NEW YORK — The Luxury Based Operators Association (LBOA) hosted Taxi and Limousine Commissioners from New York City, Nassau, and Westchester counties for a roundtable discussion and question and answer session on Tuesday.
Operators were given the answers to written questions which were asked of the commissioners during the session. Representing the three counties were Commissioner Matthew Daus from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, Assistant Commissioner Denise “Dee” Barbato of Westchester County, and Commissioner Roger Bogsted of Nassau County.
Below are the questions presented to the commissioners and their responses to them.
Question: During prom season, what are your major concerns? What are you doing differently from previous years?
Answer: Barbato: Westchester County has many venues to hold proms. New Rochelle has a number of country clubs. We are working with the Westchester County Division of Public Safety to take a proactive role in safeguarding our young people. We start immediately following this year’s prom working on next. We contact the schools for dates and venues and we schedule safety and compliance checks. Westchester County hosts over 70 proms per year. We are working with the industry to assure that kids are not brining drug and alcohol in the vehicles. We had a workshop last year with the industry [about] proms, talking about permitting and safeguarding our young people. We have seen more and more compliance. We are in partnership with the industry to make prom safety a priority. We have operators that have teen contracts that they have the teens sign saying no drugs or alcohol.
Question: Is there a way to consolidate the renewal process for all of the counties?
Answer: Bogsted: We would love to consolidate in Nassau County. You are not alone in redundant and unnecessary licenses. We are working closely with Albany [N.Y.]. We have met with the individual town representatives. The representatives are not necessarily in it for money but they do want to protect their own turf. There is a movement in Albany to streamline the process. There is no reason for companies to have five or six different licenses to do the same thing.
Question: What can we do as individuals?
Answer: Bogsted: Lobby. The time is right. Everyone wants to reduce costs.
Question: Can you give us an update on the Avis/We Drive you program status?
Answer: Daus: In February 2007, we got the idea to bring everyone together and put them in a room so that we could work everything out. All of the different trade groups had a meeting with Avis and unfortunately, they were not able to work out a solution on their own. Our agency would much rather see a meeting of the minds than lawsuits. We want to see a way for Avis to fit in that everyone would be happy with. Unfortunately this did not fly. We are back today where we started. Everyone has put together position papers about Avis. We wrote a letter to Avis giving them a deadline of this Friday to respond. At that point, we will announce an opinion.
Question: What is the most frequent violation of the rules?
Answer: Barbato: Trip logs are the primary offense. We need to see where the rides originate and the destination to be able to determine if you are in compliance with the rules. We also work with the base if they are having compliance issues to get everyone on the same page.
Answer: Bogsted: People driving without hack licenses. We have actually found criminals driving. We have seen a committed sex offender driving prom kids. We have cleaned this up and we believe it is going away.
Answer: Daus: We see very few issues with luxury vehicles. Illegal street hails were once an issue but this has declined. We also see vehicles that are dispatched to drivers without hack licenses. The reforms have worked well by keeping the base owners accountable through the point system. We are having rigorous inspections. It is for the good of everyone to have less illegals. This is good for legitimate operators.
Question To Daus: We are having difficulty getting appointments for chauffeurs to renew. The online process is difficult. Is it possible to get a calendar online where we could possibly choose the date?
Answer: The problem occurs when people schedule appointments and just don’t show up. We want you to make sure that when your drivers schedule an appointment, that they keep it and take it seriously. In February, when all renewals up, we expect a tremendous volume.
Question: Are you impounding vehicles?
Answer: Barbato: We have been in existence for 10 years and we have seen greater and greater compliance. One area where we have seen a problem is the Yonkers raceway casino. There we have seen non-permitted operators. We do not impound vehicles unless they are scofflaw violators where they have five tickets or more or owe in excess of $1,000. We have had 13 impounds for the year.
Answer: Bogsted: We have had 69 impounds this year. First offenders as long as it is not a major offense are typically not impounded. If there is a straight plate on the vehicle, we will take the cars.
Answer: Daus: We have very strict impound rules that work to our advantage. We will see many more impounds next year as enforcement will be cracking down. The anti-hustling law at the airport will raise the penalty to a misdemeanor. There will be more enforcement. We are working hard to create more public awareness of what is licensed and what is not.
Question: What are Nassau and Westchester counties’ position on Avis?
Answer: Bogsted: We have had no issues with this. We are waiting for NYC to settle (this was a joke).
Answer: Barbato: We have had no complaints. We have forwarded the issue to our law department for review. We are awaiting an answer.
Question: Any thoughts to changing the reciprocity laws?
Answer: Barbato: I am not aware of any changes. The commissioners are constantly in communication with each other on a regular basis.
Answer: Bogsted: I don’t see any changes. We are working to unify the towns and eliminate duplicity.
Answer: Daus: Ditto. It was a great accomplishment getting both counties up and running.
Question: Are you giving sensitivity training to your enforcement officers?
Answer: Barbato: Our officers get ongoing training with regard to sensitivity.
Answer: Bogsted: Nothing upsets me more than when we get a report that an officer did not handle a stop properly. I take all complaints seriously.
Answer: Daus: We don’t have these issues anymore. We have specific training called CPR-Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect. If it is a safety issue, we may have to ask a passenger to get out of a vehicle. In the last eight to nine years, we don’t really have those issues.
Question: What changes have you seen in the tri-counties?
Answer: Barbato: More fuel efficient vehicles coming into play. We are looking at ways to encourage the industry to participate. Ed Stopelman of Red Oak is on our Carbon Reduction Task Force. We are working toward achieving a reduction.
Answer: Bogsted: Unlicensed companies due to the current economy. No hack licenses.
Answer: Daus: I agree with both of the other commissioners. I would add the illegal use of cell phones. In November, it is illegal to use a hands free device. Studies show that using a cell phone while driving impairs the driver as badly as drinking and driving does.
Question: In Westchester County, industry members sit on an industry advisory counsel. What about doing the same in the other two counties?
Answer: Bogsted: We look forward to having industry members discuss issues with us. If the industry is doing the right thing, there is no need for us to over regulate.
Answer: Daus: We have set up monthly meetings with the industry associations. I also suggest calling me or my office directly if you have concerns.
Question: Going green and miles per hour? What is the current status?
Answer: Barbato: We currently have no mandate. In the same respect we are a region with one of the worst air pollutions. We have a carbon reduction task force that is working on this. We are also very open to suggestions from the industry.
Answer: Bogsted: We have no intention of telling people what kind of vehicles they can hire. It is not my place to mandate this.
Answer: Daus: We have had a lawsuit on this which we lost. There is another in the state. We have proposed legislation to change the Clean Air Act as of January 1, 2010. It is under legal advisement. I commend the limo and black car industry though for voluntarily working on this on their own. We can’t give up this fight. We need to see real emissions reductions. Going green is good for business and it will save you money. We will be in touch before Jan. 1, 2010 on this. We don’t want to harm businesses so we are very open to the options.
Question: Where do we display the driver’s license?
Answer: Daus: Drivers licenses must be clearly displayed. Be as creative as you want. They cannot be on the visor. Registrations can be on the visor.
Question: Is there a threshold date for enforcement for the new rules?
Answer: Daus: They are being enforced. Cars are passing inspections better. In February it will be the real test as they will need the full DMV inspection. We have visited bases. We have not issued summons for not having stickers on but we will at some point in the future.
Question: Why can’t we have one license for the state with one filing?
Answer: Bogsted: Each jurisdiction has unique characteristics. One of the big differences is liability.
Answer: Daus: We had an open hand when we were in negotiations. We have printed a Frequently Asked Question document. It is evolving.
Answer: Barbato: We do share services with other counties. We are all working to making things simpler and more cost effective.
Source: Linda Jagiela, LCT Magazine