Director of the Committee for Taxi Safety, David Pollack speaking about
the historic Taxi Job Expo with Senator Charles Schumer (R)
|The Voice of the NYC Transportation Industry - October 2002||LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - click here !|
NYC Cabbies are
Before you qualify for "Taxi School" there are a number of items required and you must pay the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission $120.00 for a two year licensing fee. All fees are not refundable, even if you do not receive your diploma (i.e. Hack License). A $50.00 money order is needed for fingerprinting and you will need an additional $24.00 money order for your drug test. You must have a NYS Drivers license Class 1,2,3,4 or A, B, C or E. It is simple to change your driving classification. All you do is pay about $20.00 to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and they issue you your new driver's license. This was probably the easiest part of the requirements. Proof of residence is required in addition to an original social security card. Four passport photos are also needed, but you can wait until you arrive at the Taxi & Limousine Commission offices located at 32-02 Queens Blvd., where you will find a passport photo machine. If you have ever been convicted of a crime, a court deposition is required. (I did not need one in case you are wondering). If any money is owed to the Department of Motor Vehiles (DMV), Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) or the Parking Violations Bureau (PVB), proof of payment is required with submission of your application. Your application must notarized in two places and completed with a medical certification.
Now you are almost ready to apply for a Hack License. You are still required to take a 6-hour NYS defensive driving course (DDC). You will be asked for the DDC certificate when you are finally submitting your application at the TLC in addition to all other documents.
Now I was ready to submit my application. Once I arrived at the TLC offices located at 32-02 Queens Boulevard I was delighted that only 15 minutes had passed before I was submitting my paperwork. In another 15 minutes the paperwork was processed and I received a TLC certificate with my future Hack License number. The certificate was stamped NOT VALID FOR DRIVING just in case someone is tempted to drive prematurely. Now I was ready to go for a drug test. One cannot take the drug test unless he or she has this TLC certificate proving you have passed all other requirements so far. If you fail the drug test you will be notified by mail in approximately ten days.
It was time to apply for Taxi School. The next dilemma any prospective Taxi-Driver will have is: How do I set aside 80 hours? Hopefully the $325.00 school fee is not a problem. There are two Taxi Academies in New York City, the HANAC Drivers Academy and Master Cabbie Taxi Academy. (Master Cabbie's phone number is 718-472-1699 and HANAC's is 718-433-0493.) The Taxi Academies do have a variety of classes suited for any situation. They have a full-time two-week program during the daytime or a three-week evening class session. Additionally there is also a five-week Weekend class session. Regardless of the choice you make as to when you will go to "Taxi School", you are also required to go on a day long bus tour before you are ready to take the Taxi Test. Oh yes, there is a test involved but let's deal with that later.
After calling both Taxi Schools I chose to take the weekend course at HANAC because they were starting the next Saturday. After telling my wife the good news I got in trouble. My wife Linda only has weekends off during the summer, and by taking the weekend taxi course I would not see her at all. However, I did what any dedicated taxi driver would do, I registered with Master Cabbie for the night taxi session which started the following Monday evening. Our instructor's name was John, an experienced taxi driver of twenty-one years. John's personal experiences added to the educational process and he kept the interest of all students.
There were twenty-three students all with the hope of bettering their future by driving a NYC yellow cab in the Big Apple. It is natural to befriend fellow students and I must admit I miss the time we spent together. There was John (the Baptist), a stout man working as a security guard, originally from Ghana. Komlan was also a security guard with a very soft voice from Togo. Abdou stood about six foot five. He has been in the U.S. for five years and has a CDL trucker's license. Moe came from Algeria and has been working the front desk of the Marriot hotel. Olayinka told me that he is a gypsy cab driver from Nigeria and wants to work where the money is, in the yellow cab industry. Fofana came from the Ivory Coast and Kwame is a busboy originally from Ghana. After sharing three weeks of Taxi School classes together, these men I now consider my friends and I will remember each and every one of them.
If you arrive five minutes late to class you must make up the time or you will not be allowed to take the test. Everyone was on time. I don't know if I am allowed to reveal the curriculum of the Taxi schools, so I will generalize. We were required to know the locations of all Hotels, Hospitals, Parks and Landmarks. We also studied TLC regulations: refusals, EZ Pass and the probationary period etc. We reviewed rates in and out of New York City, geography of the entire city including transverses, avenue extensions, every water crossing and the lost and found precincts in each Borough.
The efficiency of the curriculum is impeccable for any beginner that wants to become taxi driver. When you are finished with this course you are more prepared to drive the streets of New York than any other drivers on the road presently. It is a thorough educational experience.
Personally, I respect every applicant, most of whom had day jobs. After I finished my workday, the challenge was driving ninety minutes to get home after each class. I was happy to arrive home before midnight. Yes, every new driver makes sacrifices to win that prize, the Hack License.
The problem I found involves applicants who have held a hack License before, such as myself. The TLC regulation calls for a twenty-four hour course if you held a Hack License for three consecutive years after January 1990. I drove for ten years prior to 1990 and did not meet this qualification. So I had to take the 80-hour course. Although I learned a number of things in class that had a direct affect on my Taxi test, I still asked myself night after night, "Why am I here?"
It is not fair for an experienced taxi driver to take an 80-hour course, period. I feel that any former taxi driver who held a Hack License for one year should be required to take a one-day review course. Half of the day can be spent reviewing new rules, streets etc. and then the drivers can ask to review any weak points that are requested. I am convinced that most former taxi drivers will pass this test without a problem, unless there is an English problem.
In the 1970's the test was simply a list of hotels. The educational process was "on the job training." The fleets held your license under the sponsorship program giving thousands of immigrants a year the opportunity to drive a taxi within three days. That is how my first hack license was granted. If the driver created a problem, the fleet simply handed your Hack License to the TLC.
Until recently it was not uncommon for a new taxi driver to receive his license six months after he passed the test. Today, Hack Licenses are received within ten days after passing the test. Smart applicants that apply with the Committee for Taxi Safety or the Metropolitan Board of trade can attain their Hack Licenses literally the day after passing the taxi test! Mr. Roger Morgan and his staff do an excellent job of expediting all new Hack licenses.
After a three week schooling session and prior to the taxi test, all students must meet by the Taxi Academy at 6:30am. It is now time for an eight and a half hour bus tour. Our tour guide was Cesar, another instructor. As the bus cruised Queens, Cesar was busy on the intercom reviewing each neighborhood, each highway and the nearest water crossings. We drove down Woodhaven Blvd. to Kennedy Airport. Once arriving at Kennedy we departed the buses (there were three buses) for a twenty-minute lecture from the head taxi dispatcher at the Taxi Holding Area. He explained the taxi feed system for all the terminals, safety concerns etc. Did you know the taxi holding lot at Kennedy Airport holds between six hundred and seven hundred taxis? The tour continued down Linden Boulevard through Queens and into Brooklyn on Fort Hamilton Parkway. Staten Island was brief and then we toured lower Manhattan past ground zero. We toured Manhattan uptown through Harlem. All the while, Cesar was giving us his geographical expertise over the intercom. Believe me, tourists would pay $100.00 for a bus tour like this. We continued into the Bronx, over the Whitestone Bridge back into Queens and to LaGuardia Airport. Finally, we were back! A new sense of New York City was now at our fingertips and the drivers couldn't wait to get behind of their yellow chariots and cruise the, now, well-known city.
But first you must all endure the "Taxi Test." Arriving at 8:00am at the testing facility, just two days after our five-borough bus tour, I found dozens of anxious taxi students ready for what they hoped would be their final day before acquiring their hack license. Within minutes the group of drivers enlarged into a group of over ninety-five students. Each driver was given a number outside and allowed inside to find a corresponding seat number. Explanations of the testing rules and a brief review by the Master Cabbie instructors put everyone at ease. Four representatives from the NYC TLC arrived at 9:40 am. They reviewed the testing rules and the test began. The four proctors constantly walked up and down each isle. One student was disqualified for not having the correct class noted on his driver's license. Two instructors, four proctors and one security guard locked down the testing room. It was time to begin.
First is the English section. An audio tape is played of street addresses. We were to match those addresses with the correct address in our test booklet. Then we read a paragraph from our test booklet. The prerecorded questions were played twice each and our answers were transferred from the test booklet to the answer sheet once again.
Next came the map-reading portion of the test. Our test booklet listed a number of questions with intersecting streets throughout the city. We had to use our maps in order to find the correct answers. Here is an example: Where does Woodside Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue meet in Queens? After the map-reading portion of the test we are given the longest and hardest portion of the test. There were approximately thirty questions where you must write in the correct answers. Almost all of the questions asked on my test were geography related, including questions about each Borough, water crossings, highways, parks, transverses, museums, and major thoroughfares. There were two questions related to the rate of fare and one or two questions about the TLC rules. This portion of the test would prove how much you know about New York City from a professional driver's prospective.
The amount of time spent, energy exerted and money invested in the quest for a Hack License should be an example for the entire country. Nowhere else in the nation do perspective taxi drivers dedicate themselves to training and procedures as intense and complete as the taxi drivers in New York City. Many of the drivers in my class made great sacrifices in order to complete the 80-hour course, but one stands out in my mind. During the first week of class Alex asked to use my cell phone. He called his wife in the hospital because she was having labor pains just prior to giving birth!
Taxi drivers in New York should be respected as professionals because they are trained to be the most knowledgeable and safest class of drivers in the country.
9/11 Memorial Taxicab
Medallion Unveiled - click here
David Pollack speaking at the
9/11 commemoration at the
Woodside Facility on September 13th.