On Safety, New TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi Has Her Work Cut Out For Her

Two cab drivers fatally struck 22-year-old Kelly Gordon last night as she crossed York Avenue with her sister and a friend. Gordon was at least the fifth person killed by a city cab driver in the last 12 months, and the second this year, after 9-year-old Cooper Stock and his father were hit on the Upper West Side in January.

Meera Joshi

Meera Joshi

With Vision Zero a top priority for Mayor de Blasio, and related legislation pending in the City Council, cab driver safety will be a major issue for Meera Joshi, the former Taxi and Limousine Commission legal director who was confirmed by the council yesterday as the new TLC chair and CEO.

“TLC has a critical role in making Vision Zero a reality,”Joshi said last week. She has her work cut out for her. It was reported yesterday that the cab driver who killed Cooper Stock has not driven a cab since, but only because he has chosen not to. The cabbies who killed 5-year-old Timothy Keith and severed the leg of tourist Sian Green also retained their hack licenses. Last year a TLC database snafu kept thousands of dangerous cabbies behind the wheel. Clearly, when the TLC consistently fails to get reckless cab drivers off the streets, its disciplinary protocol is in need of an overhaul.

To help prevent cab drivers from doing harm in the first place, de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan calls for technology to monitor behavior behind the wheel and ensure compliance with speed limits. This week the City Council introduced enabling legislation for a “black box” pilot program.

What’s needed overall, though, is a culture shift. Cab drivers work brutal hours and are under constant pressure to get to the next fare. As we wrote earlier this year, better driver accountability through Vision Zero safety measures could elevate public esteem for the job and lead to improved working conditions. Before her confirmation Joshi proposed a TLC “honor roll” and financial incentives for the safest drivers.

Joshi has the goodwill of driver lobbying groups, for now, but to get cab drivers onboard to the extent that safe drivers set the tone for the fleet, the TLC will have to ruffle some feathers as well.