Perhaps the most surprising thing about the new accessibility rules being proposed by the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) is the fact that anything surprises me anymore. And yet, there I was… shocked into stunned silence when I first read that the TLC intends to require “all FHV bases to dispatch 25% of their trips in wheelchair accessible vehicles.”
My initial thought was, “Wow, they’re really going after Uber…” and although I’ve been critical of Uber in the past, on numerous occasions in fact, it seemed like a pretty clumsy and blatant attempt to rein in the notorious Transportation Network Company (TNC), which has seen exponential growth in NYC, causing yellow taxi medallion values to plummet.
More importantly, if the TLC is in fact “going after Uber,” their plan is more than a little flawed – unless they think that getting rid of most of Uber’s competition in one fell swoop is a good way to restore balance to the industry, and bolster yellow taxi medallion values. Unlike Uber, the traditional bases don’t have pockets deep enough to weather a hit that huge, so they would end up as collateral damage.
The whole thing is out of whack. Initially, the TLC and the City let Uber run amok and cause mayhem in the NYC transportation industry. Now, the TLC wants to inflict overly restrictive rules that will end up hurting everyone. Where’s the balance here?
Maybe I’m the one who’s crazy, but this doesn’t seem like a particularly effective way to provide better service to the disabled community. While we would all like to see a better system for serving NYC citizens who require wheelchair-accessible vehicles, the TLC’s new plan will almost surely do more harm than good. Putting companies out of business is kind of the opposite of a good way to serve potential riders.
It’s as if the TLC is trying to force traditional Black Car bases to change their business models to fit what Uber inadvertently created by getting licensed as multiple Black Car bases. Traditional Black Car bases historically have performed contract work with corporations, law firms, pharmaceutical companies, etc. – they generally don’t market their services to the public. If, as part of one of those contracts, a corporate client required wheelchair accessible vehicles, that Black Car base would accommodate those needs. But to force a base to randomly send 25% of their dispatched trips to wheelchair accessible vehicles just doesn’t make sense. These companies are not built that way.
In addition to being fined for not abiding by the 25% number – which in itself would be unduly burdensome – bases can have their licenses suspended if they don’t meet those percentages, which would be catastrophic. The TLC would effectively be putting all of those bases out of business. The whole thing feels like a knee-jerk reaction to a real problem, without sufficient thought given to the consequences.
The hearing on the proposed FHV accessibility rules is scheduled for September 28, 2017, at 10:00 a.m., in the hearing room at 33 Beaver Street – 19th Floor, New York, NY 10004. I would recommend that everyone who is likely to be affected by this show up – and between the time that you read this and September 28, I would also recommend joining an industry association. There is strength in numbers, and organizations like the Black Car Assistance Corporation will be able to offer guidance on how you can help.
The following are ways that people can comment on the proposed rules:
• Mail. You can mail written comments to the TLC, Office of Legal Affairs, 33 Beaver Street – 22nd Floor, New York, New York 10004.
• Fax. You can fax written comments to the TLC, Office of Legal Affairs, at 212-676-1102.
• Email. You can email written comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Website. You can submit comments to the TLC through the NYC rules Web site at www.nyc.gov/nycrules.
• By Speaking at the Hearing. Anyone who wants to comment on the proposed rule at the public hearing must sign up to speak. You can sign up before the hearing by calling 212-676-1135. You can also sign up in the hearing room before the hearing begins. You can speak for up to three minutes.
Written comments must be submitted by September 21. For more information, visit: www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/downloads/pdf/proposed_req_wheelchair_accessibility_6_30_17.pdf.
If you need assistance to participate in the hearing, you must tell the Office of Legal Affairs if you need a reasonable accommodation of a disability, such as a sign language interpreter. You can mail the above address or call 212-676-1135.