Legislative package helps level the playing field while also fostering innovation and protecting consumers
New York – New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced today that the New York City Council will introduce a legislative package to reform the taxi and for-hire vehicle (FHV) industries in New York City. The legislation, which will be introduced by Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez, Corey Johnson, Brad Lander, Fernando Cabrera, Stephen Levin, Rory Lancman, and Dan Garodnick is a result of the efforts of a Council working group led by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, along with Council Members Stephen Levin, Brad Lander, and James Vacca. This working group comprehensively reviewed the taxi and FHV industries, continually meeting with industry stakeholders from all sectors over the past six months to discuss their concerns with the current state of regulation and proposals for reform.
“After months of thoughtful deliberation, we have produced a package of bills that will benefit all in the rapidly changing taxi and for-hire vehicle industries,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “We listened to the concerns of advocates, industry representatives and the riding public and now return with solution-oriented proposals to be discussed in the coming months. Going forward, we will continue to receive input on these ideas and more to finalize laws that work for New York City’s ever-evolving transportation network. I am pleased that the time we have put into this process has yielded a fine array of bills and I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, her team and my colleagues for their care on each of these important issues. I look forward to working with each of them as well as Mayor de Blasio, industry leaders, drivers and riders, as we seek to complete a lasting framework for the future.”
“The Council is proud to take the lead on reforming the taxi and for-hire vehicles in New York City while also ensuring continued innovation and convenience,” said Speaker Mark-Viverito. “This legislation will work to protect consumers and create more accessibility while improving working conditions for drivers. This package is the result of months of study by hard working Council Members along with countless meetings with the industry and stakeholders. We look forward to continuing these conversations and working collaboratively with the de Blasio administration as we work to build a transit system that reflects New York City in the 21st century.”
“I am proud to have been a part of the working group that deliberatively and carefully created a package of reforms for the taxi and for-hire vehicle industries,” said Council Member Vacca. “These policy proposals and pieces of legislation will make great strides toward a fairer, more consumer-friendly industry. I am pleased to address issues relating to persons with disabilities, especially the blind, deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, whose needs have long been overlooked when it comes to the taxi and for-hire-vehicle industries. I thank the Speaker for her leadership on this issue, and I am eager to work with my colleagues in the Council and the administration to bring these proposals to reality.”
Council Member Stephen Levin said: “Smartphone apps for taxis and black cars have evolved significantly over the past few years, but rules and regulations haven’t kept up. This bill will reduce licensing hurdles, make it easier for more bases and drivers to access the newest and best technologies on the market, and ultimately improve consumer choice and experience by encouraging innovation. I am proud to partner with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on this important legislation and I commend her and Mayor de Blasio for their thoughtful and deliberative leadership on this issue.”
Council Member Brad Lander said: “With the taxi and for-hire vehicle industries in transition from new technology and forms of work, the City Council is taking the lead in setting a new regulatory framework that’s better for consumers, drivers, people with disabilities, and that creates more parity across the system. I’m especially excited that we will move forward with an innovative ‘driver benefits fund’ to provide drivers — whether they drive a yellow or a green taxi, an Uber or a Lyft — some of the benefits that traditional employees have through their jobs.”
The Council identified four areas of major concern—drivers, service classifications, consumer protections, and accessible vehicle service—that it will address in the coming weeks through legislation and budget proposals.
As most drivers are independent contractors, they do not have access to an employer-provided health care plan and often have limited disability insurance coverage. To broaden access to a range of benefits, Council Members Johnson, Rodriguez, and Lander will introduce a bill to require the TLC to directly administer a health care services program and purchase supplemental disability insurance coverage for drivers.
Licenses to drive taxis and FHVs have different requirements, even though these drivers serve many of the same riders. Council Member Rodriguez will introduce a bill to create a universal license that allows for the operation of a taxi or FHV. The bill would eliminate the requirement that an applicant pass a written English language exam—a significant barrier to entry to driving a taxi—while ensuring that we keep City safety and operating standards high.
There are over 140,000 licensed taxi and FHV drivers in New York City, with hundreds more applying for a license each week. These applicants can face waits over three months. The Council is exploring ways of streamlining the TLC’s licensing process, including oversight over recent efforts to reduce processing time, a review of ongoing and potential technological improvements, and an assessment of any need for funding for additional staff.
Livery bases face a unique hurdle to operating as an FHV service as they must provide off-street parking for half of their affiliated vehicles. As the vast majority of livery drivers own their vehicles and take them home when not working, the off-street parking requirement places a tremendous financial burden on bases that provides little benefit to the public. Int. No. 47, introduced by Council Member Cabrera, would eliminate the requirement that livery bases maintain off-street parking spaces. The Council will also work with the TLC to ensure that any complaints related to livery vehicles are fully addressed.
Smartphone apps that dispatch vehicles have revolutionized the private transportation industry, yet app developers seeking to work with other bases or service classes must meet separate, burdensome licensing requirements. Council Member Levin and Speaker Mark-Viverito will introduce a bill that allows any app used by a licensed base to be used by other bases or medallion owners. By allowing bases and medallion owners to contract with apps that are already licensed, market-tested and valuable technology will be available to smaller bases and taxis seeking a competitive e-dispatch option.
Black cars are subject to a mandatory retirement schedule, depending on the model year of the vehicle, forcing drivers to buy newer vehicles even though their current vehicle can pass inspection. Council Member Lancman will introduce a bill extending the time that a black car may remain in service.
The Taxi of Tomorrow was launched as the City’s official taxi in 2015, yet an array of stakeholders—including drivers, medallion owners, and advocates for people with disabilities—have raised concerns about the lack of a hybrid option and challenges related to accessibility. The Committee on Transportation will hold an oversight hearing to examine these issues and the impact of the Taxi of Tomorrow on riders, drivers, and medallion owners.
· Apps can provide quick and efficient service, but may not provide riders with enough information on pricing to allow them to make an educated decision. Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Member Garodnick, and Council Member Rodriguez will introduce a bill to increase price transparency in black car trips by allowing riders to receive a price estimate and requiring that the actual fare charged not be more than twenty percent higher than the estimate.
· Apps collect a tremendous amount of information from riders, creating the potential for serious violations of privacy and data breaches. Int. No. 658, introduced by Council Member Garodnick, would require bases to protect passenger information, only use that information for certain purposes, and to report on any security breaches.
· Aside from street hail liveries, FHVs are prohibited from picking up passengers on the street unless the ride was prearranged. Rides accepted through illegal street hails infringe on the rights of yellow and green taxis and leave riders without many of the consumer protections offered through regulated service. Council Member Rodriguez will introduce a bill to increase penalties for illegal street hails, included enhanced penalties for illegal pick-ups in the hail exclusionary zone, and the Council will work to increase the TLC’s enforcement squads to combat unregulated pick-ups.
Riders seeking accessible taxi or FHV service in New York City have long struggled with excessive wait times, unreliable service, and limited options. All residents and visitors should have meaningful access to taxis and FHVs, regardless of any physical, visual, or hearing impairments. The Council is committed to working with stakeholders to develop a comprehensive system that will not only quickly and efficiently connect accessible vehicles and riders, but that will incentivize drivers to offer accessible service.