July/August 1998, p.8

Safer Cab Drivers - Yes!
T.A. Calls for Higher Standards, Higher Pay, Higher Fares

Read the latest news about this issue.

Transportation Alternatives calls on the Mayor, City Council and Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to couple tougher safety standards with higher pay for cab drivers as part of a campaign to improve public safety and professionalize the taxi industry.
The public has a right to expect professional, safe behavior from cab drivers. In turn, drivers deserve a living wage that encourages them to drive safely and gain experience. You get what you pay for. Poorly paid, overworked drivers who leave the garage with a $120 hole in their pocket are bound to be unsafe drivers - no matter how draconian the traffic penalties.

Transportation Alternatives strongly supports the Mayor's higher insurance and safety requirements. However, one of the TLC's priorities must be encouraging cab driving as a career choice, not just an interim job. Driver safety (as judged by the number of summonses received) is directly related to experience and is length of service. Drivers with five or more years of experience average only 20% of the summonses of those with less than five. The best way to encourage longer tenures and more professional behavior is to pay drivers more. Lease regulations passed in 1996 are supposed to ensure drivers get a bigger share of any fare hikes. If this reform is not working, new rules ensuring drivers a fair share must be instituted.

Will Stricter Standards Backfire?
Industry experts have observed that cab drivers' earnings plummeted in the early 1990's while accidents increased by 40%. Since then, driver incomes have recovered and accident rates declined. A potential result of stricter safety standards and higher insurance requirements is higher leasing rates and thus lower pay for drivers leasing medallions. This in turn could produce a "churn" effect as new drivers enter the industry and are washed out quickly by stricter standards and lower pay. Ironically, the result of the new strict standards might be a permanently inexperienced and dangerous army of cab drivers.

Four Steps to a Safer, More Professional Taxicab Industry
1. Higher insurance requirements, stricter safety standards (Mayor's current plan)
2. Reform TLC. Bolster accident tracking, data collection and analytical capability.
3. Raise fares to provide better pay for drivers who abide by higher standards.
4. Raise drivers' pay to attract better drivers and keep more experienced drivers.

Dangerous cabs are in our parks too - cabs running off the road in Central Park have put four runners/cyclists in the hospital in the last three months. Help us get cars out of the park for good! Auto-Free Central Park meets at 6:30pm on the third Thursday of each month (see the calendar). Or help us collect signatures on weekend afternoons on the loop road across from Tavern on the Green.  Call Andrew at T.A. to help.