Trade Group Representing Yellow Cab Owners Endorses 20 MPH Bill [Updated]

A major taxi medallion owners’ group has come out in favor of the bill to lower speed limits to 20 miles per hour on residential streets citywide.

The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade represents the owners of 5,200 of the city’s 13,000 yellow cab medallions. It has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign. In a statement released after yesterday’s council hearing, the organization said a 20 mph speed limit in city neighborhoods would reduce crashes and deaths.

For over 60 years, MTBOT has made safety a priority for the thousands of drivers it represents and the millions of passengers they serve. That is why we strongly support Int. 535, a life-saving measure that would reduce the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph exclusively on residential side streets, making the City safer for our drivers, passengers and neighbors.

This important bill should not be used as an excuse to target drivers for tickets, but rather it should bring all New Yorkers together for a common goal, to make our streets safer, especially for our children and elderly residents. Research shows that 20 mph residential speed limits work — including in London and Tokyo, where reduced speed limits have cut the number of fatal crashes on residential streets by as much as half.

It’s time New York joined other major cities in passing this sensible, life-saving legislation. MTBOT calls upon the Department of Transportation to support Int. 535 and make our streets safer for all New Yorkers.

This is a welcome endorsement, if not an altogether altruistic one. There is no doubt that slower speeds mean fewer crashes, and the MTBOT is simply acknowledging that crashes are detrimental to the taxi business. Not that MTBOT doesn’t deserve credit for recognizing reality, as it’s more than can be said of David Pollack and the Committee for Taxi Safety.

At Thursday’s City Council hearing, Pollack claimed a 20 mph speed limit on residential streets would “create confusion” for cab drivers. Pollack said cabbies would be distracted by new speed limit signage, and that lower speeds make streets less safe.

Speaking of reactionary nonsense, in a letter to Gary Altman, legislative counsel for the City Council, AAA New York said the group opposes the 20 mph bill because it “effectively eliminates the role of traffic engineers.”

Update: In response to this post, we got a pretty remarkable email from MTBOT spokesperson Michael Woloz:

It is really a misrepresentation of MTBOT’s intention and position to say that we are “simply acknowledging that crashes are detrimental to the taxi business.” This is a human issue, not a business issue. I was in the back row at the City Council hearing yesterday. I’m a father. I live on a side street in New York CIty. MTBOT members have families. Their drivers have families. This affects all of us as humans first. No one could have walked away from that hearing, given the emotional testimony of a family who recently lost a child to an accident with a car, without being moved. We realized that we can do more than shed tears — we can actually help, we can support the bill, we can work with advocates, we can work with the city council, we can raise awareness. So that’s what we are looking to do — that’s a human reaction, not a business calculation.

  • Kevin Love

    Mr. Altman: If what you say is true, hasn’t the existing 30 MPH limit already eliminated the role of traffic engineers?

  • Anonymous

    I am okay with a trade group not being altruistic.

    What is frustrating is when they oppose changes which will also benefit them!

    Classic example is how bike lanes, and ped plazas have speeded up traffic in most areas, reduced injuries and deaths, increased business, yet you have local shop owners and drivers opposing them. If someone is genuinely damaged by a change, I won’t begrudge their opposing it. However, when they aren’t hurt by it, and actually benefit from it, yet oppose it, I am lost for words.

  • Eric McClure

    The “Committee for Taxi Safety” is to taxi safety what “Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes” are to bike lanes.

  • Lars Ulrich

    never seen a NYC cabbie go 30 much less 20…they no have speed limit in whatever craphole country they come from

  • Anonymous

    You write, “This is a welcome endorsement, if not an altogether altruistic one.” It’s certainly welcome, and on first thought I think it’s on the altruistic side as well, since speeding is probably good for taxi revenues. In any event, unless it’s clearly cynical, why not cut the (mild) carping and give MTBOT a straight-up pat on the back?

  • Reader

    Agreed. There are multiple entries into the livable streets movement and there’s nothing wrong with pure economic self-interest being one of them. I wouldn’t begrudge a store owner being in favor of a pedestrian plaza because it might be good for his bottom line and I think the same applies here.

  • kevd

    xenophobic much?

  • Brad Aaron

    It’s worth pointing out that goodwill isn’t the only thing businesses stand to gain from supporting livable streets.

  • JK

    Good MBOT. This is rational. The medallion owners have a pocketbook incentive to reduce crashes and insurance
    claims — which they pay for. The drivers have an incentive to speed to
    maximize their take home pay. This is because medallion owners (fleets) charge drivers a fixed lease per week or shift, which is determined by TLC. The medallion owners pay for insurance costs and claims. The drivers take home whatever they make from the meter and tips, minus the lease payment.

  • Bolwerk

    They are basically paid more to speed and keep turnover high. It’s definitely good for revenue under their current fare model.

  • JamesR

    The point was expressed pretty inelegantly, but there’s a grain of truth. A huge percentage of cab drivers recent immigrants from the developing world (or ‘Global South’, if you will), where driving standards are lax to nonexistent. They bring their ‘get there as fast as possible by any means necessary’ driving style to our streets, and this has had a tremendous impact on the overall road culture in the New York area.

    This, coupled with the tremendous sense of driving entitlement displayed by the city’s wealthier road users and the NYPD’s refusal to enforce the law, are why our streets are as dangerous as they are.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks to Michael Woloz and his group for their position and for his moving statement. I welcome them as allies.

    Maybe this could be the beginning of a stronger alliance. In a larger sense, taxies are an important part of the car-free or one-less-car lifestyle. And I don’t see how taxies could benefit from the traffic-inducing parking minimums that we’d like to see scrapped.

    I often complain that honking horns are tantamount to a physical assault. At least, I feel like I’ve been assaulted after a ride thru the city streets. And nobody honks more than taxies. But you know, nobody gets HONKED AT more than taxies, so taxi drivers would benefit the most from a honk-less quiet city. Let’s try to find common cause.

  • Todd Edelman, Slow Factory

    That letter was FROM AAA New York TO ALTMAN, yes?

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. What is not coming through is the smirk their representative had on his face during his testimony. Like ” yes children will die, but get out of my way, I have work to do” . It was revolting and I do not believe for a minute that he represents more than 100 cabs

  • kevd

    Much better than “whatever craphole country they come from”

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