Hello to all. I sure hope that the groundhog was right because I for one am certainly looking forward to Spring and the warmer weather that comes with it. We have a lot to talk about, so let’s jump into it.

In my column last month, I touched on congestion pricing and where we stand in the process. Not much has changed since then. We are currently in the public comment period, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) accepting written testimony on the tolling structure recommended by the Traffic Mobility Review Board (TMRB) and accepted by the MTA. I would encourage all of you to submit testimony at: https://contact.mta.info/s/forms/CBDTP. The deadline to submit testimony is March 11, by 11:59pm.

The MTA is also holding hearings where the public can testify. By the time you’re reading this, the February hearings will have happened but if you would prefer to provide testimony in person or via zoom, you may still be able to sign up for the hearings on March 4, at 10am and 6pm. Visithttps://new.mta.info/agency/bridges-and-tunnels/cbd-tolling-hearing to find out more and register.

Since we last spoke, there have been more lawsuits filed against the MTA and others, seeking to delay or stop the congestion pricing plan from being implemented. I believe the real goal, however, is to have leverage on the MTA and use it to gain exemptions for specific groups.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I think it is vitally important to understand that for every exemption that is granted, that money needs to be made up somewhere and the for-hire vehicle (FHV) industry is an easy target. If more exemptions or crossing credits are granted, I believe the MTA will first look to increase the fees that FHV passengers will pay.

That is why we have submitted testimony during the public comment period focused on preserving the tolling structure that was recommended by the TMRB. We also offered a couple of suggestions that we hope will be considered. First, I recommended that there should also be a nighttime discount for FHVs. If we are incentivizing private vehicles to avoid the Central Business District during peak hours by providing discounts at off-peak hours, it makes sense that we should also encourage passengers to ride at off-peak hours. Secondly, I suggested that the current congestion surcharge being paid by FHVs should be adjusted so that it only applies in the same area as the congestion pricing plan, rather than south from 96th street.

On another serious note, some of you may have heard that in February, the New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, issued a press release (https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/2024/attorney-general-james-warns-law-firm-immediately-stop-trying-profit-uber-and) formally warning the law firm of Held & Hines LLP to immediately stop its attempts to get Uber and Lyft drivers to pay a fee for the settlement funds secured by her office.

Allegedly, this firm has been sharing deceptive posts on social media and in driver chat groups claiming that the firm will help drivers claim their settlement funds for a 15% fee to be taken out. As the Attorney General’s office states, “In reality, the process to receive settlement funds is simple and does not require legal representation. Drivers will be able to start submitting claims to receive settlement funds on March 1, 2024.”

By the time you’re reading this, the claim forms should be available. Please visit the Attorney General’s website (https://ag.ny.gov/lyft-uber-settlement) to learn more about eligibility and to file a claim.

Last month, I also provided a quick update on the temporary restraining order (TRO) that was issued by a Judge in response to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance’s (NYTWA) suit against the TLC regarding their decision to allow drivers to apply for an electric vehicle TLC license. In January, the matter was adjourned to February 14, but when that date arrived, the NY Supreme Court Judge stated that he will wait until the TLC issues their February FHV license report. This report is expected to be published in March, but previous reports have been issued very late.

For example, the previous report which was due in February 2023, wasn’t issued until eight months later, in October 2023. Ultimately, it may be some time before we see any further action taken on this issue. We will continue to monitor it so that we can relay the information to you as soon as possible.

Now, moving onto some lighter news… The Black Car Fund is planning to hold its next “Steering Towards Success” resource fair event this June. These events are meant to provide an opportunity for drivers to speak directly with The Fund, learn more about our Drivers Benefits program, and ask any questions that they may have about what we do. Please keep an eye out for when we formally announce the date. Hope to see you there!

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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