Another month has passed, and the future of the New York City For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) industry continues to hang in the balance as the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) leaves leaders, drivers, base owners and employees in limbo on pending Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) rules. As most of you know, the new rules – which were discussed at length at the TLC’s September hearing – would require bases to dispatch a growing percentage of their trips in WAVs (maxing out at 25%), whether the customer requires one or not.
Clearly, the intent is to get more WAVs on the road, but simple logic seems to be absent from the new plan. Supply and demand don’t match up in any discernable way, and it’s frustrating for many of us.
After a recent meeting with TLC Chair Meera Joshi in mid-October, industry leaders were encouraged by Ms. Joshi to move forward with their alternate plan – which includes creating a central dispatch center and guaranteeing on-demand WAV service to those who require it in 15 minutes or less – but the TLC will still seemingly be implementing its percentage-based program. Ms. Joshi offered a slightly longer timeframe for reaching the aforementioned 25% of trips dispatched (by one year) and negotiated down to 5% in the first year, but that simply postpones the pain (barely) and doesn’t address the underlying issues.
There is a tremendous amount to unpack… the City’s failure to protect taxi medallion values (which has caused a great deal of unnecessary pain), the City’s lack of leadership or foresight in allowing unrestrained growth by Uber (something Uber can’t reasonably be blamed for), a system for providing service to those who need WAVs that is clearly not working effectively, seemingly indiscriminant enforcement of certain rules while others have been ignored in recent years, the creation of more and more rules without sufficient thought to how they might impact and ripple through a delicately balanced transportation system… but the TLC seems to be dancing around all of these issues, without looking for reasonable solutions, or even actually naming the real problems and the causes of those problems.
Instead, we have the new FHV WAV rules, a serious systemic flaw with the current system (which is not likely to be fixed by the new rules), the likelihood of a whole lot more unnecessary pain and the potential dismantling of a multi-billion-dollar industry. Out of the rubble, winners and losers will emerge, with absolutely no guarantee that the people who need better WAV service will actually end up receiving it – but I’d say it’s a safe bet that a lot of bases will be put out of business, tens of thousands of drivers will be hurt financially and the industry will continue down a blind, circuitous path, without anything resembling a roadmap to offer direction on the way forward to what has never been a more uncertain future.
In the meantime, negotiations between FHV industry leaders and the TLC are continuing – and depending on how those negotiations play out in the coming weeks, there very well may be a call to arms for the many people who will be affected by the new rules. If Ms. Joshi continues to stand firm on her unfortunate position, I think you can expect protests as the industry fights for its very existence.
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