Hello again, everyone...

JUNE, 2015.- I hope you are all doing well and surviving the terrible pollen onslaught we're experiencing this year.  It's been another busy month at the TLC so let's jump right into it.
On May 28, the TLC will hold a public hearing on a set of proposed rules that would create a new rule chapter governing the licensure of For-hire Vehicle (FHV) Dispatch Applications, while amending the rules to enhance existing requirements on FHV bases that use their own smartphone applications to dispatch vehicles.  The growing usage of smartphones and apps to connect passengers with for-hire transportation has resulted in a number of new challenges, and the proposed rules address them. Passenger confidence and comfort level are essential components of a successful business, and a successful industry.  The core purpose of these proposed rules is to ensure that all of the passenger safety and consumer protections we've implemented in the yellow and green taxi markets - which do not today exist outside of the regulatory environment - are also in place for passengers of For-Hire Vehicles.  Without these rules, passengers have no assurance of price certainty and transparency, or that their data is secure and kept appropriately private. 
With as much as 42% of all FHVs having the ability to be booked through a smartphone app, and over 75 different apps competing for drivers' attention, these rules would also limit the dangerous and potentially-devastating distractions that could result from an unlimited number of devices, WITHOUT limiting drivers' potential earning opportunities or depriving passengers of their services across multiple platforms.  In other words, you don't need six phones to work with six apps, when a maximum of two can do the same job!
Since app providers are not currently licensed by the TLC, it's also true that the liability of any rule violations would fall onto the licensed base, exposing them to penalties for actions they themselves had no control over or knowledge of.  Licensing third party apps creates a protective layer of accountability to ensure that such a situation cannot occur.
As part of the City's Vision Zero goals, we have been working closely with City Hall to see legislation introduced in Albany that would have the effect of ending the decades-old era of seatbelt exemptions for people riding in taxis.  It's all very simple.  Considering the facts surrounding vehicle collisions and the dangers we face as drivers and as passengers - the lifesaving qualities of seatbelts cannot be ignored. Speaking quite frankly, if there was a reason for this exemption all those years ago, we would be very hard-pressed to see it today. For this reason, and for so many others, it's time for everyone to put their buckle where there life is.
Let's talk accessibility for a moment.  Increasing the availability of wheelchair accessible taxis for passengers in need is a top priority for both the City and the TLC.  In 2012, we launched a dispatch service to help connect wheelchair using passengers in Manhattan with the closest available accessible yellow taxi.  In the past year alone, this service has provided over 47,000 trips originating in Manhattan to wheelchair using passengers with destinations throughout the city.  This service has been extremely beneficial to passengers starting their trips in Manhattan, and now the time is right to bring that level of service to the boroughs beyond Manhattan.
On May 8, the TLC released a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking a qualified vendor to administer a Citywide Accessible Dispatch Program that would significantly expand the level of wheelchair accessible taxi service.  By utilizing available wheelchair accessible yellow and Boro taxis, this new advanced reservation system will provide reliable and spontaneous wheelchair accessible service throughout the five boroughs.  It is our intention to see this expanded program up and running by January 2016.
If you are interested in submitting a proposal to provide Citywide Accessible Dispatching service, the deadline to respond to the RFP and submit a detailed proposal is July 8, 2015.  The RFP may be obtained via the City Record website: http://www.nyc.gov/cityrecord. (Click on "City Record On-Line (CROL)," then click on "Start Searching." Search using the PIN #156.).  All parties who obtain the RFP - electronically or otherwise - must be registered with the site and provide their organization's name, address, telephone number, fax number, a contact person, and that person's e-mail address. RFPs will not be distributed without the above information.
If you have any questions about the proposal, the TLC will be holding a Pre-Proposal Conference for prospective proposers on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 11 a.m. at 33 Beaver Street, 19th Floor (Commission Hearing Room), New York, NY 10004.
 Before signing off for this month, I wanted to share some updates regarding the commuter van decal pilot program, which features special, highly-visible markings so that participants can show they offer safe, TLC-licensed service .  In conjunction with the Department of Transportation, advocacy group Cab Riders United, and members of the TLC-licensed commuter van community, the TLC conducted two outreach events at popular commuter van pick-up locations in Queens and Brooklyn.  
At each event, TLC staff and volunteers met with loyal commuter van passengers and passed out information designed to raise public awareness about the differences between licensed and unlicensed van service.  In order to maximize passenger safety, we must help them learn what to look for in order to easily distinguish the differences between the good guys and the not-so-good guys.  The commuter van decal pilot program has been a huge success since its launch, with 41 (87%) commuter van authorities and a total of 387 (77%) vehicles having signed up to participate.  And this is just the beginning!  More updates in the future!
That's all for this month.  Until next time, stay cool and drive safely!