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The Voice of the NYC Transportation Industry - September 2002
Traffic - Refusals - Pedicabs - scroll down to the article

What Is Fare ?
by David Pollack

Recently driver Segundo Granja came to my office at the Committee for Taxi Safety headquarters in Long Island City. He said that he has been a taxi driver for many years and takes pride in his work.

He is lucky enough to have a second home that he rents out. Recently his tenant fell 3 months behind in rent. Segundo called and wrote the tenant, demanding the rent money. His tenant complained to the NYPD and Mr. Granja was arrested for aggravated harassment.

Why am I writing about a civil matter in a taxi newspaper? Here's why. One week after Segundo Granja's questionable arrest, the Taxi & Limousine Commission suspended his hack license due to the arrest.

After a summary suspension hearing, Administrative Law Judge Thomas P. Coyle wrote: "Inasmuch as the licensee is alleged to have with intent harassed, annoyed, or alarmed another person, I find sufficient allegations exist to continue the suspension of his license due to the risk that he poses to the public."

Is this justice? Is this fair? Mr. Granja has proof that his tenant left her last place of residence owing six months rent. All Mr. Granja did was ask for HIS money. Now Segundo Granja has been driven out of the NYC Taxi industry. I know Segundo to be an honest hardworking cabbie who has always tried to do the right thing.
I don't think Administrative Law Judge Coyle tried to do the right thing. Maybe he did the politically correct thing, but he did not take Mr. Granja's prior record or the circumstances into account.

Anybody can claim aggravated harassment because of a phone call or a letter. Hear that? Anybody.

Losing one's job due to a private landlord/tenant matter is a disgrace. Segundo has put his house up for sale because he does not have a job anymore and his tenant still has not paid the rent. The only sufficient allegation in this episode is that a good taxi driver's life has now been destroyed.


TRAFFIC - REFUSALS - PEDICABS

by David Pollack

Traffic

Summer is the time of year when thousands come from all parts of the world to vacation with their family in New York City. Unfortunately, many first time tourists don't realize that they do not need to rent a car in Manhattan causing unneeded additional traffic. Thousands more drive into Manhattan from the tri-state area only to clog Streets and Avenues around every sight and tourist attraction.

When the single occupancy ban on private vehicles was finally lifted, over 100,000 more cars a day entered Manhattan. That means that all those drivers had actually found alternative ways of getting to work while the ban was in effect. According to every cabbie I spoke with, traffic was reportedly much better while the single occupancy ban was in effect. The single occupancy ban caused no loss of business to New York City. It only caused excuses by lazy people to lift the ban in order to make it more convenient for them to get to work.

The single occupancy ban should still be in effect. The fewer the number of cars in the central business district of Manhattan, the better taxi service becomes. It's simple mathematics. Taxis can handle more fares and more passengers if we are able to move around the city with less traffic. Our services are expedited in a more efficient manner as traffic lessens. Maybe Mayor Koch's plan for a $10.00 per day surcharge for private cars entering Manhattan was the right thing to do. Maybe we need to restrict private cars from entering lower Manhattan all together. The outer boroughs can provide parking and mass transit to get the people into Manhattan. Think about the fresher air, the savings in gasoline, and the better service we can provide, especially during rush hour when the traffic is at its zenith.

If the City of New York wants better yellow taxi service during the rush hour, they better help eliminate unnecessary traffic. Getting rid of all private vehicles in the central business district will help make New York City a better place to live, work and visit.

Pedicabs

You probably have seen a large bicycle with two passenger seats around town. They are called PEDICABS, I guess because you must peddle them. Pedicab is not yet listed in the dictionary, but it is listed on my most dangerous road hazard list. Here are some facts about the PEDICAB:

___________YELLOW CABS______PEDICABS
Insurance: ........$100,000/$300,000......... NONE
Inspections: .............5 Times Yearly.......... NONE
License: ....................Hack License........... NONE
Taxi School:.......... 80 Hour Course.......... NONE
Fingerprints: ..................All Drivers........... NONE
Registered Vehicle:.... ......All Taxis............ NONE

As you can see, it is ridiculous for the administration of the City of New York to allow such an unregulated form of transportation to transport the residents or tourists of this city. Just weeks ago bicycle laws were proposed, discussed and revised, but somebody missed the boat. The City Council should have insisted that these Pedicabs be taken off the road, at least until a study can be done. Horse carriages provide scenic rides through Central Park. Pedicabs provide each passenger with the possibility of causing an injury without any recourse. The Department of Consumer Affairs should qualify these road hazards so that they are safe, insured, licensed and more of a tourist attraction than an unlicensed competitor of the Taxi Industry, recklessly crossing multiple lanes of traffic without signaling.

HELLLLLLLLO! Is Anybody Listening?

Refusals

Hailing a New York City taxicab is an experience that first-time tourists really enjoy. Some tourists walk a block from their Hotels just to have the "hailing experience."

I remember when Roger Clemens and his family first arrived in Manhattan. As the family walked down 7th Avenue by Times Square, their youngest son lagged behind raising his hand, causing a yellow cab to stop by him. After the sixth cab stopped, Roger decided to hold his son's hand. There is something magical for any younger child to hail a taxi. The power and control is realized with the simple action of hand raising.

Think about it. Walking up Queens Boulevard this morning, I noticed a corner that constantly had people hailing yellow cabs. You guessed it, "Operation Refusal." There were three different kinds of refusal testing I observed, all requiring a street hail. First there is the "Destination Test." A TLC Inspector hails a taxi headed towards Manhattan during the rush hour and states that his destination is Queens or Brooklyn. If the driver refuses to go to that destination, he has failed. The second test is the "Bias Test." This is where two TLC inspectors work together. The first is usually a black inspector hailing a taxi while a white inspector is about 50 feet beyond the first Inspector. If a taxi passes the first passenger to pick up the second, he has failed. The final refusal test is the "Handicapped Test." This is where a TLC inspector hails a taxi from a wheelchair. If the driver passes that hail, he will fail the test.
Refusals are the worst kind of summons for a taxi driver to receive. The penalties are hundreds of dollars in fines, up to the revocation of your hack license.

After observing the operation for about 20 minutes, I introduced myself to the Inspector in charge of the operation. Inspector Rosario said he was having a good day. Every taxi driver had passed the Bias Tests and the Destination Tests. When a driver passes he gets a recommendation card. No one is sure about the purpose or value of this card but it is better than nothing. "When every driver passes my operation refusal, I've had a good day. Cab drivers have it hard enough," Inspector Rosario said. As we were talking, Inspector Lazerus was issuing another commendation card.

The only driver that failed this morning was a driver that refused a wheelchair fare. He was stopped, and I heard him say something I cannot repeat.

So here is some advice. Keep up the good work and pick up every street hail that comes your way. Here is a tip for you. DO NOT DRIVE BY A BLIND PERSON WITH A CANE HAILING A CAB. Pull up, open your window and honk your horn. Tell the person you are a cab and that you are directly in front of him. Remember, being blind is a handicap too. You are doing a great job! Keep it up.

Letters
to the Editor

Dear Taxi Insider,

I am sending you this letter in an attempt to express to you my sincere gratitude, as well as, my overwhelming appreciation for your sponsorship, in conjunction with the Committee For Taxi Safety, of the Taxi Job Expo on March 15, 2002. Here is our story.

My husband and I are college educated professionals living, working and raising two small children in New York City for the last 8 years. After the tragic events of Sept. 11th, my husband was laid off from his job leaving me as the sole provider for our family. Needless to say, I also fell victim to corporate downsizing. We had taken all of the necessary financial precautions by saving enough money, in theory, to survive for 6 months. As we all are aware, jobs were few and due to unexpected medical circumstances, our savings was depleted sooner than we had planned. Coupled with all of this, the unemployment compensation that we relied on was to end. Then you entered our lives.

On the morning of March 15th, I was up early with my husband as he was preparing to go on yet another job interview. He was confident that this interview would be the last. Then, I saw your segment on Good Day NY in regard to the job fair and decided to pack up the children and see what I could find out about the taxi industry.

Everything that I wanted or needed to know about the industry was represented. By the time I left, I was in possession of an application but, most importantly, I was armed with a wealth of information. Within a few weeks of the meeting your representatives, my husband was driving.

It could not have come at a more opportune time since he, once again, was over qualified for the position that he interviewed for on March 15th but we, at least, now had a steady income. The best part of this new found career is the flexible schedule that enabled him to continue with his job search. My husband is once again gainfully employed but has opted to continue driving so that I may stay home to raise our children.

In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff of Taxi Insider, The Committee For Taxi Safety and all of those involved in making a tremendous difference in the lives of this family of four! We are forever grateful to everyone involved!

Thank you and God Bless!!!
Sincerely,
Karen C. Jones-Hunter

Dear Editor,

I am writing you concerning three instances whereby I did what I was supposed to do; yet, I was the one who was rendered victim of the system.

1. On January 6th, 2002, I declined a passenger going to Brooklyn strictly on the basis of time constraint. You know, the same old "shift change" time element. The passenger filed a complaint and a hearing date was set. While I was waiting for my hearing…
2. On January 17th 2002, I was stopped by the TLC in Brooklyn for a refusal test and passed it! The inspector signed my trip sheet. Unfortunately, at that time I was given the bad news that my license was suspended for "legal."
It was then that I first learned about the suspension. Anyway, the Inspector was a nice, sophisticated professional who went the "extra mile" to figure out what I should do with the situation i.e. get back my license. Well, he did his duty.
3. On March 18th 2002, I attended my hearing and submitted a written statement mentioning the above refusal text and my other experience. I was found "incredible" and was fined $200.00. Mercifully, the second charge was dismissed.

On April 29th 2002, (as I claimed in my testimony: that I don't work discriminatorily) I picked up a black young man at 113th Street and Broadway bringing him to Flatbush Brooklyn. At the end of the trip, my passenger opens the door and runs away without paying for the fare. The rest of this event is history. I have feelings of devastation, helplessness and unprotection.

Please publish my letter. It is important for all politicians, police officers, TLC personnel and taxi drivers, to be aware of this petty larceny and theft of service without payment.

Thank you,
Habib R. Butt
Hack License #452109

Dear Editor,

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting you at LaGuardia Airport while you were distributing the Taxi Insider and speaking one-on-one with drivers. I would like to share with those who have not had the pleasure of meeting you, that which I experienced.

During our discussion, you revealed that your ability to relate to the issues that face today's drivers is due to the fact that you are a second-generation driver. This first hand experience gave me a confident feeling that your mind-set was that of a driver and not that of a reporter covering a story or a bureaucratic politician who cares more about career advancement than the plight of drivers. Our encounter was the first time in my 16-year career that I have come face-to-face with a person with your perspective that is willing to document the facts without sugarcoating the issues. I applaud you for your honesty.

Taxi Insider serves as an excellent forum for those drivers who meet you in person to express their concerns but I do have one critique. My suggestion is the inclusion of a personal advice column. Along with being a driver, I am also a freelance writer. I would be honored to volunteer my professional services in an attempt to expand the perspective of the industry, Hack to Hack.

I look forward to reading the next issue.

Sincerely,
Jack, "The Handsome Hack"