Monday, January 07, 2019

Crain's New York: Taxi and Limousine Commission head to step down

By Erik Enquist and Matthew Flamm

Meera Joshi, CEO and chairwoman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, plans to step down from her role in March, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Saturday. A source told Crain's Friday that Joshi had told her senior staff Tuesday of her plans to depart.

Word leaking out might have precipitated the unusual Saturday announcement, just a day after news that Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler will retire Feb. 1.

While the mayor praised Joshi in his announcement, her departure comes on the heels of their disagreement over the state's passage of congestion surcharge for taxis and for-hire vehicles in Manhattan. Joshi publicly expressed concern about the effect that the fee would have on the taxi industry, while the mayor supported the charge as a means to speed up traffic.
Joshi and City Hall also butted heads last July over implementation of a minimum-wage study for app-based drivers that the mayor’s office felt was being pushed through too quickly in light of the troubles facing yellow cab drivers. The recently passed minimum wage rule was one of her signature accomplishments.

“I don’t know if there’s ever been a better commissioner at the TLC or anywhere else,” said Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer in an interview Saturday. She cited in particular the extensive trip data the TLC collects from Uber and other app-based services, which has allowed the agency to formulate groundbreaking policies for the companies.

Joshi will be leaving in the midst of a series of dramatic changes for the industry, including the minimum wage and the surcharge, which has been stalled by a lawsuit. The City Council had passed a bill establishing the minimum wage for drivers and Joshi's commission created regulations to enforce it. The chairwoman had been expected to preside over the implementation of those measures this year.

The commissioner will be the featured speaker Tuesday at a Crain's breakfast forum in Midtown.
One advocacy group for taxis called the timing of her pending departure "concerning." Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said, "The crisis for New York City drivers is far from over and the Taxi and Limousine Commission's work to fix it is just beginning."
Since Uber's rise in 2014, the yellow-cab industry has been wracked by an 80% decline in the value of medallions, the metal placards that each taxi must have to operate. Joshi has been trying to stabilize the industry, which has also been devastated by eight driver suicides within the past year and a half.

"Commissioner Joshi’s tenure was marked by such progressive innovations as the protection and enhancement of driver earnings, citywide access to for-hire services for persons with disabilities, a 50% reduction of fatalities in crashes involving taxis and for-hire vehicles in the last year, [and] significant advances in consumer protections," the mayor's press release Saturday said.
It also credited her with creating the first "pathway to the effective management of congestion and environmental impact relating to TLC-licensed services."

"In this unprecedented period of growth, Meera has brought about equally unprecedented and vital change that will serve as a model for cities throughout the nation and the world," de Blasio said in the statement. "Under her leadership New Yorkers who use wheelchairs can get service, passengers are assured that every driver and vehicle is safe, our city has detailed records of the 1 million daily trips and New York City is the only place where app drivers have pay protection. She will leave an unparalleled legacy and has raised the bar for good government. I am grateful for her service."

In the release, Joshi thanked "a skilled and principled TLC staff, a commission dedicated to doing the right thing and engaged industry members and advocates, through public debate and data we increased accountability, safety, access, modernized taxi regulation, protected drivers and increased consumer protections."

No successor has been chosen, City Hall said, promising a decision "in the coming months."

Copyright © 1996-2019. All Rights Reserved.

No comments: