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Testimony to
The New York City Council Committee on Transportation
Int. 0842-2015 - A Local Law in relation to temporarily limiting the issuance of new for-hire vehicle licenses
and
Int. 0847-2015A - Local Law in relation to requiring a study on the impact of growth in the taxicab and for-hire vehicle industries

Presented by
Kenneth J. Pokalsky
Vice President
June 30, 2015

On behalf of The Business Council of New York State, Inc., I appreciate this opportunity to comment on two laws recently introduced in the New York City Council. The first would direct the city to study the impact that growth in the taxi, livery, for-hire vehicle, black car, and limousine industries is having on local traffic, air quality, noise and public health (Int. 0847-2015). The second would put a temporary growth cap on the issuance of licenses for certain for-hire vehicles (Int. 0842-2015.)

The Business Council is New York’s largest statewide employer association, representing about 2,400 private sector employers in all business sectors, located across the state. Our membership includes “new economy” businesses such as Uber and Lyft, as well as many longstanding New York businesses that do, or could, benefit from the expanding array of services provided by entrepreneurial firms including those in the transportation sector.

I would like to raise several significant concerns we have regarding these proposals, and offer several recommendations.

IMPACT STUDY LEGISLATION – We have two main concerns regarding the proposed impact study.

First, it is too narrow in scope to provide adequate information for future legislative actions, because it only addresses potential adverse impacts, not benefits. The bill directs the Taxi and Limousine Commission to study “the impact of growth in [vehicle for hire] industries on traffic, air quality, noise and public health.” The bill does not require the evaluation of positive impacts such as increased jobs, increased household incomes and/or improved quality of transportation services for New York City residents, businesses and visitors - particularly those in the outer boroughs. Its approach is contrary to that of New York’s principal environmental impact statute. The State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, requires that “the protection and enhancement of the environment, human and community resources [are] given appropriate weight with social  and economic considerations in public policy,” and requiring further that “[s]ocial, economic, and environmental factors shall be considered together in reaching decisions on proposed activities.” A complete study of the FHV sector would consider its positive economic and customer impacts as well as any potential negative environmental impacts.

Second, we are very concerned these bills, if adopted together as proposed, would impose an immediate cap on the growth of one component of the FHV sector before the impact study is completed, therefore before any evidence is available suggesting the need for these regulatory restrictions. This growth cap would be in place until August 31, 2016, or until the mandated study is completed, whichever is earlier. That is simply a backward approach to policy making, and suggests that the real purpose here is to simply restrict growth in this VFH sector.

TRAFFIC GROWTH – The study legislation, and the proposed cap on new licenses, is being justified with a limited set of data. These include a reported 9 percent reduction in average Manhattan traffic speeds from 2010 through 2014, and a 5 percent decline in rush hour MTA bus speeds from 2013 to 2014.

Interestingly, these traffic flow data are prompting a study of only one potential variable impacting vehicle speeds, namely the expansion of the FHV sector.

More typically, the environmental impact of traffic is considered as “vehicle miles traveled,” rather than average speed of vehicles, and there are many factors that can and do impact VMTs. These include general economic conditions, local population growth or decline, demographics including average age of the population, the price of gasoline and other factors.  None of these factors are required to be considered in the proposed study.

Importantly, according to federal data, the U.S. has seen a substantial increase in in recent years.

According to the Federal Highway Administration April 2015 “Traffic Volume Trends” report, highway traffic (i.e., vehicle miles traveled) increased 3.9% from April 2014 to April 2015; and travel for the first four months of 2015 were also up by 3.9% compared to the same period in 2014. (This data is available on-line at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/travel_monitoring/15aprtvt/.)

Likewise, US DOT data shows a 3.3% increase in urban traffic nationwide from 2010 to 2013. (See http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_36.html.)

This is just a quick review of available traffic data, but it suggests that the local experience is shared by much of the U.S.

If the City Council’s true concern is an increase in vehicle use, any valid study would look at multiple factors that impact VMT (and traffic speeds), not simply the growth in one sector of the transportation industry.

INDUSTRY RESTRICTIONS – While we could support a broader, better designed study proposal, we oppose the legislation to cap growth in the FHV sector as both unjustified, and a bad precedent.

It would disrupt progress that new economy companies are making in improving our daily lives. This is a sector whose growth in New York City has provides significant benefit and convenience to businesses and residents alike, and holds similar promise for other regions of New York as these businesses expand.

While this bill would have adverse impacts on the FHV sector in New York City, we are also concerned about the precedent this type of legislation would have for the expansion of these services elsewhere in New York State.

The expansion and success of Uber and other FHV services in New York City and elsewhere has certainly garnered attention in other urban areas in New York State. In fact, there is a growing call for their expansion in other cities in New York State.

Therefore, we are opposed to adoption of Int. 0842-2015l, as we have opposed other forms of FHV sector restrictions proposed in the New York State legislature.

Again, on behalf of The Business Council, I appreciate the opportunity to provide testimony today, and look forward to any questions or comments you may have.

Ken Pokalsky
Vice President
The Business Council of New York State, Inc.
152 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12210
518.465.7511 x 205
C: 518-339-5894
ken.pokalsky@bcnys.org