Trade Group Representing Yellow Cab Owners Endorses 20 MPH Bill [Updated]

A major taxi medallion owners’ group has come out in favor of the bill to lower speed limits to 20 miles per hour on residential streets citywide.

The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade represents the owners of 5,200 of the city’s 13,000 yellow cab medallions. It has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign. In a statement released after yesterday’s council hearing, the organization said a 20 mph speed limit in city neighborhoods would reduce crashes and deaths.

For over 60 years, MTBOT has made safety a priority for the thousands of drivers it represents and the millions of passengers they serve. That is why we strongly support Int. 535, a life-saving measure that would reduce the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph exclusively on residential side streets, making the City safer for our drivers, passengers and neighbors.

This important bill should not be used as an excuse to target drivers for tickets, but rather it should bring all New Yorkers together for a common goal, to make our streets safer, especially for our children and elderly residents. Research shows that 20 mph residential speed limits work — including in London and Tokyo, where reduced speed limits have cut the number of fatal crashes on residential streets by as much as half.

It’s time New York joined other major cities in passing this sensible, life-saving legislation. MTBOT calls upon the Department of Transportation to support Int. 535 and make our streets safer for all New Yorkers.

This is a welcome endorsement, if not an altogether altruistic one. There is no doubt that slower speeds mean fewer crashes, and the MTBOT is simply acknowledging that crashes are detrimental to the taxi business. Not that MTBOT doesn’t deserve credit for recognizing reality, as it’s more than can be said of David Pollack and the Committee for Taxi Safety.

At Thursday’s City Council hearing, Pollack claimed a 20 mph speed limit on residential streets would “create confusion” for cab drivers. Pollack said cabbies would be distracted by new speed limit signage, and that lower speeds make streets less safe.

Speaking of reactionary nonsense, in a letter to Gary Altman, legislative counsel for the City Council, AAA New York said the group opposes the 20 mph bill because it “effectively eliminates the role of traffic engineers.”

Update: In response to this post, we got a pretty remarkable email from MTBOT spokesperson Michael Woloz:

It is really a misrepresentation of MTBOT’s intention and position to say that we are “simply acknowledging that crashes are detrimental to the taxi business.” This is a human issue, not a business issue. I was in the back row at the City Council hearing yesterday. I’m a father. I live on a side street in New York CIty. MTBOT members have families. Their drivers have families. This affects all of us as humans first. No one could have walked away from that hearing, given the emotional testimony of a family who recently lost a child to an accident with a car, without being moved. We realized that we can do more than shed tears — we can actually help, we can support the bill, we can work with advocates, we can work with the city council, we can raise awareness. So that’s what we are looking to do — that’s a human reaction, not a business calculation.