During Eric Adams’ mayoral campaign, I attended Zoom Q&A meetings and read extensive interviews where he outlined his agenda for New York City’s ailing For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) and Taxi industries. His plans were powerful, thorough, well thought out… they gave me hope. I had never seen a mayoral candidate – or a mayor for that matter – who seemed to so clearly understand the issues that traditional Black Car, Luxury and Livery bases have faced and the devastation they’ve endured over the past decade.
On January 1, Mr. Adams will become the next Mayor of New York City. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had faith a politician would work hard to keep the promises they made on the campaign trail, but I genuinely believe in Mr. Adams. I just hope that, in the end, my instincts were on point, and that he comes through for us. We are counting on him and much hangs in the balance.
It’s unquestionably a challenging time to take on the role of New York City mayor. I know Mr. Adams faces uphill battles on many fronts, but the policies he has already proposed would make a huge difference to tens of thousands of families and help put a battered, decades-old industry back on track, enabling it to better serve the city’s citizens and those who travel far and wide to soak in all that it has to offer.
To begin with, the cap on new FHV licenses needs to be lifted for traditional bases when it comes up for its bi-annual review in the first few months of 2022. When the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) reviews the factors to make this determination – including traffic congestion, vehicle supply, passenger demand, driver earnings, and attrition rates – it must be noted that traditional bases WERE NOT responsible for any of the issues that initiated the need for a cap.
For traditional bases, the cap is not just stifling growth, it continues to threaten their very existence. At a time when so many companies are struggling to get by, the cap is preventing them from taking on new clients because they don’t have the drivers to accommodate them.
That said, it makes sense to maintain the cap on High-Volume FHV companies. I know New Yorkers love the idea of hitting a button and having a car show up in five minutes but look at the havoc excessive, “wandering” HVFHVs have caused. They didn’t make getting from “a” to “b” faster, instead they gummed up the gears and slowed down the entire city.
Of course, you can’t blame companies for wanting to grow but you can blame the TLC – the agency tasked with ensuring safe, reliable transportation – for letting it spin out of control. Statistics, traffic experts, base owners, and the people in the trenches (aka the drivers) were all shouting warnings as it was happening. Our own Doug Schifter (may he rest in peace) wrote about it month after month.
Until this point, I have never blamed TLC Chair Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk for the cap. She didn’t institute it, and her boss – Mayor de Blasio – wanted to keep it in place. But if the cap isn’t lifted on traditional bases when the next review rolls around, she will no longer be blameless.
You know what would help? If the TLC added members of the industry to its board.
Mr. Adams already stated on numerous occasions that he wants groups like the Black Car Assistance Corporation and other industry stakeholders to be more involved in decision making on issues that affect their own industry – and his plan, to create a “transportation czar” to work closely with them, is a great one. He just needs to make these things happen.
Last March, City Council introduced a proposal to increase the size of the TLC commission from 9 to 11, with the focus on adding people who have lived and breathed the industry. It’s another great idea, and if Mr. Adams puts his weight behind it, it will happen.
Mr. Adams has also said he would like to reduce the city’s bloated fleet and instead establish a voucher system for some municipal employees to use Taxis, Black Cars, and Liveries, to save the city money and reduce traffic. This one wasn’t even on my radar, but I think it’s brilliant.
Mr. Adams has a history of aligning himself with industry leaders that understand the big picture and his plans are logical and far-reaching. He strongly supported a medallion bailout well before the city struck a deal with Marblegate for financial relief for medallion owners. He also put an emphasis on dramatically expanding NYC’s electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in NYC… another idea I genuine like. But first things first: Please, Mr. Adams, remove the cap on traditional FHV licenses and give the traditional industry a real voice in policy-making that affects them directly, as you promised.
Best wishes to all for a safe Holiday Season, and a Happy, Healthy, More Prosperous New Year.