You should know that on Monday, February 12th, 2018 I convened my first committee hearing for the newly created “For-Hire Vehicle Committee”. The topic of this first hearing was TLC enforcement and the manner in which the inspectors treat drivers.
The Committee heard testimony for seven hours, and it became very clear that the laws enacted in 2011 and 2016 (later codified as Local Laws 35 and 52) have succeeded in creating such excessive fines. These fines were both destroying the lives of drivers as well as violating the 8th Amendment to the US Constitution. How did they manage to accomplish both?
It is important for you to know what happened in the industry between 2011 and 2018 may best be demonstrated with two statistics.
First, the number of average rides per day has decreased to the point that in January 2011 the average daily trips for the taxi / FHV industry were 482,811. Seven years later in January 2018, the figure was 282,565. In other words in just seven (7) years the daily ridership for all taxi and for-hire vehicles was decreased by almost half.
Second, in January 2011 there were a total of 39,708 total For-Hire Vehicles, and seven (7) years later there were 102,536. In seven (7) years the numbers of for-hire vehicles rose by more than double and the number of daily trips fell by half.
Then in 2011 the New York City Mayor, the City Council, and its Speaker decided to greatly increase fines for taxi drivers and for-hire vehicles from $350 to $1,000. Not content, these were raised again in 2016 to $10,000. So while the number of for-hire vehicles were increasing to more than 150%, the Mayor, Council, and the Speaker added these huge fines. It is no wonder that a $1,000 fine wipes out a driver’s earnings for a month.
My dear reader, you should know that my legal counsel has informed me these fines are in violation of the US Constitution, specifically the 8th Amendment. Most persons are familiar with the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, but there is another part which forbids “excessive bail, shall not be required nor excessive fines imposed.” The Supreme Court waited until 1998 to let us know what “excessive” fines are. They are fines which are not proportional to the offense caused.
During the hearing, we learned TLC Inspectors set up drivers by posing as passengers, sometimes as a handicapped individual in need of a taxi. In other situations, the inspector just opens the door and enters the taxi without the driver’s authorization.
Could you imagine my dear reader in 2018 that a $1,000 fine is costing a driver his/her monthly take home? It is even worse to know these fines many times are given when a driver has been set up by the TLC Inspector. Ridiculous!
The solution to end this abuse is to repeal the 2011 and 2016 Local Laws 35 & 52. I am not urging lawlessness. I believe anyone who breaks the law should fined, but fines should be proportional to the harm caused. That is why I have asked for such legislation.
I am Councilman Rev. Rubén Díaz, and this is what you should know.