NYC Hearing Highlights How Apps Are Changing FHV Industry

Posted on December 3, 2014

[Report based on meeting notes from Guy Palumbo of Global Transportation Network Consultants Inc.]

NEW YORK -- The NYC Transportation Committee held a public hearing Dec. 3 about the effects of app technology on the for-hire vehicle industry, which include limousines, black cars and taxicabs.

Testimony was presented by the TLC, Uber, Lyft, drivers and all of the industry stakeholders.

The Chairperson made it very clear that the Committee is deeply concerned with making sure the FHV industry operates on a level playing field. It was also clear that the Committee was not opposed to technology and felt NYC needed to be at the forefront of the FHV industry.

The Chairman said that everyone must conform to the regulations and that the TLC standards must be properly enforced.

Questions and answers were at times not fully explained but our overall reaction is that additional meetings are needed for the  Committee to better evaluate the proper use of apps.

There was major concerns about Uber and Lyft may not be complying with the need to properly provide accessible cars. This issue wasexpressed by many people and was of high interest by the Committee.

Questions were raised about the TLC enforcement of such things as customer privacy, surge pricing and how to properly dispatch vehicles based on the new TLC Rules.

Further questions were presented about the drop in Yellow Taxi medallion prices as recently reported in the media.

The TLC indicated that trying to determine an average price is difficult as there were multiple types of medallions and the most recent sales involved accessible medallions. The raw data reported in the media was not refined to indicate the categories.

The TLC indicated that there are factors that affect the price of medallions and in the past year such things as MTA ridership is up; more use of bicycles; Boro Taxis and “freebies” by the APP companies have had an impact on medallion prices.
The TLC made it clear that the new Rules requiring trip records from all FHV bases will help in determining where and number of trips is being performed.
The Yellow/Boro Taxis have all their trips reported by the use of the TPEP/LPEP systems. This will help to level the playing field. Also that safety and accountability are required and being enforced.

The TLC indicated that the E-Hail Pilot program will be made permanent and rules are being developed based on the Pilot program. Also that there are about 75 different APP companies operating in NYC.

A major concern was what Uber calls “Surge Pricing” and Lyft calls “Dynamic Pricing”. It was noted that Taxis cannot charge anything more than the actual meter rates and this wasn’t a level playing field.

Both Uber and Lyft stated that they are constantly reviewing their passenger privacy policies and both have third parties reviewing and updating their privacy guidelines.

Equivalent service for Accessible vehicles was an area of concern and commented on by many people. The TLC indicated that the FHV industry has had a poor  record in this area and it was a systemic problem but that the
Boro taxis were helping in this area.

There were comments that both Uber/Lyft had some issues in this matter.

To help with some of these problems, the TLC stated that Yellow Taxi drivers must complete a course of instruction but FHV drivers were not. This is being addressed whereby all TLC drivers will be required to complete some type of educational course before being licensed. Further, Vision Zero will be causing some other changes under consideration.

Cross dispatching by one level licensee to a different level was discussed. It was made clear that the TLC passed Rules which will prevent this and effective 12/31/2014.

It was stated that there wasn’t any real statistics for FHV/Uber/Lyft in the other boroughs but that the new Rule requiring dispatch records will enable the TLC to monitor and evaluate services.

One committee member indicated that accessibility and hybrid service needs to be assessed in the other boroughs.

There were also questions about the current round of Street Hail Livery permits (SHL). Of the current 6,000 authorized for issuance only about 1,000 have been sold.

The future of the Boro taxis needs to be looked at and the NYS Law requires a market type report to be submitted to NYS.

There were many questions about driver compensation and how payments are made to include tips. This included payment to the  Black Car Fund and sale taxes.

One of the last people to speak indicated that the TLC needs to better understand how APPs really work and that because of the requirements HailO left NYC.

The Chairman thanked everyone and stated that the Committee will be listening to others and that additional meetings would be held.

We did not stay for the entire hearing as it went to 2:15 p.m. This was a good first hearing and we suggest that all stakeholders consider having a joint meeting to be able to present a unified response to all issues as they relate to a level playing field.

Source: Guy Palumbo, Global Transportation Network Consultants Inc.

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