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Posts from the "Taxi and Limousine Commission" Category

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NYC Cab Drivers Don’t Have to Take an NYC Road Test [Updated]


You can watch the entirety of Thursday’s hearing on Taxi and Limousine Commission Vision Zero rule changes here. Cue to the 41:15 mark in the second video, embedded above, to see TLC board members wonder aloud whether reckless driving is protected by the Constitution, and if it’s really that bad to run over and kill someone while taking a phone call.

But first, other news from yesterday:

  • The TLC previewed two stickers meant to improve cab driver safety. As prescribed by Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan, one will be placed on every taxi windshield to remind drivers when they make turns that “people are crossing.” The second one, which will be optional, is a bumper sticker for cabs that says “Your choices behind the wheel matter.” There was some question as to where on the windshield the first sticker should be placed — Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives testified that it should be on the left, but it seems the TLC, in consultation with DOT, has decided to put them behind rear view mirrors. Regardless, while this is surely a well-intended effort, for cab drivers who are oblivious to actual people in front of their vehicles, you’ve got to question how effective a sticker reminding them to pay attention will be.
  • Speaking of stickers, I took a cab ride a couple of weeks ago and noticed there was no partition sticker reminding passengers to watch for cyclists before opening the rear passenger door. I learned yesterday that these stickers are optional.
  • You can get a TLC license without getting behind the wheel of a cab. ”I was floored to learn that cab drivers are not required to do a road test,” said Dana Lerner, Cooper Stock’s mother, during testimony. “How can a professional driver be hired if they have not been adequately tested on the streets of New York City?” TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi addressed other points made by Lerner, but didn’t speak to the road test question, though the Vision Zero Action Plan calls for more extensive driver training. Update: A TLC spokesperson emailed us to point out that in order to get a TLC license, applicants must possess a chauffeur’s license, which is issued by the state DMV and does require a road test.

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TLC Commish: It’s Up to NYPD to Get Reckless Cab Drivers Off the Streets

Dana Lerner, Cooper Stock's mother, before today's TLC hearing, with City Council Member Helen Rosenthal at left. Photo: Brad Aaron

Dana Lerner, Cooper Stock’s mother, before today’s TLC hearing, with City Council Member Helen Rosenthal at left. Photo: Brad Aaron

The success or failure of a Vision Zero law intended to get reckless cab drivers off the road will depend on how often NYPD issues summonses and charges after serious crashes, the Taxi and Limousine Commission confirmed today.

Cooper Stock, 9, was killed last January by a cab driver who failed to yield on West End Avenue. Signed by Mayor de Blasio in June as part of a package of street safety bills, Cooper’s Law allows the TLC to suspend or revoke hack licenses of cab drivers who cause critical injury or death as a result of breaking traffic laws.

The law takes effect Sunday, but as we reported when the bill passed the City Council, since action against a cab driver’s TLC license hinges on a conviction for a traffic violation or a criminal charge, its effectiveness may be severely compromised. Of thousands of crashes annually in which pedestrians and cyclists are injured and killed, NYPD investigates only a few hundred.

At a public hearing this morning on TLC rule changes necessitated by new Vision Zero laws, Dana Lerner, Cooper’s mother, asked TLC board members and Commissioner Meera Joshi how the law would be enforced. Joshi said the TLC “works closely” with NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan and the Collision Investigation Squad, which according to Joshi has for the past few months contacted the TLC “within minutes” of any serious crash involving a for-hire driver. Upon getting the word from NYPD, Joshi said, the TLC dispatches inspectors to crash scenes.

The problem with this protocol is that it doesn’t necessarily involve CIS, which still handles a tiny fraction of crashes. And even in cases where known information points to driver behavior as the primary cause of a serious crash, CIS investigations rarely result in summonses or charges.

Despite an unprecedented push from the mayor and City Council to reduce traffic violence, NYPD has shown no signs of reforming its crash investigation policies. This is evident in the department’s failure to enforce another new law, known as Section 19-190, that makes it a misdemeanor for a motorist to harm a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way.

Since Section 19-190 took effect in August, New York City motorists have killed at least seven pedestrians and injured countless others. To date, no drivers have been reported charged under the law.

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Will NYPD Apply New Vision Zero Law to Cabbie Who Killed Woman on UES?

NYPD has not filed charges against a cab driver who killed a pedestrian on the Upper East Side last week, despite indications that the crash may warrant a misdemeanor charge under a new city law.

The cab driver who killed a woman on the Upper East Side last week may or may not lose his hack license under Cooper's Law. Image: WCBS

The cab driver who killed a woman on the Upper East Side last week may or may not be charged under a new law that makes it a misdemeanor to strike pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way. Image: WCBS

Available information suggests the cab driver failed to yield to a pedestrian with the right of way. According to press accounts, the 58-year-old victim was in a crosswalk at around 2 p.m. last Friday when the cab driver, who was northbound on Madison, hit her while turning left onto E. 79th Street. The victim was dragged before the driver came to a stop, leaving her pinned beneath the Nissan NV200 cab until witnesses overturned the vehicle, which was still running, to free her.

The woman was declared dead at Lenox Hill Hospital. As of Thursday morning her identity was still being withheld pending family notification, according to NYPD.

The 30-year-old cab driver was not injured, reports said, and his passenger was treated for a head injury at the scene.

“Preliminarily, both of them had the right of way,” an NYPD spokesperson said. This is not possible, but it is a strong indication that the victim was crossing with the walk signal. Since the motorist would have been required by law to yield in this situation, only the victim would have had the right of way.

A new city law makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way. Intro 238, now known as Section 19-190, took effect last month, but at that time a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio said NYPD wasn’t yet ready to enforce it.

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De Blasio Signs Traffic Safety Bills, Says 25 MPH Will Go Into Effect This Fall

Mayor de Blasio signs 11 traffic safety bills this morning at PS 152 in Queens, surrounded by families of traffic violence victims. Photo: Stephen Miller

Mayor de Blasio signed 11 traffic safety bills earlier today at PS 152 in Queens, surrounded by families of traffic violence victims. Photo: Stephen Miller

Earlier today, Mayor Bill de Blasio returned to the schoolyard where he launched his administration’s Vision Zero campaign in January, just feet from where 9-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed last December while walking to PS 152 with his sister. A little more than six months after announcing his intent to eliminate traffic fatalities within 10 years, the mayor signed bills that suspend the licenses of dangerous taxi drivers, require the installation of 20 mph Slow Zones, and make it a misdemeanor to strike a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way, among other changes.

While today’s press conference struck a celebratory note, the mayor made clear that Vision Zero is a continuing effort. “The vision is to end traffic fatalities in this city. It’s not easy. Nobody said it was easy,” de Blasio said. “When you think about Vision Zero and all its components, fundamentally it comes down to reducing speeding, reducing reckless driving.”

“A special thanks to all the family members of all the individuals who have turned their pain into action and who have had a huge impact in this city and in this state,” he said. “[They] have been fantastic advocates, particularly in Albany.”

With Families for Safe Streets members in Albany last week, the State Senate and Assembly passed legislation to lower the default speed limit in New York City to 25 mph. De Blasio said that the new limit will likely go into effect this fall after Governor Cuomo signs the bill and the City Council passes its own speed limit legislation.

The package of bills that the mayor signed today focuses on TLC, DOT, and NYPD.

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Mother of Cooper Stock: NYPD Must Hold Reckless Cab Drivers Accountable

Update: According to a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, today’s scheduled bill signing was postponed.

After a Wednesday hearing where he was joined by council members and department heads, Mayor de Blasio is scheduled to sign a package of bills today aimed at improving traffic safety. Though its signing will come later due to a scheduling conflict, one bill sent to the mayor by the council was Intro 171, also known as “Cooper’s Law.”

Cooper Stock. Photo: Barron Lerner via ##http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/24/treat-reckless-driving-like-drunk-driving/##New York Times##

Cooper Stock. Photo: Barron Lerner via New York Times

The bill’s namesake, 9-year-old Cooper Stock, was fatally struck by a cab driver in an Upper West Side crosswalk in January. His father, Richard Stock, was injured in the collision.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission said Koffi Komlani’s probationary hack license won’t be renewed when it expires in July. Regardless, though Komlani has reportedly not driven a cab since the day of the crash, for now he remains in good standing with the TLC, despite the fact that he drove into two people who were crossing the street legally with sufficient speed to cause grave harm.

“The TLC did nothing,” said Cooper’s mother Dana Lerner. “They did nothing. They didn’t take his license. They didn’t do anything.”

According to the New York Post, the TLC can currently suspend hack licenses for 30 days only when a cab driver has six or more points, and can’t revoke a license until a driver has more than 10 points. Summonses for failure to yield and running a red light add three points to a hack license, a reckless driving summons adds five points, and a ticket for driving from 31 to 40 miles per hour over the speed limit adds eight points.

Reports said Komlani had no prior violations on his record. A summons for failure to yield is still pending, according to Lerner, and Komlani was not charged by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

When Cooper’s Law takes effect, the TLC will be allowed to suspend or revoke hack licenses of cab drivers who cause critical injury or death as a result of breaking traffic laws. But as we reported in May, penalties will depend on whether NYPD issues charges or summonses after a crash. As it stands, police investigate only a fraction of serious crashes, and fewer than 1 percent of New York City drivers who injure and kill pedestrians and cyclists are cited for careless driving.

Lerner has seen the data on NYPD enforcement of state vulnerable user laws, which the department says it can’t apply unless the Collision Investigation Squad is dispatched or an officer witnesses a violation. “That’s the key issue,” Lerner said. “If the NYPD doesn’t enforce, none of these laws have any meaning.”

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City Council Passes Several Bills to Reduce Reckless Driving

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other reps before today's meeting. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/willalatriste/status/472067061028777984##@willalatriste##

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other reps before today’s meeting. Photo: @willalatriste

The City Council today passed a slate of bills and resolutions aimed at improving street safety.

The 11 bills — outlined in detail here — include Intro 238, which would make it a misdemeanor for a driver to “make contact” with a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way, punishable by up to $500 in fines and 30 days in jail; and Intro 171, known as “Cooper’s Law,” which would suspend or revoke TLC licenses of cab drivers who are summonsed or convicted, respectively, of traffic violations stemming from crashes that result in critical injury or death.

Council Member Mark Weprin, of Queens, cast the lone vote against Intro 171. Weprin said the bill comes too close to creating a strict liability standard — which, according to attorney and traffic law expert Steve Vaccaro, is exactly what New York State needs to reduce deaths and injuries. Weprin said he fears the law would punish some unfairly — that a driver’s career shouldn’t end because of one incident, and that a cabbie who rolls through a stop sign and causes a crash should not necessarily be subject to the same penalties as one who crashes while speeding. (The cab driver who killed Cooper Stock failed to yield and had an otherwise clean record.) “This is the livelihood of these drivers,” said Weprin. Council Members Vincent Gentile and Jumaane Williams abstained from voting on the bill.

Other bills would combine points issued by the state DMV and the TLC against hack licenses and set new TLC license suspension and revocation standards; require the TLC to review and report on cab driver crashes and subsequent disciplinary actions; codify the number of Slow Zones DOT implements each year; codify DOT work zone safety standards; require DOT to study the safety of arterial streets, study safety issues pertaining to left turns by motorists, and inspect and/or repair broken traffic signals within 24 hours; and prohibit “stunt behavior” by motorcyclists.

The bill to require the TLC to institute a one-year pilot program for “black box” technology to record and report taxi driver behavior was not on today’s agenda. TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi told the transportation committee in April that the agency has issued RFIs for the program, but she made no mention of the pilot in budget testimony before the council earlier this month.

One bill in the transportation committee hopper not taken up today would mandate side guards for trucks to help prevent people from being swept beneath them. DOT asked that the council hold off on legislating truck guards in lieu of a pending study already underway within the department.

The council approved resolutions asking Albany to grant the city control over speed and red light cameras, increase the penalty for driving on a sidewalk to $250 and three license points, make it a misdemeanor to violate the state’s vulnerable user law, increase the penalty for reckless driving that results in death or serious injury, and pass extant bills to increase penalties for leaving the scene of a crash.

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TLC Won’t Renew Hack License of Cab Driver Who Killed Cooper Stock

The cab driver who killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock won’t be prosecuted by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, but he won’t have a hack license much longer.

Koffi Komlani has not driven a cab since he struck Cooper and his father in an Upper West Side crosswalk in January, according to Allan Fromberg, spokesperson for the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Being a new driver, Komlani has a one-year probationary license, and the TLC will not renew it when it expires on July 5, Fromberg said.

“Obviously, while we are seeking to address issues of getting drivers that we believe are risky off the road more easily through legislative means via Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, in the meantime, at least, we can take this action,” Fromberg told Capital New York.

The TLC says it is hamstrung by rules that make it difficult to take dangerous cab drivers off the streets. Komlani stopped driving voluntarily. The cabbies who killed 5-year-old Timothy Keith and severed the leg of tourist Sian Green, for example, also retained their hack licenses.

Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan includes a number of taxi safety initiatives, including “black box” tech to monitor cab driver behavior. However, TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi did not mention that program when she outlined the TLC’s FY 15 budget for the City Council. Joshi has said the TLC and NYPD will form an enforcement squad that will focus exclusively on TLC-licensed vehicles.

After the news broke that Komlani would not be charged criminally, Council Member Helen Rosenthal again called for the passage of “Cooper’s Law,” her bill to suspend or revoke the hack licenses of cab drivers who are summonsed or convicted, respectively, of traffic violations stemming from crashes that result in critical injury or death. 

“Current laws are clearly inadequate, and this news affirms the need for Cooper’s Law,” said Rosenthal in a press release. “The City legislates the TLC, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that those laws are sound.”

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No Mention of Cab Safety Tech as TLC Commish Outlines Vision Zero Budget

Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan contains a number of initiatives to improve cab driver safety, including “black box” technology to monitor cabbie behavior. TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi told the City Council in early May that the agency has issued RFIs for a telematics pilot program, but she didn’t mention the program during testimony at Thursday’s council budget hearing.

Meera Joshi

TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi

She did explain the TLC’s current disciplinary process. Responding to a question from council member and transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, Joshi said TLC inspectors do field enforcement and issue summonses based on observed cab driver activity. A second group within TLC prosecutes offenses in an administrative court, Joshi said. The court falls under the auspices of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, a city agency that is independent of the TLC.

Rodriguez, himself a former livery driver, told Joshi that the council wants to see the TLC emphasize safety and ramp up enforcement against reckless cab drivers, while making sure drivers are treated fairly.

Rodriguez asked that the TLC hold a Vision Zero town hall for cabbies. “I think it’s an excellent idea,” Joshi said.

Joshi testified after representatives from the MTA. Here are more highlights:

  • The FY 15 TLC budget includes $1.1 million in new funding for Vision Zero, Joshi said. Funds will be allocated for what Joshi called a “safety squad” — presumably the joint TLC/NYPD enforcement effort she mentioned at a council hearing earlier this month — PSAs for passengers, and educational materials for drivers.
  • Joshi said removing unlicensed cabs is “the most effective way to keep our streets safe.” She told the council again that the TLC now has unlimited capacity to tow and impound such vehicles.
  • The TLC won’t be issuing any more boro cab permits, Joshi said, until the agency has “a good understanding about how the program has worked so far.” There are currently 5,000 cabs that pick up street hails outside the Manhattan core, and 1,000 more permits were issued for cabs that are not yet on the street, Joshi said. Mayor de Blasio, whose campaign was partially funded by yellow cab owners, criticized the Bloomberg initiative as a candidate. Dana Rubinstein of Capital New York has a good analysis of where the program stands as of Thursday.

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Takeaways From This Week’s City Council Vision Zero Hearing

The office of Ydanis Rodriguez says he is aiming to get several traffic safety bills passed in the near future, while others that were taken up by his transportation committee at a Wednesday Vision Zero hearing may be held up.

At a press conference announcing the Broadway arterial slow zone Thursday, Rodriguez said of the 26 bills and eight resolutions: “Many of those bills already had the support of the administration. And other bills, there was some concern and issues, but we will continue having conversations.”

A spokesperson for Rodriguez said his office could not say which bills may go forward and which may not, due to legal issues.

“We are looking to move quickly on a package of six to seven bills that were discussed [Wednesday] as they need only little to no adjustments,” said Rodriguez spokesperson Russell Murphy. “While I won’t put a definitive timeline on it, we’d like to see these bills aged in the next few months.”

“We want to ensure the bills are comprehensive and complete and that we can pass through a number at the same time to bring about immediate action.”

Testimony submitted by city officials Wednesday gives some idea as to which bills the de Blasio administration may, and may not, be ready to act on. Here’s a summary.

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Slew of Traffic Safety Bills on Council Transpo Committee Agenda

The City Council transportation committee has a full docket of traffic safety bills on the agenda for its April 30 meeting. We’ll have more on some of these bills in future posts, but for now here’s a summary.

There are a number of bills pertaining to taxi safety. Intro 276 would institute a one-year pilot program for “black box” technology to record and report speed, location, and braking. Intro 272 would suspend hack licenses of cab drivers who accumulate six or more license points in 15 months, and revoke licenses for 10 or more points in 15 months, for dangerous driving violations. Intro 171 would suspend or revoke TLC licenses of cab drivers who are summonsed or convicted, respectively, of traffic violations stemming from crashes that result in critical injury or death. And Intros 174 and 277 would require the TLC to review NYPD cab crash investigations and issue quarterly reports on the number of crashes reviewed, resulting injuries, and subsequent disciplinary actions.

Other bills to be considered:

  • Intro 238: A law that would set the penalty for failing to yield to a pedestrian or cyclist from $50 to $250 and up to 15 days in jail. The bill would make it a misdemeanor for a driver to “make contact” with a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way, punishable by up to $500 in fines and 30 days in jail.
  • Intro 140: A law lowering the speed limit to 25 miles per hour on one-way streets, and requiring DOT to implement seven 20-mph slow zones and 50 20-mph school slow zones a year.
  • Intro 43: A law requiring DOT to study safety issues pertaining to left-hand turns by motorists and to recommend measures to reduce injuries and deaths to pedestrians and cyclists, possibly including daylighting and exclusive crossing time.
  • Intro 46: A law requiring DOT to keep a log of defective traffic signals and to inspect and/or repair broken signals within 24 hours.
  • Intro 153: A law requiring the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to include traffic crashes and fatalities in an interactive NYPD crime map.
  • Intro 167: A law prohibiting “stunt behavior” by motorcyclists, including wheelies, donuts, engine revving, and tire-smoking.
  • Intro 168: A law requiring DOT to study the safety of arterial streets.
  • Intro 198: A law requiring all “tractors and trucks loading and unloading items within the city” to be equipped with side guards that help prevent people from being swept beneath them.
  • Intro 80: A law requiring DOT and NYPD to establish safety guidelines for work zones, including radar speed displays.

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