10/14 update: Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) calls for more scrutiny of stretches nationwide.
The chief regulator of New York City’s for-hire transportation industry sits down with industry writer Linda Jagiela for his first one-on-one interview with chauffeured transportation media.
By Linda M. Jagiela
NEW YORK — Although relatively new to the position, New York City Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky is no stranger to city politics.
Yassky spent eight years on the New York City Council before being nominated for this position on March 12, 2010 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to fill the seat vacated by former TLC Commissioner Matthew Daus.
Yassky is the eleventh person to serve as TLC Commissioner. He talked with LCT Magazine on what the future holds for a changing industry.
LCT: What can the for-hire, luxury transportation portion of the industry expect from the new commissioner?
Yassky: A broad question, but I think the best way to answer that is to say that, over the next few months, I will be continuing my review of all the industries we regulate, asking the questions, ‘what’s been done before, and what needs to be done in the future to accomplish the dual goals of supporting the health of these industries, and improving the ways they provide service to the public. Beyond that, I believe the best way to describe what these industries can expect from me is an open door, a place at the table, and an interested ear.
LCT: As you know, any kind of change causes uncertainty and that in turn causes fear. How would you allay the fears of operators who don’t know you and worry that your changes could have an adverse affect on the industry?
Yassky: I certainly understand fear of the unknown, but I’ve made it my business to reach out to folks in all our regulated industries, and among the things I’ve been saying to them is that 1) I understand the value of working with an industry to make sure it’s vital and healthy, so that it can provide a consistently high level of service to the public to which we all answer; and 2) I want them to know that I view them as our clients, and it’s my goal to provide them with excellent service even just as we expect them to provide excellent service to the riding public.
LCT: A vehicle that is not making money costs operators money. How do you propose minimizing the time vehicles are out of service for inspections, etc.?
Yassky: I know there are some concerns about the time it takes to travel to our Woodside inspection facility, especially for certain operators in Staten Island, but in all frankness, we’re talking about cars being seen once every two years, and at their own inspection facilities the other five times. I know that we’ve made some incredible strides at the Safety & Emissions facility in terms of efficiency and what we call “throughput” (our in/out capacity) over the past few years, and that we’ve got a truly excellent system in place that absolutely minimizes inspection time, but that aside, I think our expectations of the industry are fair and reasonable.
LCT: Do you see any new regulations on the horizon that will affect our industry?
Yassky: There are two things I’d mention off the bat. First, I know that many folks in the Black Car industry have been thinking about the MPG rules that were slated to kick in on July 1 after having been deferred. I am well aware that the Black Car industry is still in recovery mode, after facing significant effects from the economic downturn that had the bookings of the industry as a whole down as much as 40%. I am also aware that the support structure for the administration’s plan was also significantly affected, and is now virtually non-existent. So, that being the case, I believe there is a better approach to greening the industry, and we are actively looking at alternative means of accomplishing our goals. I expect to have something to propose to our Board of Commissioners hopefully in July, and anticipate it possibly coming to a vote in September. Secondly, I think your readers should keep an eye on our really progressive efforts to improve the structure of our rules and regulations to make it easier for our licensees to comply with them. We are deep into the second of three phases, and have completely restructured the rules so that they are easier to understand, and flow in a more logical fashion. I encourage people to visit the web pages we’ve set up devoted to the project at the NYTLC RULES PROJECT WEB SITE.
LCT: The distracted driving legislation directly affects our industry. New York City has unique challenges in that there are not many places that a chauffeur can legally pull over to communicate with the base. Do you have any insights as to how our industry can work with the TLC to abide by the legislation and still communicate with base operations?
Yassky: I think a lot of the “heavy lifting” on that front has been done. I know the TLC has had numerous meetings with industry leaders and organizations, and a number of the larger base operators, and that the rules as passed reflect some real and tangible compromises that facilitate the communications our licensed industries need. I feel very good about how open and inclusive the process was, and how the final product really took the industry’s needs into account.
LCT: Unlike the taxi industry, the luxury for-hire transportation industry is self regulated in that clients prearrange their trips. Those who do not like our service will go to another service, unlike the taxis where you get whatever vehicle and company stops on the street. Often, though, we are put into the same bag as the taxi industry. Do you intend to regulate our industry differently then you regulate the taxi industry?
Yassky: Oh, I absolutely recognize the fact that our regulated industries represent a number of different paradigms. I think the best way to answer that is to share my vision of letting the operational realities of the way an industry works be my guide to regulatory approach wherever possible.
LCT: There is talk nationwide about the need for handicapped accessible vehicles. What are your views on this issue and how will it affect the luxury part of the industry?
Yassky: That’s a good question, especially considering the view that the word “luxury” is more about the level of service than it is about the vehicle, meaning that we could have luxury accessible transportation by virtue of a higher level of service, even if the vehicle isn’t necessarily considered a “luxury” vehicle. That said, I think we’d have to do a lot more to study and understand what kind of demand there would be for such service before seriously addressing the issue.
LCT: Commissioner Daus was very visible in our industry. Can we expect the same from you?
Yassky: I don’t see why not!
LCT: Where do you personally stand with respect to sustainability and green initiatives?
Yassky: I consider sustainability and our environment to be highly important issues of focus, and that I am fully committed to achieving the highest levels of cleanliness and efficiency possible in all the TLC’s regulated industries. That having been said, I also strongly believe in the importance of balancing environmental responsibility with operational and economic reality, which is something I believe will provide a level of comfort to our regulated industries.
ABOUT: Linda M. Jagiela is a free-lance writer and public relations consultant for the chauffeured transportation industry. She also operates Aries Limousine of Philadelphia with her husband, Philip Jagiela.
10/14 update: Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) calls for more scrutiny of stretches nationwide.
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