This summary about the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.
Ride share drivers face big challenges every day. But they say one little-known agency causes them the most problems: the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission police.
Data exclusively obtained by Documented shows TLC fines levied against drivers rose 446% from 2017 until the height of the pandemic in 2020.
As taxi and rideshare drivers faced a financial battering from COVID-19 ridership downturns and the medallion crash, the TLC has ramped up enforcement on traffic violations, costing drivers a total of $2.3 million in 2021 alone.
Documented’s Labor Reporter via Report for America Amir Khafagy, who has written several reports on New York City’s taxi drivers — the vast majority of whom are immigrants — highlights this increased enforcement in his latest story. In today’s newsletter, he breaks down the biggest issues.
Documented: The last story you wrote about taxi drivers was about the medallion debt crisis, so this new piece feels like a continuation. What led you to write this new article?
Amir: The story came out of two things. One — it’s something that I always had in the back of my head that I wanted to explore more. My father used to be a cab driver, and so one of the biggest complaints he used to have was dealing with the TLC. It seemed like it was something that so many cab drivers had to deal with on a daily basis, but too few people were talking about.
But the idea really got instigated when I went down to the hunger strike with the cab drivers for the medallion crisis. The second biggest complaint they would talk about was the TLC police. When they started off, I was just kind of having a conversation with them. And one guy would mention the TLC police, and then five other guys would say, yeah, that’s crazy. Essentially, I’ve been working on this story more or less since November 2021.
What are the big issues in the story?
The TLC seems to be using cab drivers as a source of revenue. They issued more tickets to cab drivers than they did before the pandemic. There seems to be no justification for it other than they want to target these particular workers as revenue sources, but also to have a form of control over them.
Despite the fact that there have been fewer drivers on the road, the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission fines have increased outrageously. From way less than $1 million in 2017, when there were 90,000 licensed drivers on the road, to $2.3 million in fines in 2021. How do we make sense of this?
It doesn’t make any sense that TLC is issuing more tickets but there are less cars on the road, less drivers on the road, less people taking taxis. So there’s no other reason other than they are using cab drivers as a revenue source. And they targeted them because they’re an easy play.
And how is that impacting drivers right now?
The fees by the TLC police, it’s the number one issue for cab drivers. You see, most cab drivers don’t own the taxis that they drive. The medallion debt crisis has been very painful, but most cab drivers don’t own medallions. So it affects a far larger group of people than the medallion crisis. Cab drivers have to not only deal with the NYPD, who also issue tickets for some of the same violations; they also have to do with the TLC police.
Is the New York Taxi and Limousine Police aware of the issue?
Essentially, they are saying we’re not going to sacrifice public safety. In their mind, this is all about public safety, keeping the roads safer. So to keep the roads safer, they have to regulate the cab drivers excessively. In reality, if it was all about public safety, and there are fewer cars on the roads, how could you be issuing more fines?
What do you want the major takeaway to be for readers?
There has to be a major TLC reform. Some cab drivers are arguing for the abolishment of TLC police. I don’t know if that’s the solution, but that’s one argument some cab drivers make. Others are calling for capping the fines based on income the drivers actually make. Some of the fines are doubled or tripled for traffic violations. Some suggest consolidating some of these excessive rules and excessive fines as part of the most important and most dangerous road violations.
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