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Posts from the Taxi and Limousine Commission Category

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Cab Driver Who Challenged Constitutionality of ROW Law Pleads Guilty

The cab driver who unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of the Right of Way Law after killing Manhattan pedestrian Silvia Gallo pled guilty to violating the law yesterday.

Silvia Gallo and her son, former MMA star Jorge Gurgel. Photo: Cage Potato

Silvia Gallo and her son, former MMA star Jorge Gurgel. Photo: Cage Potato

Adopted as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, the Right of Way Law made it an unclassified misdemeanor for New York City drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way. MD Hossain was the first person charged under the law, also known as code Section 19-190.

Hossain hit Gallo as he turned left into a crosswalk at Madison Avenue and E. 79th Street on August 29, 2014. Gallo was stuck beneath the cab until witnesses overturned the vehicle to extricate her. She was pronounced dead at Lenox Hill Hospital.

DNAinfo reported that Gallo, a 58-year-old Pilates instructor, was scheduled to leave for Ireland the day after her death, to work and live with her boyfriend. Gallo’s son is former mixed martial arts star Jorge Gurgel.

Hossain was charged with violating the victim’s right of way and careless driving. He filed a lawsuit claiming that Section 19-190 violates the state and U.S. constitutions by “undermin[ing] the very concept of innocent until proven guilty” and “purport[ing] to regulate alleged reckless driving ‘by imposing criminal penalties on a strict liability’ basis.” Hossain also challenged the application of the law in his case.

In November 2015, New York County Criminal Court Judge Ann E. Scherzer dismissed the suit, rejecting Hossain’s claim that the law presumes driver guilt.

“Before the Right of Way Law, only the officer’s observation of the crash — not videotapes of the crash — would support a charge, except in cases handled by the Collision Investigation Squad,” attorney Steve Vaccaro said of Scherzer’s ruling. “Now, a non-CIS police officer can collect and watch video, record spoken admissions by the driver at the crash scene, and lay charges based on those types of plainly reliable evidence. This is exactly what the Right of Way Law was supposed to accomplish.”

Hossain was fined $750 plus $200 in court fees, according to court records. His drivers license was suspended for six months.

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Garodnick Proposes Three-Strikes Suspension Policy for TLC Drivers

Council Member Dan Garodnick introduced legislation today establishing a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy affecting for-hire drivers who have had license suspensions. The bill would prohibit drivers from receiving a license from the Taxi and Limousine Commission if they have received three suspensions in the past 10 years on either their DMV-issued or TLC-issued licenses for traffic-related infractions.

Council Member Dan Garodnick wants a three-strikes policy for TLC drivers who have received license suspensions. Photo: Jeffrey Zeldman/Flickr

Council Member Dan Garodnick wants a three-strikes policy for TLC drivers who have received license suspensions. Photo: Jeffrey Zeldman/Flickr

TLC is “in the process of reviewing the bill,” according to an agency spokesperson, who pointed to existing penalties for TLC and DMV violation points.

Those rules, enacted in 2014 after the mayor signed a package of Vision Zero bills, look at points on a driver’s license within a 15-month window. The rules mandate one-month suspensions for drivers who have received between six and nine points for traffic violations, and license revocation for drivers with 10 or more points within a 15-month period.

Garodnick’s bill (Intro 1243) goes after drivers who rack up multiple suspensions and keep returning to the road, but never receive enough points at one time to have their license revoked.

“There are hundreds of thousands of trips in TLC-licensed vehicles each day, and our bill promotes safer streets by getting repeat violators of traffic laws out from behind the wheel of taxis,” Garodnick told Streetsblog.

There is no estimate available of how many drivers would be affected by Garodnick’s three-strikes proposal, but driver representatives are not happy about it. New York Taxi Workers Alliance spokesperson Bhairavi Desai told the Daily News that the bill is “baseless scapegoating” of drivers. “What this does is deprive drivers of the ability to show rehabilitation,” she said.

Garodnick countered that the legislation would serve to ensure that repeat dangerous drivers are not putting New Yorkers in danger. “Suspensions are serious and are not issued easily or lightly. If someone has not just one, or two, but three suspensions, that is more than enough reason for us to doubt their ability to be a safe driver,” he said.

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NYC Motorists Killed Four People Walking and Biking This Weekend

Po Chu Ng was killed on Sixth Avenue by a driver in an SUV with TLC plates as she crossed the street with the right of way. The driver was not charged. Image: Google Maps

Po Chu Ng was killed on Sixth Avenue by a driver in an SUV with TLC plates as she crossed the street with the right of way. The driver was not charged. Image: Google Maps

New York City motorists killed four people walking and biking this weekend. One of the victims was struck in a Midtown crosswalk while crossing with the right of way, but NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance haven’t filed charges against the driver.

Po Chu Ng was crossing Sixth Avenue at W. 30th Street at approximately 5:15 Saturday afternoon when a driver struck her with a GMC SUV while turning left onto the avenue, the Daily News and Gothamist reported.

Ng, 52, was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital. The driver was a 27-year-old man. WABC reporter CeFaan Kim tweeted a photo showing that the SUV had Taxi and Limousine Commission plates. A Daily News photo shows the SUV sitting in the crosswalk with a pool of blood on the street in front of it.

An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog Ng was crossing Sixth Avenue on the north side of the intersection, west to east, in the crosswalk with the pedestrian signal “in her favor.” But as of this afternoon, the driver, whose name was not released, did not face charges under the Right of Way Law. The spokesperson said the crash is still being investigated.

As part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, in 2014 NYC adopted the Right of Way Law, which penalizes motorists for harming pedestrians and cyclists who are following traffic rules, and Cooper’s Law, which gives the TLC a mechanism to revoke the TLC licenses of cab drivers who kill people who are walking and biking with the right of way. NYPD enforcement of the Right of Way Law remains inconsistent, and the TLC does not use Cooper’s Law, in part because police and district attorneys rarely file charges after a serious crash.

Three of this weekend’s fatal crashes were hit-and-runs, prompting Transportation Alternatives to call on state lawmakers to act this week to toughen penalties against drivers who flee crash scenes.

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TLC: Cab Driver Blocking the Bike Lane? We’ll Allow It

The Taxi and Limousine Commission is telling cyclists the agency is no longer penalizing cab drivers for blocking bike lanes.

It is against city traffic rules to drive or stop a motor vehicle in a bike lane. City rules also prohibit cab drivers from picking up and dropping off passengers in bike lanes. These rules exist because it’s often dangerous to force a cyclist from a bike lane into lanes designated for motor vehicle traffic.

In the past, a cyclist who filed a complaint could expect the TLC to impose a fine when presented with evidence that a cab driver broke those rules. But cyclists who have had recent complaints rejected by the TLC say that’s not the case anymore.

Reader Choresh Wald emailed us to say a TLC employee told him the agency made a “policy change” and will no longer enforce NYC traffic rules against blocking bike lanes. According to Wald, the TLC staffer said the agency will instead defer to state laws that don’t prohibit drivers from blocking bike lanes.

Multiple queries to the TLC for confirmation of the policy change have so far gone unanswered. But cyclists are posting photos of traffic violations they say the TLC dismissed on the grounds that the driver was not breaking agency rules.

That doesn’t make sense, according to attorney and traffic law expert Steve Vaccaro.

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No Charges for Cabbie Who Severely Injured Woman on Sidewalk Near NYU

A yellow cab driver severely injured a woman on a sidewalk in Greenwich Village this morning.

The victim was struck at around 10:50 a.m. on University Place near East Eighth Street. Gothamist says she was “pinned between the taxi and a stucco wall.”

A reporter for Washington Square News, an independent NYU outlet, said the victim was unconscious at the scene. “The woman was facing away from the cab, and when it hit her, she went up in the air and the cab basically pinned her against the wall,” a witness said.

The victim was taken to Bellevue Hospital in critical condition, Gothamist reported. No charges were filed against the driver.

Sidewalk collisions resulted in at least 14 fatalities in the last 12 months alone, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. If the city keeps a data set on the number of people hurt and killed by motorists on sidewalks, in buildings, and other places drivers are not supposed to be, we haven’t seen it.

University Place has excess width and not much car traffic. A narrower roadbed and traffic-calming measures might have prevented this crash.

This morning’s crash is reminiscent of the one that cost tourist Sian Green part of her leg in 2013. Since then, the city adopted Cooper’s Law to yank licenses from cab drivers who hurt pedestrians while violating victims’ right of way. But the Taxi and Limousine doesn’t use the law to take reckless cabbies off the road, in part because police and district attorneys so rarely file charges.

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The TLC Has Never Used Cooper’s Law to Permanently Revoke a TLC License

In the 18 months it has been on the books, the Taxi and Limousine Commission has never used Cooper’s Law to permanently revoke the TLC license of a cab driver for hurting or killing someone.

TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi

Cooper’s Law, which took effect in September 2014, allows the TLC to suspend the TLC licenses of cab drivers involved in crashes that result in death or critical injury. If a TLC licensee is convicted of a traffic violation or crime for causing such a crash, the law requires the agency to revoke that person’s TLC license.

The law was named after 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was killed on the Upper West Side in January 2014 by a yellow cab driver who failed to yield. Cooper’s Law was one of several traffic safety measures adopted to advance Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative.

“On the whole our drivers are safe,” TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said at the mayor’s Vision Zero bill signing ceremony, “but there are a few bad apples and we need to remove them.”

That isn’t happening — at least under the aegis of Cooper’s Law.

Vision Zero transparency laws do not require the TLC to publish data on what happens after the agency suspends the TLC license of a driver who hurts or kills someone. Streetsblog filed a freedom of information request in February after several unsuccessful attempts to obtain data on case outcomes from the TLC. We received the agency’s response earlier this week.

“There have been no TLC licensees that have had their license permanently revoked for injuring or killing a pedestrian or cyclist pursuant to Cooper’s Law,” the TLC legal affairs office wrote.

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TLC Won’t Say If Any Cab Drivers Have Lost Licenses Under Cooper’s Law

Streetsblog has filed a freedom of information request for data on how many times the Taxi and Limousine Commission has permanently revoked TLC licenses of cab drivers for injuring and killing people since the adoption of Cooper’s Law. The request follows several unsuccessful attempts to obtain the data from the TLC.

Cooper Stock

Has the Taxi and Limousine Commission ever used Cooper’s Law to take a reckless cab driver off the streets for good? The TLC won’t say.

Cooper’s Law gives the TLC discretion to suspend the TLC license of a cab driver who is involved in a crash that causes death or critical injury. In cases where a TLC licensee is convicted of a traffic violation or a crime stemming from such a crash, the law requires the TLC to revoke that person’s license to drive a cab.

The law was named after Cooper Stock, a 9-year-old Manhattan boy who in January 2014 was fatally struck by a yellow cab driver who failed to yield, and was one of a number of traffic safety measures adopted to advance Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative.

Local Law 28, another Vision Zero regulation, requires the TLC to publish data on how many TLC-licensed drivers are involved in crashes resulting in critical injury or death, the number of cases where action against a driver’s TLC license was warranted and, of those, how many summary TLC license suspensions were imposed. The law also says TLC should publish information on subsequent “enforcement actions taken.”

But the TLC does not publicize what happens after the agency suspends the TLC license of a driver who hurts or kills someone, and does not list the number of TLC license revocations or reinstatements. Without knowing how cases are resolved, the public can’t gauge how effective Cooper’s Law is in getting dangerous cab drivers off the streets.

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Drivers Killed 3 Seniors This Weekend, Bringing 10-Day Death Toll to 11

The wave of traffic violence that began with the deaths of three people on Halloween continued over the weekend, when motorists killed three pedestrians in Manhattan and Queens. Drivers have killed at least 11 people walking in the city in the last 10 days.

The yellow cab driver who killed 88-year-old Luisa Rosario was charged under the Right of Way Law. Photo via Daily News

The yellow cab driver who killed 88-year-old Luisa Rosario was charged under the Right of Way Law. Photo via Daily News

The three most recent victims were all seniors. At approximately 12:45 a.m. Sunday, Salifu Abubakar drove a yellow cab into 88-year-old Luisa Rosario as she crossed W. 109th Street at Columbus Avenue in the crosswalk with the walk signal, according to published accounts. Abubakar was turning right from Columbus onto 109th, Gothamist reported, as Rosario was crossing 109th from north to south. Rosario died at St. Luke’s hospital.

NYPD charged Abubakar with violating the Right of Way Law, according to the Times. Abubakar’s license to drive a cab was suspended.

The Daily News reported that Abubakar, who is 73, had been at the wheel for 16 hours when the crash occurred, four hours longer than cab drivers are supposed to work during a single shift. As Streetsblog has reported, New York City cabbies are permitted to log more hours per shift than long-haul truckers who drive on interstate highways.

Council Member Mark Levine, who represents the district where Rosario was killed, issued the following statement:

The tragic death of Luisa Rosario is a painful reminder that the grueling conditions many taxi drivers work under aren’t just bad for cabbies, they put all of us at risk. Mr. Abubkar reportedly drove at least 16 hours every Saturday — proof that the City is not enforcing the legal limit of 12-hour shifts. We need to put mechanisms in place to make sure no other New Yorkers are endangered by fatigued taxi drivers exceeding the legal limit for hours behind the wheel.

Rather than raise standards and improve working conditions for cab drivers under Vision Zero, the Taxi and Limousine Commission has made it easier to obtain a TLC license, as cab medallion owners complain about competition from app-based services Uber and Lyft. Under current rules prospective cab drivers are not required to pass a New York City road test. The TLC has taken no action to meaningfully address factors that make driving a cab a stressful, low-paying job.

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NYPD Isn’t Enforcing Mayor de Blasio’s Key Vision Zero Law

Within months of taking office, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law several bills intended to add teeth to his Vision Zero street safety initiative. In the year since taking effect, however, the most important of those laws was barely used by NYPD.

“If

If Mayor de Blasio is serious about Vision Zero, he will direct Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to apply the Right of Way Law as it was intended. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

The Right of Way Law, also known as Section 19-190, made it a misdemeanor for motorists to harm people walking and biking with the right of way. It took effect last August.

The Right of Way Law was supposed to bring an end to the common scenario of reckless New York City motorists hurting and killing people without consequence. The key to the law is that ordinary precinct cops can apply it, not just the small number of specialists in the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad. NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said all 35,000 uniformed officers would be trained to enforce the Right of Way Law, but the department has applied it only a handful of times in the 14 months since it was enacted.

According to data provided by the mayor’s office, from August through December of 2014 NYPD made 15 arrests for Section 19-190 violations, resulting from 21 investigations. In addition, police made one arrest for reckless driving and issued one summons for careless driving.

So far this year, NYPD has arrested 20 drivers under the Right of Way Law, after 41 investigations. Police also issued seven careless driving summonses resulting from those investigations. Twelve investigations are ongoing, the mayor’s office said. In addition, 11 other drivers have been charged under a Right of Way Law provision that applies to failure-to-yield cases that don’t involve injury (more on that later).

The scale of enforcement remains far below the scale of damage caused by motorists who fail to yield.

From September 2014 through September 2015, drivers injured 11,109 people walking in NYC, and killed 140, according to DOT data. Since failure to yield is the primary factor in 27 percent of serious pedestrian injuries and deaths, according to DOT’s 2010 Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan [PDF], it’s all but certain that the vast majority of drivers who violate the Right of Way Law are not charged by NYPD.

Nor is NYPD increasing enforcement. Police averaged three Right of Way charges per month last year, compared to an average of two cases a month in 2015. This suggests that Right of Way investigations remain the province of the Collision Investigation Squad and are not being pursued by precinct cops.

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23,000 Cars on NYC Streets and No One Is Tracking Uber’s Safety Record

Uber accounts for a majority of “black cars” in NYC, but the company’s safety record is a mystery. Drivers in vehicles assigned to city Uber bases have killed at least two people walking in 2015, including 12-year-old Ervi Secundino. Image: WNBC

Uber accounts for a majority of “black cars” in NYC, but the company’s safety record is a mystery. Image: WNBC

With more than 23,000 affiliated vehicles, Uber accounts for 66 percent of all “black cars” in NYC. Crain’s recently reported that Uber nearly doubled its NYC fleet in the past year. Even as Uber adds several hundred cars a month, no one seems to be keeping track of how many traffic collisions involve Uber drivers, making it impossible to assess the company’s safety record.

Drivers affiliated with New York City Uber bases are known to have been involved in two fatal crashes in 2015. In January an Uber driver killed golf pro Wesley Mensing and injured his girlfriend Erin Sauchelli on the Upper East Side. The driver was reinstated by the TLC and Uber after a brief suspension. In May the driver of a car assigned to an Uber base killed 12-year-old Ervi Secundino in a school zone in Harlem. Witnesses said the driver was “flying” at the time of the collision.

After an Uber driver hit four kids and a mother on a sidewalk in the Bronx, Streetsblog asked around for Uber crash data to see how its safety record stacks up against other for-hire services. I checked with the Taxi and Limousine Commission, NYPD, and Uber. No one had an answer.

New York City has 35,528 active black cars — livery cabs reserved for pre-arranged trips by customers who generally pay with an account — and Uber bases account for 23,349 of them, according to the TLC. (Uber also has a luxury limousine base, with 657 affiliated vehicles.) All Uber drivers must have a TLC for-hire vehicle license, which is easier to obtain than a license to drive a yellow cab.

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