Actually, de Blasio’s Vision Zero Blueprint Has a Lot for Cab Drivers to Like

Hard to see a downside to preventing ## like this##. Photo: Trish Naudon-Thomas
Hard to see a downside to preventing ## like this##. Photo: Trish Naudon-Thomas

Bhairavi Desai may not believe speeding by cab drivers is a problem in NYC, but for someone whose job is to look out for cabbies’ best interests, there should be a lot to like about Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero proposals.

Desai is executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. She has called automated speed enforcement “simply another tactic to raise revenue,” and in response to de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan — which includes technology to monitor cab driver behavior and ensure compliance with speed limits — here’s what she had to say:

“To shut off the meter in the middle of a fare is not only insane Big Brother, it’s severe, cruel, and simply unhelpful. Technology that can truly be helpful should be considered, but this would just be overboard. Drivers already have no guaranteed income, only expenses on the lease, fuel and vehicle repairs. Every statistic shows taxi drivers are the safest drivers in New York City. We don’t deserve to be singled out and punished to do even better.”

Also this: “What if, in a moment, you’re speeding to actually avoid something?”

Promoting adherence to traffic laws is not a plot to punish cab drivers. It’s about safety — not only for passengers and bystanders, but cab drivers themselves. And many of de Blasio’s Vision Zero proposals look like win-wins.

First, machines are, by their nature, fair. Cabbies complain about being harassed by cops, but they can’t be harassed by the black box or the speed governor.

Second, cabbies complain that passengers want them to drive faster. With a speed governor, for example, a cab driver could explain that he can’t break the speed limit, even if he wants to. It’s not hard to imagine slapping every cab with a partition decal explaining same.

Third, highly professionalized and well-compensated vehicle operators — pilots, bus drivers, train engineers — work with EDRs and other in-vehicle monitoring. These commonplace devices improve safety and add a level of accountability that builds esteem for the profession. The tech advancements proposed under Vision Zero could very well generate leverage for better working conditions.

Also worth noting is that taxi drivers were at first fierce opponents of credit card payments, but they came around not long after the system was implemented, and are now strongly in favor of it.

Finally, let’s get real: Unless you’re Bruce Willis, punching a cab’s accelerator is exponentially more likely to cause a catastrophe than prevent one.