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The Voice of the NYC Transportation Industry - MAY 2002

 

First Taxi Industry Job Expo
in New York City!


Executive Director of the Committee for Taxi Safety, David Pollack speaking about the Taxi Job Expo — with Senator Charles Schumer (R) and NYC TLC Chairman Matthew Daus (L).
Click For The Story

Hotel Doormen
by David Pollack

Every week I spend time speaking with yellow cab drivers and listen to their ideas, problems and advice. There are two matters that are reoccurring topics of distress for cabbies every time we speak. One topic that always comes up is the rate increase (or lack thereof) and the other topic is the doormen at Manhattan hotels. Let's discuss the Manhattan hotel doormen.

Hotel guests respect the doormen. After all, they have nice uniforms and generally give good advice as to where the best restaurant is, and what's going on in Manhattan that night. The job of a concierge is to make the hotel guests as comfortable as possible and do the impossible. They will manage to get tickets for that sold out Broadway show and make reservations where the common folk cannot.

However, when a concierge is asked about the best transportation to the airports in NYC, the guests are usually referred to the hotel doorman. In fact, most hotel guests bypass the Concierge and go directly to the doorman for all their transportation needs. The doorman controls the traffic in the hotel driveway or in front of the hotel. Guests checking in and checking out have their luggage under the watchful eyes of these doormen. The doormen work with the bellhops by directing them to the correct vehicle to either remove luggage or pack luggage into the trunk. Doormen at hotels are given tips for a number of things, like watching guest's cars or simply opening the door of a yellow cab.

Traditionally, yellow cabs wait in front of hotels in Manhattan with the hope of getting a fare to the airport. Many passengers from hotels simply go to tourist attractions, shopping districts or business guests go to office buildings. It's a shame that many times the doorman will receive a $2.00 or $3.00 tip for opening the door of the waiting taxi for a hotel guest and that same guest may give a yellow taxi driver a 50-cent tip at the end of the fare!

What's wrong with this picture? I believe it's called respect. Hotel guests respect their doorman. That doesn't necessarily mean that all hotel guests don't respect yellow cab drivers. Many of them drove cabs themselves and do understand the daily stresses of driving. Some guests do the right thing with yellow cab drivers. But I'm not here to talk about guests of hotels in NYC. I'm here to talk about how doormen at most Manhattan hotels actually take advantage of their positions and screw the guests and the yellow cab drivers at the same time. (I've been ridiculed for using the word screw, but the anger voiced from hundreds of yellow cab drivers shows a need for this word)

There I said it! Doormen screw their own hotel guests with a smile. Do you know what I'm talking about? Of course you do. When a hotel guest brings luggage to the front of the hotel, some doormen will ask the guest if they're going to an airport. I have heard doormen tell guests that "I have a special car for you" as they direct the hotel guest to a waiting non-yellow vehicle. Dozens of cabbies have told me that they have seen the drivers of these non-medallion cars give a ten-dollar bill to the doorman for an airport fare. It is important to for me to state that it is clear to me that there is definitely NO PREARRANGEMENT regarding most of these incidents.

My favorite story, which I have heard more than once, is that of doormen actually placing luggage in the trunk of a non-medallion car. When the savvy passenger hears that he is going to be charged $65.00 to go to LaGuardia Airport he has the doorman take the luggage out and put it into a yellow cab. (Yellow cab fares to LaGuardia Airport can only reach $65.00 if you go by way of New Jersey). Unfortunately, we've established that most passengers trust and respect whatever the doorman says, even if means getting screwed! Not all doormen give away our rightful fares. Some doormen "shake yellow cab drivers down" for money in order to get an airport or out of town fare. Some doormen are on the 10/5/3 program which demands $10.00 for Newark airport, $5.oo for Kennedy airport and $3.00 for LaGuardia Airport. Others are on the 5/3/2 program. If the yellow cab driver does not cooperate with the "program", the doorman finds a willing driver and it may not be a yellow cab.

I guess the question is, What can we do about it? Some drivers boycott hotel lines especially in the rain, when pressure is on the doormen to get yellow taxi service. It's kind of like "you screwed me out of an airport fare so I won't be there when you need me." This must also be considered when people say that there are not enough yellow cabs.

I'm not encouraging any of you to boycott any hotel. After all, we all have make a living and all hotel guests are entitled to the same taxi service as everyone else. What does that really accomplish? We need to fix the problem, not create another one. The most important thing you can do is to write down all the information each time you witness a doorman scam. Write down the hotel name, the doorman's name (if possible) the time of day, and the license number if another vehicle is involved, and exactly where you were.

A picture is also worth a thousand words. Describe what you witness in detail. Send a letter to the General Manager of the Hotel explaining all the details witnessed, and explain that you feel this doorman must be reprimanded. Also, explain how his scam hurts hotel guests financially. Imagine hotel general managers receiving dozens of letters a week from yellow cab drivers describing how the hotel doorman is doing a disservice to their own hotel guests. Remember, actions will speak louder than words.

Now, send a letter of complaint with all the details to the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission, Consumer Affairs Division at 40 Rector Street NY NY 10006. Include your name and phone number and a copy of the letter sent to the general manager. To my friend Gus, who I seem to meet at the LaGuardia holding lot every week, thank you for your help.

Yellow cab drivers, you must take the time to correct this problem. If each one of you takes the time to write these letters to hotel general managers, I guarantee you things will change. As always, drivers are invited to write to Taxi Insider with comments about anything. We will print your comments! (Taxi Insider reserves the right to edit all articles). I hope this sheds some light on the doorman problem and how to try and correct it.

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No More Hack License Suspensions Before a Hearing !
By David Pollack

Hack licenses can no longer be suspended BEFORE a hearing on a refusal.

Operation refusal has caused much of the grief for NYC cab drivers. Refusing a fare is illegal. We all know that. Would a NYC cab driver risk his ability to earn money by refusing a fare? That is the real question and there are different points of view regarding the answer. Undercover inspectors insure equal transportation to all, by the yellow taxi industry. To me, "Undercover" has the verbal quality that makes one think of a police person trying to catch a criminal in the act. Can you reason with a person that needs transportation at 4:00PM going to Coney Island from Manhattan, when the driver must return the taxi to Long Island City by 5:00PM? Should you stop in an intersection to pick up a fare or continue to the next corner, thereby passing up the fare? Should you pick up the first person that you see hail you even though another passenger steps in front of the first potential fare causing you to bypass a fare?

Judgment is the word. Drivers make judgments all day. They judge the best route based on traffic. They judge the time for their last fare in order to return their cabs for the next shift. They judge the safest places for the public to enter their cabs. We all know that if you refuse to stop for a fare based on the color of their skin you will get a refusal summons but the other situations stated are real and deserve addressing. If a proposed fare was disorderly or had an item that may ruin the interior of the cab, he may refuse the fare.

I put myself in the place of an undercover inspector. An undercover inspector is paid by the public to help protect the public and to enforce laws and rules that may hurt the public. Does an undercover inspector feel he or she is not doing their job if no summonses are written? I don't know. In a questionable situation, like ones above, is the driver asked why the appearance of a refusal took place or is the inspector under pressure to "do his duty?" These are questions we can never answer. This writer is glad that finally, drivers will be able to defend themselves, in refusal situations that are questionable, before their hack licenses are revoked or suspended. At least now, drivers are innocent until proven guilty. It should be noted that the TLC had decided recently to stop suspending licenses before cabbies were given a hearing, after initial comments from Judge Dearie indicated that he would find the practice unconstitutional.

**********************************************************************************************
7% Drop in Accidents

The number of auto accidents in the city dropped 7% in 2001. The reduction in accidents was believed to be due partly to a drop in the number of cars on the road beginning last fall, as well as single-occupant vehicle restrictions at bridge and tunnel crossings below 63rd Street in Manhattan during morning rush hours.
Citywide in 2001, there were 244,515 accidents, down from 262,786 in 2000, although accident-related deaths rose from 380 to 385, according to Police Department figures.
The number of pedestrains killed dropped to 183 from 187, and the number of byciclists fatally struck dropped from 18 to 14.
Accidents involving drunken drivers killed 34 people last year, a decrease of one, and the number of accidents involving drunken drivers rose by two to 1,793.

Fine Hikes Urged
Transportation Alternatives advocated for an increase in fines for moving violations such as speeding.
The number of moving violations issued by police slipped 11.6% last year, partly due to the redeployment of many officers after September 11.

Police Statistics
Auto Accidents 2000: 262,786
2001: 244,515

Auto Accident Deaths
2000: 380 (187 pedestrians, 116 drivers, 59 passengers, 14 bicyclists)

Deaths Associated to Driving While Intoxicated 2000:35
2001: 34

Accidents Associated to Driving While Intoxicated 2000: 1,971
2001: 1,973

Moving Violation Summonses 2000: 1,094,704
2001: 967,238

Source: New York Police Department

34 Accidents

No More Hack License Suspensions Before a Hearing !
By David Pollack

Hack licenses can no longer be suspended BEFORE a hearing on a refusal.

Operation refusal has caused much of the grief for NYC cab drivers. Refusing a fare is illegal. We all know that. Would a NYC cab driver risk his ability to earn money by refusing a fare? That is the real question and there are different points of view regarding the answer. Undercover inspectors insure equal transportation to all, by the yellow taxi industry. To me, "Undercover" has the verbal quality that makes one think of a police person trying to catch a criminal in the act. Can you reason with a person that needs transportation at 4:00PM going to Coney Island from Manhattan, when the driver must return the taxi to Long Island City by 5:00PM? Should you stop in an intersection to pick up a fare or continue to the next corner, thereby passing up the fare? Should you pick up the first person that you see hail you even though another passenger steps in front of the first potential fare causing you to bypass a fare?

Judgment is the word. Drivers make judgments all day. They judge the best route based on traffic. They judge the time for their last fare in order to return their cabs for the next shift. They judge the safest places for the public to enter their cabs. We all know that if you refuse to stop for a fare based on the color of their skin you will get a refusal summons but the other situations stated are real and deserve addressing. If a proposed fare was disorderly or had an item that may ruin the interior of the cab, he may refuse the fare.

I put myself in the place of an undercover inspector. An undercover inspector is paid by the public to help protect the public and to enforce laws and rules that may hurt the public. Does an undercover inspector feel he or she is not doing their job if no summonses are written? I don't know. In a questionable situation, like ones above, is the driver asked why the appearance of a refusal took place or is the inspector under pressure to "do his duty?" These are questions we can never answer. This writer is glad that finally, drivers will be able to defend themselves, in refusal situations that are questionable, before their hack licenses are revoked or suspended. At least now, drivers are innocent until proven guilty. It should be noted that the TLC had decided recently to stop suspending licenses before cabbies were given a hearing, after initial comments from Judge Dearie indicated that he would find the practice unconstitutional.