Good afternoon. My name is Neel Scott. I am the campaign coordinator for Transportation Alternatives, New York City’s advocate for bicyclists, pedestrians and safe streets. Transportation Alternatives strongly supports the proposed fare increase to a basic charge of $2.50, a 1/5 mile or 120 second charge of $.40 and a night surcharge of $1.00.
New York, while the most cab-dependent city in the nation, has the 13th lowest fares of the 14 cities in the U.S. with 1,300 or more cabs. Adjusted for inflation, NYC taxi fares are at a 35-year low. The ratio of the taxi fare to transit fare has fallen from a high of 10-1 in 1952 to only 4-1 today.
Raising taxi fares would not only provide a much-needed boost to driver incomes, but also help to increase public safety. Transportation Alternatives recently released a report entitled "Higher Pay, Safer Cabbies: The Relationship Between Driver Incomes and Taxi Crashes in NYC," that found a strong relationship between taxicab crash rates and driver incomes. Higher driver incomes are associated with lower driver crash rates. Taxi drivers who are under greater financial pressure tend to work longer hours, and thereby become more fatigued and more likely to make mistakes that cause deadly crashes. In 1999 – the last year for which data is available - cab drivers were involved in 16% of all injury crashes in Manhattan. Citywide, cab drivers injured 4,478 people in 1999, including: 1,005 pedestrians and bicyclists.
Besides increasing taxi fares, the City and Taxi and Limousine Commission need to take other steps to increase street safety. Taxi drivers set the pace on city streets, and other drivers follow taxi’s leads. When cabs speed with impunity, recklessly run red lights or dangerously change lanes, it shows other drivers that this potentially deadly behavior is acceptable. As professional drivers, taxi drivers should be best, most courteous and safest drivers on the road.
TLC should emphasize four basic safety messages to its drivers. These should be repeated in the driver training curriculum, written and road tests, and on a dashboard sticker.
1. The speed limit is 30mph. Obey it!
2. Pedestrians and bicyclists always have the right of way.
3. Discharge passengers on curb side only. Always pull to curb.
4. Always use a turn signal.
The City and the TLC should work on additional measures to increase taxi and traffic safety.
- The TLC should work to reduce speeding with anti-speeding devices. Speed Governor, a speed regulation device, can restrict speeds on taxis to the citywide speed limit of 30 mph or lower. If cab speeds exceed 30 mph, a light goes on the outside of the taxi, and in the passenger compartment, alerting the passenger and police that the taxi is speeding. Additionally, speed recorders measure and record speeds on a chip, and can be compared with trip logs.
- The TLC should also work to prevent bicycle dooring. The TLC has already taken the welcome step of warning passengers to look out for bicyclists as part of the ‘Rider’s Bill of Rights’ posted in taxis. The TLC should go a step further and install partition stickers indicating “Exit This Side” and arrow pointing to curb side to help avoid dangerous dooring incidents.
- Finally, the City and TLC should work to reduce the impact of collisions with bicycles and pedestrians. The City should ban “bull bars” (a.k.a. “push” or “crash” bars) from the front end of cabs. Britain’s Transportation Research Labs found that such attachments dramatically increase the likelihood that a cyclist or pedestrian will be seriously injured or killed. For the next generation of taxicabs, the City should seek a vehicle with a low, sloping front-end. Vehicles with high, flat fronts – like vans and SUVs – are far deadlier to pedestrians at lower speeds than vehicles with sloping front ends.