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Posts from the Taxi and Limousine Commission Category

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Cab Driver Who Killed Cooper Stock Remains Eligible for TLC License

The cab driver who killed Cooper Stock is still eligible to be licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Cooper Stock

Cooper Stock

Koffi Komlani struck 9-year-old Cooper and his father, Richard Stock, in an Upper West Side crosswalk in January 2014. This week, Komlani pled guilty to careless driving and was sentenced to a nominal fine and a six-month suspension of his drivers license. Though Cooper and his dad were walking with the right of way, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance filed no criminal charges against Komlani.

The TLC opted not to renew Komlani’s probationary hack license when it expired last July — which, under current agency rules, means he could be re-licensed.

“We did opt not to renew, but legally, for all intents and purposes, it was still a simple expiration, and the law provides for the opportunity to reapply for a new license after an expiration,” TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg told Streetsblog. “But if he were to reapply, he would be subject to a stringent fitness review, which would take his history fully into account.”

Komlani would not be the only cab driver to kill or seriously injure someone and remain in good standing with the TLC. The cab drivers who fatally struck Kelly Gordon and Timothy Keith, and the cabbie who severed the leg of Sian Green, to cite just three instances, reportedly retained their hack licenses.

The law adopted in Cooper’s name, which took effect last September, gives TLC discretion to revoke a hack license only if a cab driver is convicted of a traffic violation or a crime following a crash that causes death or critical injury. The TLC suspended the license of Uber driver Aliou Diallo after he killed Wesley Mensing and injured Erin Sauchelli in Manhattan last January, but reinstated Diallo after the sole charge against him, a ticket for driving without a license, was dismissed by the DMV.

Cooper’s Law was intended to get dangerous cab drivers off the streets. But with drivers who have killed people still eligible for TLC licenses, agency rules clearly need additional reforms.

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Powerful Driver Training Video Adopted by TLC, MTA, and NYC DOT

A new video from the Taxi and Limousine Commission and Families For Safe Streets is now required viewing for drivers in training programs at TLC, DOT, and the MTA.

In the 15-minute video, “Drive Like Your Family Lives Here,” people talk about losing loved ones to traffic violence. The video features interviews with family members of Allison Liao, Renee Thompson, Carl Nacht, Josbel Rivera, and Asif Rahman. It was produced by Karlyn Michelson and Stephen Mallon in conjunction with the TLC, DOT, Families For Safe Streets, and Transportation Alternatives.

Like the DOT “Your Choices Matter” campaign, the video emphasizes the responsibility of motorists to drive safely. It was officially released Monday evening at an event held at the Crosby Street Hotel in Manhattan. On hand were TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, and City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Helen Rosenthal.

The video is currently in use by the TLC, DOT, and the MTA, officials said. Trottenberg said she would contact the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to see if those agencies would employ it as well.

The video came about after Families For Safe Streets member Amy Cohen, mother of Sammy Cohen Eckstein, talked with Joshi at a Vision Zero event in early 2014. There are other, shorter videos now on Taxi TV, including one with the Cohen Eckstein family.

This is powerful Vision Zero messaging, and a natural complement to recent TLC reforms. While educating prospective drivers about the consequences of unsafe driving, the TLC should also require a New York City road test to obtain a TLC license.

Even after the adoption of Cooper’s Law, named after the 9-year-old boy killed by a yellow cab driver in 2014, a driver can retain his TLC license after causing injury or death if no charges are filed against him. As a result, many drivers who hurt and killed people are still driving cabs.

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Two People Were Killed in This Crash and the Bronx DA Hasn’t Filed Charges

Warning: Graphic video

Update: DNAinfo reported that the victim in the video is Manuel Quiñones, who was hospitalized in critical condition. The Post reported that the victim is Kadeem Brown. This post has been edited to reflect uncertainty of the victim’s identity. The green cab driver was identified by the Post and the Daily News as Emilio Garcia.

Video posted online shows a speeding green cab driver strike a pedestrian on the Grand Concourse. The driver killed Kadeem Brown and 5-year-old Tierre Clark and injured two others. No charges were filed by NYPD or Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson.

Bronx DA Robert Johnson

Bronx DA Robert Johnson

The crash happened at the Grand Concourse and E. 170th Street on March 20. The video, posted on Facebook by a man who identified himself as the owner of a bodega on the northeast corner of the intersection, shows the green cab driver strike a victim at high speed on a Concourse service road.

Brown, 25, died at the scene. In addition to Brown, the cab driver struck Clark and two adults who were standing on the sidewalk, reportedly waiting for a bus. Clark died at a hospital. A 55-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman, who according to some reports was Tierre’s mother, were hospitalized.

The driver was identified only as a 44-year-old man. His name was withheld by NYPD and the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The TLC told Streetsblog the driver’s TLC license was suspended, pending the outcome of the crash investigation. If NYPD and Johnson decline to file charges it’s likely the driver will have his TLC license restored.

Streetsblog has asked Johnson’s office for an update on this case.

Johnson did not file charges against the woman who drove onto a sidewalk outside a Bronx school last October, hitting 10 people and killing 8-year-old Rylee Ramos.

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No Charges for Cab Driver Who Killed Two People on Bronx Sidewalk

Image: News 12

NYPD and the TLC are withholding the name of the cab driver who hit four people on a Bronx sidewalk, killing two. No charges were filed. Image: News 12

No charges have been filed against a cab driver who drove onto a sidewalk in the Bronx and killed a man and a young girl.

The crash happened at around 6:30 p.m. Friday. Reports say the 44-year-old driver, whose name is being withheld by NYPD and the Taxi and Limousine Commission, hit a parked car on a Grand Concourse service road, then crashed onto the sidewalk near a bus stop at E. 170th Street, about a block away, and ran over four people.

Kadeem Brown, 25, died at the scene. Five-year-old Tierre Clark died later at a hospital. A 55-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman, who according to some reports was Tierre’s mother, were hospitalized.

“The car came up driving on the sidewalk,” witness Ronald Luis told the Daily News. “After it hit the people, it hit the corner of the building and spun around. The whole front was smashed in.”

“On this side they were pressing on her chest — the little girl,” witness Raymond Fermin told WCBS. “I’m guessing also she couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t sure. The guy that was laying here on the floor — they weren’t giving him any treatment. I guess he was already gone.”

Photos and video footage from the scene show the heavily-damaged cab at rest against a building. WABC noted that there are cameras attached to a neighboring building.

No arrests were made and an investigation is ongoing, according to NYPD and the office of Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson. News 12 reported that police believed the driver was speeding. The Daily News said NYPD was looking into whether the driver “was having a medical episode.”

Read more…

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Crash Victim Lawsuit: App Use by Uber Drivers Is Negligent and Illegal

Erin Sauchelli, who was seriously injured by an Uber driver while walking in Manhattan, has filed a lawsuit claiming the app Uber drivers use to respond to hails causes driver distraction in violation of New York State law. The driver, Aliou Diallo, killed Sauchelli’s boyfriend, Wesley Manning, in the collision, but he remains in good standing with the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission reinstated the license of the Uber driver who killed Wesley Mensing and injured Erin Sauchelli. Photo via New York Post

The Taxi and Limousine Commission reinstated the license of the Uber driver who killed Wesley Mensing and injured Erin Sauchelli. Photo via New York Post

Sauchelli and Mensing were crossing E. 62nd Street at Lexington Avenue last January 3 when Diallo drove into them with a Mercedes SUV. Mensing, 27, died at the scene. Sauchelli, 30, was hospitalized.

“The driver had accepted a trip and was en route to pick up his customers at the time of the accident and he did not have any passengers in the car,” Uber told Streetsblog after the crash.

Diallo was summonsed for driving without a license. The citation was dismissed two days later. Diallo was not charged criminally by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance for killing Mensing and injuring Sauchelli. The Taxi and Limousine Commission said Diallo’s license to drive a cab was suspended after the crash, but TLC records indicate it is currently valid. Diallo was also reinstated by Uber.

A suit filed by Sauchelli claims she was “a lawful pedestrian in the crosswalk” when she was struck, and that the crash was caused by negligence on the part of Diallo, vehicle owner Tea Bromberg, Malcolm Limo Express, Uber base Schmecken, and Uber, all of whom are named as defendants.

The suit says Diallo was speeding and disregarded a traffic signal. It claims Diallo broke state law that prohibits using an electronic device while driving, and that Uber “knew or should have known that the use of the Uber App by Uber Drivers, including but not limited to” Diallo was a violation of state code intended “to protect individuals from injury and death due to driver distraction and driver inattentiveness.”

“Mr. Diallo was driving an Uber car, en route to pick up a passenger at the time of this accident,” said Robert A. Sgarlato, Sauchelli’s attorney, in a statement emailed to Streetsblog. “We believe that this particular stage in the ‘Uber Car process’ leads to a toxic combination of Uber Drivers that are both hurried to pick up passengers, and distracted by the influx of information coming from the Uber application.”

Uber declined comment on the lawsuit.

Read more…

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Let’s Raise Standards for Cab Drivers, Not Race to the Bottom

The Uber web site emphasizes emphasizes the ease of obtaining  a TLC license.

The Uber web site emphasizes the ease of obtaining a TLC license.

As cab medallion owners complain of competition from Uber and Lyft, the Taxi and Limousine Commission appears to be making it easier for applicants to acquire a hack license.

On Sunday the Times reported that the TLC hack license exam will have fewer questions on geography, since drivers can use GPS to navigate the city. The TLC says this will allow for a greater emphasis on TLC rules, including safety regulations. But GPS is distracting enough that cabbies are not supposed to use it while driving. And it’s not as if the TLC is limited in the breadth of knowledge it can require of prospective drivers.

Uber and Lyft drivers are required to have a for-hire vehicle license, which for some reason remains easier to obtain than a license to drive a yellow cab. (“Getting a TLC license is not a complicated process,” says the Uber web site. “All it requires is a little paperwork.”) According to the Times, the change to the TLC exam comes as fleet owners worry that interest in driving yellow cabs is on the wane, and cabs sit idle in garages.

The Times said more people are passing the revised TLC test. One applicant “said he had found it easy despite his complete lack of driving experience in New York City.”

Asked if he could pilot a cab to prominent Manhattan locations such as Penn Station, Times Square or Grand Central Terminal, the applicant, a recent immigrant from Bangladesh now living in Briarwood, Queens, said, “Absolutely not.” He asked that his name be withheld because he feared angering the taxi commission.

The Times reported that the TLC exam is still evolving, and agency spokesperson Allan Fromberg noted that a more rigorous for-hire curriculum is under development. Fromberg said there will eventually be less of a distinction between exams for the two types of licenses. But applicants for either license still won’t be required to pass a New York City road test.

To elevate the profile of cab driving as a profession, the TLC should make for-hire licenses and hack licenses more difficult to get. The London taxi exam — which requires encyclopedic knowledge of the street grid — is likened to a degree in law or medicine, and it’s not uncommon for a driver to earn around $100,000 U.S. a year. Higher licensing standards, better pay, and improved working conditions would make driving a yellow cab more appealing without letting unqualified drivers behind the wheel.

Dumbing down the TLC exam might mean more money for fleet owners. But for the safety of cab drivers and the public, the TLC needs to raise standards across the board, not make yellow cabs more like Uber.

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TLC Bolsters Cab Driver Safety Regs, Minus NYC Road Test Requirement

The TLC has no plans to require cab drivers to take a New York City road test. Photo: Trish Naudon-Thomas

The TLC does not require cab drivers to take a New York City road test. Photo: Trish Naudon-Thomas

The Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to revise some of its rules Thursday, strengthening safety requirements for drivers of for-hire vehicles as well as yellow and green cabs. But the TLC still does not require aspiring cabbies to pass a New York City road test before obtaining a hack license.

There are 70,000 for-hire drivers currently licensed by the TLC, according to the agency, transporting almost as many passengers per day as yellow cabs. Surprisingly, until now the drivers of for-hire vehicles — including livery cabs, black cars, and limousines — didn’t have to pass a TLC exam to obtain TLC licenses. The new regulations require a “taxi school equivalent” course for new for-hire applicants and drivers who want to renew their for-hire licenses.

However, some drivers with no TLC-authorized training will still be allowed to drive for-hire vehicles. New drivers may be issued a conditional TLC license and given at least 90 days to complete the training course. Exempt from the training requirement are “New York City police officers and certain persons with military service.”

The TLC instituted a new continuing education component for taxi and for-hire drivers. Traditionally, after their first year with a TLC license taxi drivers were required only to take a general defensive driving course every three years. The revised rules require the completion of a TLC-specific “license renewal course” for taxi and for-hire drivers. It’s not clear exactly what the course will entail, though a TLC summary of the rule revisions suggests it will cover new TLC regulations and “new street design patterns,” in accordance with Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program.

For-hire drivers will also receive specialized wheelchair-accessibility training under the new rules.

As Streetsblog reported last December, when the TLC held a hearing on the regulations adopted this week, drivers who want a TLC license must already have a for-hire license from the state DMV. The DMV requires a road test, but it isn’t tailored to the crowded street conditions applicants face in New York City.

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Council Members Grill Uber on Prices, But What About Safety?

The City Council transportation committee heard testimony today on a bill to prohibit for-hire vehicle companies from “charging excessive rates.” Council members made no bones about the fact that they are taking aim at Uber, which raises and lowers fares in response to demand. Uber calls it “dynamic pricing.” It’s also known as “surge pricing” and, to some council members and Uber competitors, “price-gouging.”

Council Member David Greenfield, the bill’s primary sponsor, screamed at Uber reps for a good five minutes this afternoon over the prospect of a flip-flop-clad New Yorker fresh off the plane from Miami paying more than the prescribed amount for a ride home from the airport. Greenfield tweeted that traditional cab fleet owners, who donate heavily to local political campaigns, want a 20 percent cap on Uber “surge” rates. His bill would cap them at double the company’s normal price range.

Though it was the first time council members spoke publicly with Uber since company driver Aliou Diallo hit two pedestrians on the Upper East Side, killing Wesley Mensing and injuring Erin Sauchelli, legislators barely touched on the issue of street safety. Transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez told Meera Joshi, chair of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, that he wants to talk more about the chain of accountability following cab-involved crashes, and a representative from Lyft (to whom Greenfield was far more cordial) said trip data requested by the TLC, and currently withheld by Uber, can help with crash probes. But no one asked the Uber spokespeople about the Upper East Side crash or the company’s safety practices in general.

The next time the council invites Uber to testify at a hearing, here are some things the public needs to know.

  • Does the Uber ride-hailing system create distraction for company drivers?
  • Does Uber collect EDR “black box” readings to ascertain speed and other data after a serious crash?
  • Was the Diallo crash the first fatality involving an Uber driver in NYC?
  • Does Uber keep data on the number and severity of crashes involving Uber drivers?
  • If so, is that data available to the TLC and/or the public?
  • Are Uber drivers trained by Uber for safe driving in urban environments?
  • Are drivers who are involved in serious crashes allowed to keep driving for Uber?
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TLC: Driver Who Killed Man on UES Works for Uber [Updated]

The cab driver who hit two pedestrians on the Upper East Side last weekend, killing 27-year-old Wesley Mensing, was driving a vehicle affiliated with an Uber base, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Aliou Diallo was ticketed for unlicensed operation after the Saturday afternoon crash, which occurred as Mensing and 30-year-old Erin Sauchelli were crossing E. 62nd Street at Lexington Avenue, according to NYPD. He was not charged with a crime by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

Though Diallo was cited for unlicensed driving, his hack license “appears to have been current” at the time of the crash, said TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg, responding to a Streetsblog query. “We’re reviewing the circumstances at this time,” Fromberg told Streetsblog via email.

Fromberg said Diallo’s hack license has been suspended while the TLC “investigate[s] the circumstances surrounding the status of his NYS license.”

The Mercedes SUV Diallo was driving operates out of Schmecken, one of Uber’s NYC hubs, according to Fromberg. It is unknown if Diallo was picking up or transporting Uber customers when he struck Mensing and Sauchelli.

As Uber expands in New York and other markets, it remains unclear to what extent the company can be held liable for the actions of its employees. Uber is currently attempting to absolve itself of responsibility for a crash in San Francisco, where a year ago one of the company’s drivers ran over a family of three, killing 6-year-old Sofia Liu.

We will have more on this story as it develops.

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Unlicensed, Hit-and-Run Drivers Kill First NYC Pedestrian Victims of 2015

Motorists struck four pedestrians in two crashes in Manhattan and the Bronx over the weekend, killing two victims. One driver in the Bronx was charged with leaving the scene and reckless driving, while another remains at large. The Manhattan motorist, operating a vehicle with TLC plates, was ticketed for driving without a license, though NYPD blamed the victims in the press. The drivers were not charged for causing death and injury by NYPD or district attorneys Cy Vance and Robert Johnson.

Wesley Mensing was killed and Erin Sauchelli injured by the driver of a vehicle with TLC plates. The driver was ticketed for unlicensed driving but was not charged with a crime by NYPD or Manhattan DA Cy Vance. Photo via Post

Wesley Mensing was killed and Erin Sauchelli injured by the driver of a vehicle with TLC plates. The driver was ticketed for unlicensed driving but was not charged with a crime by NYPD or Manhattan DA Cy Vance. Photo via New York Post

At approximately 7:18 p.m. Saturday, Wesley Mensing and Erin Sauchelli were crossing E. 62nd Street at Lexington Avenue north to south when Aliou Diallo, eastbound on 62nd, drove a Mercedes SUV into them, according to NYPD, the Post, and the Daily News.

Mensing, 27, a noted golf instructor who lived in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, died at the scene. He was the first known New York City pedestrian fatality of 2015. Sauchelli, 30, was hospitalized with head and leg injuries.

Diallo was summonsed — but was not charged criminally — for unlicensed driving, NYPD said. Citing unnamed police sources, the Post reported that Mensing and Sauchelli were “not in the crosswalk,” and an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog they were crossing E. 62nd between Lexington and Third Avenue. Yet photos of the scene show the SUV sitting on E. 62nd just a few feet from the intersection, which seems to indicate that Mensing and Sauchelli were struck within or very close to the crosswalk.

NYPD has a history of relying solely on driver testimony when investigating pedestrian and cyclist deaths. Since the Right of Way Law took effect last August, expressly making it a misdemeanor offense for motorists to injure or kill people with the right of way, police have repeatedly blamed deceased pedestrians by claiming they were outside a crosswalk when they were struck by motorists.

NYPD had no information on how fast Diallo was driving, or how he failed to see two people in the street in front of him. Regardless of how the crash occurred, it is a crime in New York State to drive a vehicle if you know or have reason to know you don’t have a valid license. The investigation is “ongoing,” according to NYPD.

Also at issue is how an alleged unlicensed driver was allowed to operate a TLC-licensed vehicle. Saturday’s crash marked at least the second time in the past year that an accused unlicensed driver killed a pedestrian or cyclist with a livery cab. Streetsblog has asked the TLC for information on the livery base associated with the SUV Diallo was driving and whether Diallo had a current hack license at the time of the crash.

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