TLC Eliminates Red Light Fines to Ease the “Unfair” Vision Zero “Burden”

The Taxi and Limousine Commission has eliminated agency fines for red light camera violations.

Until now, a red light camera summons triggered a TLC fine for the cab’s owner, in addition to the DOT fine for running a light. Last week the TLC announced that the agency would drop the TLC fine as long as the cab driver could show proof of payment for the DOT summons.

The new policy was not subject to a public notice or public hearing, TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg told Streetsblog, because it was technically not a TLC rule change:

This policy decision was reached after discussions with Senator Ruben Diaz and a number of elected officials and industry leaders, in the understanding that vehicle owners who receive a camera summons from DOT often pass that summons along to the driver who was driving at the time of the offense. (In many instances, the driver doesn’t own the car, but leases it.) It was never the TLC’s intent that drivers be penalized twice for the same offense, so we will allow the driver to show proof within 30 days that they paid the DOT summons and withdraw any further action.

The new policy was heralded at a press conference attended by Diaz and his Senate colleague Adriano Espaillat.

NY1 reported that eliminating the red light penalty is part of “a larger [TLC] effort to cut down on unfair burdens drivers might face under the mayor’s Vision Zero plan.” Jeff Roth, TLC deputy commissioner for policy and external affairs, said more policy changes are in the offing.

“There are lots of other conversations that are still being had, and out of that will come additional efforts,” said Roth. “But this was the first, and it’s a small step, but it’s major for the driver, who feels that in their income.”

In Sweden, a primary Vision Zero strategy has been to move responsibility upward — introducing incentives at the level of the fleet operator instead of the individual driver. In the TLC context, that would mean ensuring that medallion owners pay the red light fines, not simply eliminating the penalty altogether.

The new rule change is of a piece with dumbing down the TLC exam to attract more drivers. Both actions serve the interests of medallion owners while potentially making streets less safe for everyone.

If the TLC is concerned about drivers, the agency should work toward increasing driver pay and improving conditions on the job. Characterizing incentives to obey traffic laws as an unfair burden is totally at odds with urging cabbies to drive safely, and is antithetical to Vision Zero.