an overzealous citizen from simply snapping a picture of a TLC driver picking up or dropping off a passenger, which is expressly allowed by TLC rules, and submitting it as evidence of a violation. This cannot be allowed to happen.

This bill has been scheduled for a hearing in the City Council’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on April 24th at 10:00am. I have personally met with the Committee’s Chair, Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, and expressed my concerns to her. I will also be testifying at this hearing to voice my concerns. I would encourage anyone who can, to also testify to ensure the Committee understands the consequences this bill could have if its not fully thought out.

In other City news, I would like to provide another monthly update on the progression of the Central Business District Tolling Plan (CBDTP), or congestion pricing as it’s commonly referred to. In March, lawmakers from New York and New Jersey formed a coalition in an attempt to further delay the plan. This coalition, called the Anti-Congestion Tax Caucus, includes Rep. Nicole Malliotakis from NY and Rep. Josh Gottheimer from NJ, and is focused on calling on the Federal government to require a full Environmental Impact Statement, rather than just the Environmental Assessment which has already been issued.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is reviewing public feedback, and will either issue a finding of no significant impact (FONSI), allowing the program to proceed, or a request for an environmental impact statement, which will require additional study. By the time you are reading this, we expect that the FONSI will have been issued. Even so, we have also heard that the MTA is further behind schedule and implementation of the congestion pricing plan is already pushed back to 2025.

As we wrap up, I wanted to give you a further update on our newest Earn While You Learn opportunity. We had an overwhelming response to the class and it was quickly fully booked through the end of April. However, more classes will be added to the schedule through May and June, and these spots will be opened up on April 3rd. They will fill up quickly, so if you are interested in taking this class, you should be prepared to visit the registration page on the morning of April 3rd. The page is https://drivered.nybcf.org.

Also, make sure you are following us on social media so you can be the first to learn about any news and updates regarding this class and all the other benefits we offer. Remember, this new class will also be offered online soon, so stay connected! 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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