Hello to all. I hope everyone is enjoying the autumn weather. The cool air and changing colors are reminders that we are approaching the holiday season. October always seems to be a busy month, and this one was no different. There are a few big updates I have to give, but before I jump into it, I’d like to take a moment to let you know about a flu vaccine clinic that The Black Car Fund is hosting with CVS Pharmacy at our Driver Education Center.

The word “flu” is often tossed around whenever we get sick. It’s used almost as a colloquialism to describe everything from a cold to a stomach virus. When you actually have the flu, you’ll know. It’s a terrible illness that hits even healthy people very hard. I encourage everyone to get their flu shot, whether through the free flu voucher program with Drivers Benefits (https://ny.driversbenefits.org/benefits/free-flu-shot-voucher-program/), or by signing up for our vaccine clinic being held on Tuesday, November 28th. If you’d like to sign up, please visit https://linktr.ee/nybcfto do so! Now let’s jump into some news.

At the beginning of October, the MTA’s Traffic Mobility Review Board (TMRB) held its third meeting and finally provided us with the much-anticipated numbers regarding the toll structure. In the days and weeks leading up to this meeting, it was unclear whether we would see fairness among the ground transportation sectors. It was truly refreshing to see the traditional black cars, liveries and taxis are being treated equally in the proposed tolling structures.

At the meeting, the TMRB stated that their main goals for the Central Business District Tolling Program (CBDTP), or congestion pricing as we all call it, were to keep the tolls as low as possible, minimize traffic diversions, prioritize equity, and keep the tolls simple. I won’t go into all the details of their presentation, as I advise you to read it in its entirety (at https://new.mta.info/document/122736). However, I would like to briefly discuss the four scenarios presented to the TMRB regarding taxis and for-hire vehicles (FHVs).

First, all four of the scenarios are based on a per-trip fee. This was a major victory as it appeared initially that drivers might get saddled with a daily fee that would fall on the driver, rather than being able to be passed on to passengers. In all four of the scenarios, app based FHVs such as Uber and Lyft, will pay slightly more than traditional black cars, liveries and taxis.

  • In scenario 1, passengers of taxis, liveries, and black cars would pay $1.50 per trip, while app based FHV passengers would pay $2. There would be no nighttime discount in this scenario.
  • In scenario 2, passengers of taxis, liveries, and black cars would pay $1 per trip, while app based FHV passengers would pay $1.50. There would also be a 50% nighttime discount. I believe this is the most favorable scenario for our industries. It keeps the toll low and even provides a nighttime discount.
  • Scenario 4 is similar to scenario 2, just slightly more expensive. In this scenario, passengers of taxis, liveries, and black cars would pay $1.50 per trip, while app-based FHV passengers would pay $2, but there would still be a 50% nighttime crossing credit.
  • Lastly, scenario 3 is unique. In this scenario, passengers of taxis, liveries, and black cars would pay $1 per trip, while app based FHV passengers would pay $2, and the nighttime discount would be 75% instead. However, this scenario also introduces an additional fee for app-based FHV passengers, called the daytime intra-CBD fee. It would require an additional 75 cent fee for app-based FHV passengers who take a ride that begins and ends within the CBD.

The next steps are for the TMRB to review the four scenarios presented to them and ultimately issue a report with their recommendation to the MTA. It is unclear whether the TMRB is required to meet and publicly vote, or if they can simply issue the report. The MTA has regularly scheduled meetings in November and December, but it is not expected that they will vote on congestion pricing at these meetings. It is expected to vote at a January meeting, and it is anticipated that there will be a public comment period before a final vote by the MTA.

Moving onto some more major news from the past month, the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) has removed the FHV license cap on electric vehicles. The TLC made this move following the passage of their Green Rides Initiative, which will require all high-volume FHV rides to be done in a zero-emissions vehicle by 2030.

As you recall, earlier this year the TLC issued 1,000 new plates for electric vehicles (EVs) and they were gone in minutes. Now, under the rule change announced by TLC, any driver with an electric vehicle can apply for a TLC plate.

Commissioner David Do stated that he hopes this change would also help put an end to the leasing arrangements that many drivers have entered into due to the cap on FHV licenses. Rather than pay a leasing company upwards of $400-500 per week to rent a vehicle with a TLC plate, aspiring drivers could instead purchase an EV and receive their own plate.

There are valid concerns about whether the city’s EV infrastructure can keep up with the growth that this rule change may cause. The City will certainly have to prioritize infrastructure if their mandated shift to EVs is going to succeed. Even Charles Komanoff, a national expert on congestion pricing and traffic modeling, raised concerns about the city’s decision. In an article written by him on Streetsblog, he argues that adding vehicles, even electric ones, will increase congestion and even emissions from the non-electric vehicles still on the road. Further, he argues there are concerns about emissions resulting from the rapid increase in demand for electricity. The power grid servicing New York City is almost entirely powered by fossil fuel plants. These are all questions that need to be examined.

Moving onto some lighter news, I am very happy to be named to the 2023 Queens Power List by Schneps Media. Each year, the Queens Power List recognizes Queens folks for their work and influence. It’s an honor for my work with The Black Car Fund to be recognized and to see my name and face among so many other accomplished individuals. Thank you to Vicki Schneps and the Schneps Media company for the recognition! To see a full list of the honorees, visit: https://www.schnepsmedia.com/events/queens-power-list/.

As I wrap up, I’d like to take this opportunity to once again let you know about our newest Earn While You Learn Opportunity, The Black Car Fund Driver Education Course. As you may know, the course is now available online and we have recently increased the payments for completing the course to $125 for completing it online, and $250 for completing it in person! Once every three years, you can choose one of these options. If you haven’t already, please visit https://drivered.nybcf.org/ to sign up for the course!

On a final note, the response to our Driver Resource Fair was overwhelming and we are excited to let you know that another event is being planned to kick off the new year in January. I would also like to thank the Independent Drivers Guild for their partnership and outreach, which helped make the event such a success. Please keep an eye out on our social media channels to stay connected and learn the details of our next event!

I wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving with family, friends and loved ones. 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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