The International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR) and the University Transportation Research Center (UTRC) of The City College of New York recently hosted a panel of leaders in the for-hire and taxicab industries to discuss the economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how to ease passenger and driver concerns going forward.

The discussion was hosted by Professor Matthew Daus (UTRC/CCNY/CUNY Transportation Technology Chair & former NYC Taxi & Limousine Commissioner/Chair/CEO) and featured the following panelists: Ira J. Goldstein (Black Car Fund/BCAC); Brendan Sexton (Independent Driver Guild); Cira Angeles (Livery Base Owners); Michael Woloz (MTBOT); Avik Kabessa (Livery Roundtable); and Eric Rothman (DOSA).

“We hope to have some lessons learned from other cities that have reopened so far but our focus today is New York and our reopening plans,” Daus explained.

The following are some “key takeaways” from each panelist:

Ira J. Goldstein: Industries were hit very hard by COVID-19. Things shut down virtually overnight and business for bases fell 85-90%, and the comeback has been very slow so far. Some drivers are older and particularly concerned about their health; and drivers were making more money staying home. The bases were well supplied on cleaning materials for vehicles but there was a shortage on PPE, so the Black Car Fund became a purchasing agent and provided PPE bags through a partnership with the IDG, distributed directly through bases. If drivers wrote on social media, they would send a package of PPE directly to them. Through another partnership with the IDG, we developed a mental health program that is working to provide for more staff to work with drivers experiencing tough times.

Brendan Sexton: For nearly four months, the IDG was the only [advocacy] group providing PPE to drivers – and we did not discriminate between yellow, FHV or street hail liveries. The IDG is providing group therapy to drivers and working with the NYU School of Health Safety to provide health certification for drivers. We’re committed to looking for different solutions so wages and benefits are better. We have right to bargain legislation that would organize at a state level to work with app companies to get better benefits and better pay.

Cira Angeles: Speaking on behalf of the livery members, Ms. Angeles discussed the need for drivers to receive COVID-19 tests for free when they need it. She further explained that some bases have continued to provide medical rides and food delivery during the COVID-19 crisis. Many members absorbed the costs of PPE to ensure safety for drivers and passengers during these tough times.

Michael Woloz: Mr. Woloz spoke on the importance of the taxi industry during this time and how significantly it has suffered. Five years ago, MTBOT introduced the Driver Resource Center, where lawyers represent taxi drivers. MTBOT has provided millions of dollars in free legal assistance – which is especially important in these times of financial strain and hardship.

Avik Kabessa: The Livery Roundtable is focused on educating drivers and passengers, as well as expanding coverage to possibly include death directly attributed to COVID-19. Through education, Dr. Kabessa has established driver/passenger behavior for his FHV base, Carmel Car Service. Carmel instructed drivers to exclusively open trunks and doors, so customers don’t touch those surfaces. Carmel also distributes medical equipment and now pays drivers a 20% gratuity. Kabessa encourages the state to create a safe feeling of coming to NYC.

Eric Rothman: Mr. Rothman spoke about the rental industry and the work the Driver Opportunity Service Association (DOSA), which represents driver-friendly vehicle rental companies (NOT leasing/finance companies) is doing for drivers during this difficult time. DOSA members provide a low-cost “turnkey solution” so everything is already done for the driver. Vehicles on the rental platform faced problems with insurance and there were issues regarding where to store unused vehicles during the shutdown. Going forward, vehicles that work on the platform with Mr. Rothman are sanitized and have partitions, and PPE, and drivers have the ability to provide masks to riders, if needed.

To view the presentation, Click Here.

Source: Windels Marx

Article by Matthew W. Daus, Esq.
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