Janet Lee

Janet Lee
Photo:Janet Lee, injured by a taxi partition.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Jessica Formoso of NY Citys' Fox5 TV station covers the demise of partition mandates

This reporter and her report of 4/22/2016 (http://www.fox5ny.com/news/130038902-story ) do little to clear the air on this so-called 'partition debate'. The first errors in the story are;1. the absurdity of using acrylic plastic (Plexiglas) is beyond the pale, the material used is polycarbonate (like Lexan), 2. the TLC lie that the partitions were installed for driver safety, they were, in fact, installed as an experiment to see if more drivers would work at night with a partition, and 3. 20 years ago was the 17th year of partition mandates in NYC.
On one hand it seems that the partitions 'controversy' is about the mandate that now allows cameras in lieu of partitions. Fox 5 shows one small and apparently frightened little cab driver who favors the partition because he says his customers are strangers. What a revelation!
Then they show a driver who favors cameras because the partition is a bother. So, the argument seems to be about which is favored.
On the other hand, Fox 5 then muddies the water by bringing up partition injury risk, versus some agenda attempting to make cabs more like Uber cars. The TLC says it isn't about competing with Uber (which one should interpret inversely) but about choice. The TLC reportedly says different people have different reasons for choosing either option, partition or camera. The comfort aspect is mentioned. The partitions currently used don't move with the front seat adjustment. This restricts rear seat legroom.
It is cited that 318 cabs are currently without partitions. What is not explained is how the ability to be exempted from the partition requirement has evolved from including nearly half to about 2% of the medallion cabs in NYC. Most operators who wanted to exercise 'choice' previously, needed to qualify in increasingly restrictive ways. Now every owner has the choice. It seems more appropriate to me to let it be the drivers' choice. But nobody seems to want to consider using a partition that could be installed or removed at a whim, so drivers could have a choice.
The TLC says they want to make both partitions and cameras available. I have news for them, they are available without the imprimatur of the TLC.
Michael O'Laughlin, of Cab Riders United (with their bogus email address), says partitions should be eliminated in all except the taxis of tomorrow. He says because the partitions are dangerous. If he were consistent about risk, why would it be ok for some to have it, and be too dangerous for others?
After a dire advisory about facial mutilation in this 'safety experiment' of partition mandates, the report again changes track, ignoring the thousands mutilated this way, or killed since 1969, by citing one TLC board member who says, Yes, this is to be more competitive with Uber, by allowing the taxi occupants to be more 'social.
The report jumps from one aspect to another without making any sensible conclusion.
What should be concluded from an accurate report is that the 43 year old mandate is being abandoned because the doctors have submitted testimony regarding the death and mutilation, drivers don't want them, passengers don't want them and this sick experiment has now come to an end. What will other cities that require partitions do, now that the agency that they all emulated, has changed course?

Monday, April 25, 2016

"Partition Face"

Taxi partitions have been around for over 20 years but now you may to start to see more taxis without them. The Plexiglas partitions were installed in 1994 to protect cabbies from being held up. But starting next month all taxi drivers in New York City will have the option to remove it and install an in-vehicle camera system instead.

Correction: Taxi partitions have been around for over 48 years. 
Correction: Plexiglas partitions were never installed in 1994, or any other time. The material is Lexan.
Correction: to protect cab regulators from being sued.

Michael O'Loughlin, director of Cab Riders United, says partitions should be eliminated except in Taxis of the Future because they can seriously injure passengers in an accident. He says that emergency rooms call it "partition face." Link

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Partition risk alarms go off in 2004 & 2005

That Wild Taxi Ride Is Safer Than You Think - NYTimes

Some of the findings set off alarm bells about passenger safety. When cabs are involved in accidents the passengers are about twice as likely to suffer serious injuries than the passengers of private cars, the study concluded.

Another reason for the serious injuries is the partitions in taxis, which are designed to protect drivers from passenger attacks, but can cause head and upper body injuries to passengers when the cabs crash or stop suddenly. 

The partitions "are designed to protect drivers from passenger attacks" but always fail. There seems to be an unspoken acceptance of a doubling of the injury rate, because the partition is expected to "protect" the driver. This 'trade off, of occupant safety, for 'protection for the operator from assailants' is mentioned in the June 22nd, 1984 USDOT Letter from ArmstrongT letter to me...

 "Proof of a violation of the others would require testing by the Government. Because of our limited testing budget, the number of vehicles involved, and the controversial trade-off of occupant safety for the safety of the vehicle operator from assailants, we have no plans to test the involved vehicles for violations of other FMVSS to which you refer." 

Trading off occupant safety is forbidden under any circumstances by USDOT law.

Taxicab and Livery Crashes in New York City 2004
Another key finding of the report is that while injury rates are lower for taxi passengers than other vehicles, the severity of injury is greater for those passengers who are injured in a taxicab. Injured taxi passengers are twice as likely as passengers of other vehicles involved in the same crash to suffer head and face injuries. The higher incidence of such injuries owes to passengers not using restraints and the presence of partitions in medallion cabs. Taxicab and Livery Crashes in New York City 2004

Monday, April 04, 2016

The USDOT uses a number for the Value of Life - VSL, is partition removal worth the savings in reduced injury and death?

The USDOT wrote in 1984;

"Proof of a violation of the others (FMVS standards and provisions of the Act) would require testing by the Government." 

"Because of our limited testing budget," 
(2017 USDOT Budget $98.1 Billion)

"the number of vehicles involved," 
(In Boston and NYC, very few vehicles, all regulated by only two agencies, involve 14,825 taxis, carry 325 million people each year)

"and 

the controversial trade-off of occupant safety for the safety of the vehicle operator from assailants," 
(This so-called trade-off is a strictly illegal one, not a controversial one and is actually more of a give-away. Driver protection from assailants is not achieved at all)

"we have no plans to test the involved vehicles for violations of other FMVSS to which you refer."

This USDOT VSL Letter 2004 explains the methods used to determine if the cost of a standard or requirement has a positive cost benefit ratio, when compared with savings from reduced risk/losses.

Partition removal passes the cost/benefit ratio analysis test. Contacting two agencies, who control 15,000 vehicles, which convey 325 million people every year, could save 40 lives/yr and with a nearly 50% reduction in bodily injury losses. 

At $1.25 Million per life, or $50 Million invested in 15,000 cabs is $3,333 per cab which could be used to enhance safety, not by spending more money, but by collecting money from the repurchase of illegal equipment. We are really looking at a benefit/benefit ratio, not a cost/benefit ratio.

Hybrid Taxis for NYC. Just Say No? By Edward Niedermeyer on October 9, 2008


Marketwatch reports that Honda and Toyota are warning against using their hybrid vehicles as taxi cabs, on safety concerns. Ford, GM and Nissan have also refused to certify the crashworthiness of their hybrid vehicles as hire cars. The story starts with an August 29 letter, sent from the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), asking automakers to certify that their hybrids or alternative fuel vehicles are manufacturer-approved to be used as taxicabs and safe when modified with partitions and other TLC requirements. This letter in turn came from a Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade (MTBT) legal challenge to TLC’s mandate that all new NY taxis be hybrids or other vehicles that achieve 25 miles-per-gallon. Citing a 2008 engineer’s report that finds hybrids to be unsafe and unfit as New York City taxicabs, the MTBT have held up TLC’s mandate in court, and now that automakers won’t certify their safety, the TLC mandate may be DOA. 

Issues over safety partitions and their interaction with side-curtain airbags and other safety equipment prevent automakers from certifying the safety of their hybrids when modified for taxi use. 

Since nobody crash-tests hybrids modified with safety partitions, nobody will take any legal responsibility for them, and thus they may well die on the vine.

Meanwhile, in less hellishly violent corners of this great nation, cabbies are turning to hybrids with enthusiasm. As long as you don’t need several inches of bulletproof glass between you and your customers, hybrids are a safe, efficient choice for taxis.

http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/10/hybrid-taxis-for-nyc-just-say-no/


Nobody NEEDS a partition in a taxi. 

WE certainly don't need the design flaws.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

They should be ashamed of themselves

Cowards. Our State Police are cowards. I am ashamed of them. They should be ashamed of themselves. If I was a state police fleet manager and somebody told me that the equipment that I pay some outside vendor to install, in my cruisers, is illegal and deadly, I would demand proof, I wouldn't just blow it off and ignore a formal written complaint, a complaint lodged by me. 49 U.S. state police fleet managers have done just that... NOTHING. After seeing proof, I would pursue relief from the illegal vendor, following the United States Department of Transportation guidelines outlined in the USDOT's Chief Counsels' 1985 letter. That equipment must be recalled and the defects remedied or the product must be repurchased by the manufacturer. By correcting this problem, we can save lives, reduce costs and make it possible, once again, to look in the mirror. These are metaphorically devised pokes in the eye of the state police, WAKE UP!! 

Independent Contractor (Self-Employed) or Employee?

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https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Independent-Contractor-Self-Employed-or-Employee

Independent Contractor (Self-Employed) or Employee?

According to the IRS, the answer to this question is critical. It is a critical question for cab drivers. Cab drivers who are saddled with many obligations that only actual employees are subject to, and none of the benefits.
It is also a critical question for taxi regulators who assert the authority to control drivers in many ways that would only hold weight IF the taxi driver were an employee, with none of the obligations of an employer.
Taxi drivers are not employees.
But taxi drivers are treated that way, when regulators compel taxi drivers to work at specific times, use specific equipment, utilize certain vendors and/or, be put out of work - summarily, for charges involving suspicion of racism- without a hearing.
It is critical that business owners correctly determine whether the individuals providing services are employees or independent contractors.
Generally, you must withhold income taxes, withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, and pay unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. You do not generally have to withhold or pay any taxes on payments to independent contractors. IRS
Select the Scenario that Applies to You:
·         I am an independent contractor or in business for myself
If you are a business owner or contractor who provides services to other businesses, then you are generally considered self-employed. For more information on your tax obligations if you are self-employed (an independent contractor), see our Self-Employed Tax Center.
·         I hire or contract with individuals to provide services to my business
If you are a business owner hiring or contracting with other individuals to provide services, you must determine whether the individuals providing services are employees or independent contractors. Follow the rest of this page to find out more about this topic and what your responsibilities are.
Determining Whether the Individuals Providing Services are Employees or Independent Contractors
Before you can determine how to treat payments you make for services, you must first know the business relationship that exists between you and the person performing the services. The person performing the services may be -
·         An independent contractor
·         An employee (common-law employee)
·         statutory employee
·         statutory nonemployee
In determining whether the person providing service is an employee or an independent contractor, all information that provides evidence of the degree of control and independence must be considered.
Common Law Rules
Facts that provide evidence of the degree of control and independence fall into three categories:
Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?

Behavioral rules compel one to understand that the company renting taxi equipment (taxis) is not the entity that asserts ‘control’ of the taxi drivers’ activity and the manner of that activity. There is a business relationship between taxi driver and taxi owner that is similar to any car rental agencies. The vehicle owner has no control over the activities of the taxi driver nor of the patrons of car rental agencies. The vehicle operator is not an employee of the vehicle owner.

Financial: Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? (these include things like how worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.)

The operators of rented vehicles (taxis or other cars) actually pay the owners of the vehicles in question, not the other way around. No expenses are reimbursed; no tools or supplies are provided.

Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?

There are written contracts, which do not involve pensions, insurance and vacation pay.


SO, TAXI DRIVERS ARE INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS!!

Friday, April 01, 2016

"My Fathers' Gun" Excerpt with commentary about undercover cops as cab drivers

About the same time (1970) there had been a rash of robberies and murders of taxi drivers in New York. Cabbies, concerned about their safety, refused to work the late night shifts, causing a shortage of taxis on the streets. Those who did drive at night equated black people with crime and often refused to pick them up. They also sped away from fares with destinations in high-crime neighborhoods like Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. 

The city began discussions of allowing off-duty cops to work as cabbies on the night shift, when most of the crimes occurred. It was not an original idea. In Philadelphia the program had been instituted some years earlier with great success. As in Philadelphia, the New York cops would carry their revolvers.

For Frankie and other industrious cops, the program was a god-send. Once he obtained his taxi drivers’ license, he could just show up at night at any number of cab companies and be assured of work. Even though the moonlighting cops were mostly assigned cabs without a Plexi-glas partition – this innovation came about in response to the wave of violent crimes – the money was good, even terrific. Cabbies in those days kept 49% of all they made plus tips. On the average, Frankie was taking down $100 a night from his second job. With extra money like that coming in three, sometimes four nights a week, a down payment for a home was squarely within his sights.

With no overhead, he had a big advantage over his harder working co-workers.

Pam wasn’t thrilled with the idea of spending so much time alone, not to mention that her husband was now working two of the most dangerous jobs in New York. But, she too was excited by the prospect of a home of her own, and she tried not to worry.Though it meant incredibly long workdays, sometimes stretching to seventeen or eighteen hours, Frankie enjoyed driving a cab. 

Frankie worked the same long hours that regular cab drivers always work, but had several advantages that were not available to the lowly 'ordinary' cab drivers. His cab was free. Regular cab drivers need to earn the rent and gas before realizing any profit. His cab driving miles were twice as profitable as those of regular cab drivers. Frankie also was allowed to exercise his second amendment right to be armed, not so for regular cab drivers. Cab regulators had decided that the second amendment of the US Constitution would not apply - to those most at risk of being murdered on the job,cab drivers. To 'enjoy' being the most at risk for eighteen hours a day indicates the cash reward was considerable. It was.

It gave him an opportunity to learn the city, the location of landmarks, of good restaurants and hotels. He learned the streets – knowledge that later on in his career would prove invaluable. He learned the fastest routes to the airports, and knew his way around the maze of Greenwich Village. He even learned the outer boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens. 

It's a strange concept for the average person to grasp, but cab drivers know the streets better than cops. I have had cops stop me to ask for directions.

Whether because of his desire to make as much money as he could, the swaggering confidence he had as a tough guy and a cop, or the revolver strapped to his ankle holster, he never refused a fare, no matter how dangerous the destination or what the color of the skin of the hand waving him down.

Being absolutely indiscriminate is easy... crazy, but easy. It is also mandatory in New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. It is, of course, absurd to think that anyone has the authority to compel an independent contractor to work - if he chooses otherwise - at any time, for any reason.

One night, after dropping a fare off in the theatre district, he drove up Eighth Avenue, where a man flagged him down. He pulled over, and the man held the door open as two other men appeared from a doorway and jumped into the back seat. Something was wrong. He asked the destination and one of the men said only:“Just drive uptown.” Frankie watched his three passengers in the rearview mirror. 

If this was my cab I would have insisted on a destination before departing. Driving to an unstated destination is crazy. Of course, it is also illegal in New York City for cab drivers to ask for your destination.

• Refusal Law From Driver Rule 54-20 (in PDF): It is against the law to refuse a person based on race, disability, or a destination in New York City. A taxicab driver is required to drive a passenger to any destination in the five boroughs.  

At one point his eyes met those of one of the men, and they held each others’ gaze for some moments. Again, Frankie asked them where they wanted to go, and again, “Uptown” was the only answer. Frankie gently reached down his leg and removed the revolver from his ankle holster, then slid it between his legs. Every fiber of his body, all the experience of his two years on the street, told him that this situation was not good. 

Ask yourself one question. If you are labelled as unarmed, what do you do now? My normal reaction is to stop the cab before we are isolated in an area with no witnesses and order them out.

He kept watch in the rear-view mirror as furtive glances were exchanged among his passengers. He decided he had to do something to put himself at the advantage.
He casually removed the revolver from between his legs and held it against the steering wheel, then turned again to the backseat and in an overly friendly tone asked the destination once more.

He demonstrated that he was armed. Guns are not for 'show'. This was a stupid move. The suspects could have shot him then. My guess is that they intended to, at worst, evade fare payment. If I was the passenger I would have filed charges of menacing or intimidation.

“Right here!” said the spokesman of the three. “You can leave us right here, man.”Between them, they barely had enough for the two dollar fare, paid in nickels and dimes.

Most ironic of all aspects is the fact that this 'program' was ended when police unions objected to the risk of armed officers doing what regular cab drivers are required to endure, while unarmed. Elist, paternalistic and nepotic taxi regulation.