The Cook Report
At long last Municipal Licensing and Standards has come up with a work plan for the overdue follow up review of the 2016 taxi industry reforms.
The bad news is very little of the long list of taxi industry issues was contemplated by MLS staff in their draft work plan. Yes they planned “consultations” with the industry, but they certainly seem to revolve around how to proceed with the original aims of the 2016 reforms, and not deal in any meaningful way with the problems and issues those reforms created for the industry.
We simply do not believe MLS staff is blissfully unaware of what those reforms did and did not accomplish, or of the litany of disasters the reforms created for the industry as a whole and for individual taxi drivers in particular.
We simply do not believe they do not know many of you are, frankly, going broke under the new rules and with the grossly unfair competition deliberately allowed by the reform package, and in particular the unrestricted, unregulated access to a limited market given to app-based for-hire-vehicle dispatch companies.
We do not believe MLS staff is unaware that there are too many instances of app-dispatched drivers causing severe problems, in some tragic cases passenger deaths, caused by untrained, unprofessional drivers allegedly serving the public for pay.
We do not for one instant believe MLS staff was unaware that by eliminating the taxi driver training course, and loosening vehicle standards, they were putting the public directly at risk.
We do not believe they were unaware that by handing over the enforcement of laws to the app-based companies they were totally ignoring City responsibility to the public, and creating an immense conflict of interest. Does MLS truly want us to believe it is in the financial interests of Private Transportation Companies (PTCs) to admit they were taking on unqualified drivers to serve the public?
Does anyone really want us to believe that they (including politicians voting for a 100 percent accessible fleet) were unaware that there was simply not enough market demand for accessible vans to justify the enormous costs they entail, and that by forcing low paid taxi drivers to buy these vehicles they were forcing these owner/operators into eventual bankruptcy? The City didn’t even bother to do a demand study before creating this utter disaster.
On the plus side, some politicians, meaning the members of the Licensing and Standards Committee, and some others, have been listening to you and made significant changes to what the review will cover.
Most notably, the review must address the problem of handing over enforcement of bylaws to the PTCs, it must address passenger safety issues, it must look for ways to financially help accessible vehicle owner/operators, it must address issues of fairness to TLT plate holders and it must reexamine the outdated requirement for a stretch to sedan vehicle ratio for limousines.
Heaven knows these changes imposed on MLS by L&S are not all that is needed, but it is at least a start.
Consultations in this four-part process will start in August of this year, with a final report to be presented to L&S in the second quarter of 2019.
We firmly expect you will, once again, clearly and forcefully make your issues crystal clear in this review process.
We further firmly expect MLS to, for a change, actually listen to your views and act constructively to address those issues, perhaps even to correct many, or at the very least some, of the horrific mistakes that were made in the past go around.
We have long maintained the taxi industry was brutally and deliberately betrayed during the last set of reforms. This time, we expect a thoroughly contrite set of City employees to do their utmost to reverse the effects of that betrayal.
They have to recognize that you are the experts in this field and you and your views must take precedence.
In the words of one grieving mother whose son died in an accident allegedly caused by an Uber driver, “I don’t expect much from Uber. I do expect a lot from the people making the laws.” For us, that includes City staff, and not just politicians.