MAYOR SIGNS LEGISLATION TO REFORM COMMUTER VAN INDUSTRY
(L-R) Council Member I. Daneek Miller; Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 Vice President Luis Alzate; Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 Policy Director, Corey Bearak; Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Alexis Van Lines owner, Leroy Morrison; Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Nick Smith. Photo Credit: Vania Andre, NYC Council
NEW YORK, NY – On Feb. 15, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Commuter Van Safety Act, comprised of three bills, which cracks down on illegal, rogue commuter van operators who pose a danger to commuters, while also ensuring that licensed and insured operators can operate safely across the city.
Intro 0570, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, would align legitimate commuter van operators with the practices of other livery services by:
Eliminating the 6-year the renewal disparity;
Eliminating the requirement for petitions to receive operating approval,
Eliminating the requirement to maintain records of prearrangement – a practice not in line with Commuter Van operations
Under this bill, the Department of Transportation (DOT) retains the power to revoke operating authority if necessary.
In addition, all commuter van operators must continue to provide, upon demand by enforcement officials, the following:
commuter van license,
driver’s commuter van license,
authorization to operate a commuter van service
vehicle registration and evidence of current liability insurance.
“Commuter vans are a major source for transportation in my district, and in many other communities across the City,” said Council Member Williams. “They fill the gap in transportation starved areas. Unfortunately, commuter drivers often get painted with a broad brush, and are accused of infractions that legal drivers are not committing. These bills are about making sure people have the legal opportunity to operate commuter vans, while also stepping up enforcement, and ensuring passenger safety.”
This bill takes effect within 120 days of being signed into law.
(L-R) President of Commuter Van Association of New York, Hector Ricketts; Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez; Council Member Donovan Richards; Council Member I. Daneek Miller; Mayor Bill de Blasio; Council Member Jumaane D. Williams; Owner of Alexis Van Lines, Leroy Morrison; Deputy Chief of Staff for Office of Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Nick Smith; TLC Intergovernmental Affairs Analyst, Jugba Santi; Owner of Brooklyn Van Lines, Jimmy Modest; Owner of City Express, Latif Ajala; Owner of Royal Rose Transportation, Desmond West.
Photo Credit: Vania Andre, NYC Council
The other bills in the package include Intro 0860 and Intro 0861-A, sponsored by Council Member I. Daneek Miller.
Intro 0860, calls for no more than 735 licenses for commuter vans. Intro 0860 also calls for a study that would report on the following information:
the number of safety related violations, disaggregated by the number that result in crashes, committed by commuter vans;
the number of current commuter vans, commuter van drivers, and commuter van bases authorized by the commission;
the number of illegal commuter vans operating in New York City to the extent known or estimated, and a discussion of the state of the commuter van industry;
a plan on how the commission will ensure that commuter vans do not operate on bus routes, including, but not limited to, what enforcement measures the commission is currently using;
the number of commuter vans that were seized by the commission in the prior calendar year;
information regarding the twenty most utilized commuter van routes;
data on commuter van ridership, including information on how commuter vans are being utilized to connect to other mass transit to the extent known;
a plan for the reduction of commuter vans operating illegally;
data on how many licenses for commuter vans, commuter van drivers, and commuter van bases were renewed and how many were rejected in the prior calendar year, as well as any changes in the number of commuter vans affiliated with each licensed base in the prior calendar year;
discussion of how commuter van routes are selected; and
whether, in the judgment of the commission, there is a need for commuter vans in a number exceeding the number specified in subdivision r of section 19-504.
The report must be submitted to the City Council by July 1, 2017. This bill would go into effect immediately.
Intro 0861A, increases penalties applicable to operators of commuter vans. Under this bill, any person who knowingly operates a commuter van without the proper authorization faces a maximum fine of $3,000 for the first violation, and $4,000 for a second violation, if committed within two years of the first violation.
“Since I can remember commuter ‘dollar’ vans have been a part of everyday life for residents of Southeast Queens. These businesses try to provide a service that the MTA is not, and because they were was poorly regulated, it has created an unsafe environment for commuters and drivers alike” said Councilman I. Daneek Miller. “After much advocacy, I have been pleased to see increased enforcement on Parsons Boulevard and Archer Avenue by the 103rd Police Precinct and Taxi and Limousine Commission, and the bills we will be passing today will support those efforts by deterring van drivers from breaking the law and developing ways we can make the industry more efficient. I would like to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilman Jumaane Williams, and my colleagues in the Council for supporting these bills.”
Commuter vans, also known as “dollar vans,” offer vital, affordable transportation in communities where there are limited transit options. The Taxi Limousine Commission recognized the need for commuter vans and developed a decal to differentiate between legal and illegal drivers.
Council Members Williams and Miller encourage commuter to only ride in vans with one of the two following decal:
Rogue, illegal drivers have long posed a safety threat to pedestrians and passengers. In an incident that took place last year, a 16-year-old girl was fatally struck by a commuter van driver. In a 2014 incident, a 27-year-old man was run down by a commuter van.
“As we work to ensure disconnected communities have the transportation options they desperately need, we must also be sure these options are safe and well regulated,” said Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. “Thanks to legislation from Council Members Miller and Williams, we’re taking this approach to the dollar van industry, which has long served communities in central Brooklyn and southeast Queens with few transit options. I want to thank the Mayor for signing these bills, aimed at ensuring unlicensed drivers are off the streets, but also allowing for fewer burdens on operators that have shown they provide quality service to these communities.”
“TLC-licensed commuter vans are an invaluable community resource,” said Taxi and Limousine Commission Chair Meera Joshi. “This legislation strongly supports them, and reflects the value we place on their service. It will also help them continue to protect their passengers and their community by operating within the laws of our city.”
“Thanks to the leadership of the Mayor, Councilmember Jumaane Williams, and the Council, DOT welcomes this reform of commuter van licensing and regulation,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “New Yorkers want more choices in their commutes, and these vans provide a vital service. By streamlining application and oversight, these new laws will together help foster greater accountability and reduce the number of unauthorized vans. We look forward to working with the TLC and the commuter van industry to make sure that vans across our City continue to provide safe and efficient transportation to those who depend on them.”
“The Commuter Van Safety Act represents long-needed reform of the Commuter Van industry. As a long-time owner/operator myself, I’ve seen the industry’s highs and lows,” added Leroy Morrison of the Commuter Van Association of New York, and owner of Alexis Van Lines. “The Commuter Van industry has been on the front lines of transporting New Yorkers where they lack other transit options. We’ve stepped in during natural disasters and other crises when needed. This Act will help level the playing field, but also protect commuters against rogue, unlicensed and uninsured, drivers who threaten the safety and well-being of the public. I thank Council Members Williams and Miller for their efforts to help us realize this day.”
“The vision, tenacity and hard work invested by Council Member Williams and his staff on the Commuter Van Reform Bill Intro 5** is applauded by commuter van operators and citizens in communities across the City, where vans operate and are needed,” said Hector Ricketts, president of the Commuter Van Association of New York. “His efforts will for the first time level the playing field for operators who have consistently responded to the City’s crisis, but were not given a fair shake. From Hector Ricketts and all at the Commuter Van Association of New York we say ‘thank you Council Member Williams, and a job well done’.”
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Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, 45th Council District, 4517 Ave D, Brooklyn, NY 11203
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