Summer 2010 is shaping up to be a busy time. We’ve got several group ride locations queued up and ready to go in the coming weeks, and our year-plus long efforts to reform the for-hire industry is about to reach another milestone with the introduction of new “permanent” decals to replace the temporary “poker chip” stickers you see now. We’re also in a crucial period for the Taxi of Tomorrow project, with the deadline for proposals having passed at the end of May. We’re in the process of reviewing the proposals we’ve received for a number of basic criteria, such as completeness, at this stage, and will hopefully be ready to engage the riding public in the process in the near future. I will keep you all informed on our progress as updates become available.

These are all critical linchpins to our long-term plans, and I am particularly excited about the prospect of expanding our group riding portfolio. We want to pursue all methods of protecting our environment, and while hybrid and clean fuel vehicles are certainly examples of this, so too are methods of “re-purposing” existing resources to yield greater efficiencies. Group riding is a really stellar example of this.

It is also a good example of the taxicab’s role in the comprehensive transportation network of our city. In one example, the MTA recently announced that it would be discontinuing the X90 express bus that currently provides service between the Upper East Side and the Financial District. While the MTA has reported that the line is underutilized, making the line non-viable in terms of their business plan, the number of people who rely on its service – and we’ve physically counted them – is a perfectly good number from a taxicab driver’s vantage point at $6 a head! Sounds like a natural. We’ll be proposing the project to our Board of Commissioners for their consideration and approval in the near future, and I will report back to you on their actions.

Now, with regard to the new decals, it’s really all about two things — accountability on the for-hire vehicle (FHV) industry’s part, while protecting the legitimate FHV industry from illegal, unsafe poachers, and empowering the riding public to be able to better distinguish the “good guys” from the “bad guys.” Let’s be frank…..people continue to hail and hop into illegal livery cars and vans regardless of the danger they present – dangers that include under- (or un!) insured vehicles, driven by drivers whose background may be questionable to say the least; drivers who have not been drug-tested; drivers whose licenses may or may not even be valid. The question is, wouldn’t it be that much more difficult for our transportation-hungry city to patronize illegal FHVs when they know for sure that this is precisely what they are? When they know precisely what this means? The demand will remain the same, so the challenge for the legitimate industry is – how will we effectively fill that vacuum? But I believe this will be a challenge that is happily undertaken once we’ve dealt a solid and decisive blow to the illegal opportunists out there. The TLC will start distributing the new decals at the Woodside Safety and Emissions facility in the very near future, so they will become increasingly more visible over the next few months.

Blue decals are for Livery cars, while “Black Cars” will get gray stickers. Luxury Limousines will be sporting purple decals and Commuter Vans will have bright red stickers. Lastly, yellow medallion taxicab decals will be, well, yellow.

We’ll be talking lots more about this transition in the weeks and months ahead, so stay tuned!

Until we speak again, enjoy the summer-like weather……it will be cold and snowy again before you know it!

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