September 17, 2009, 11:43 am – New York Times

Taxi Tidbits and Techno-Tales

This week, I had the honor of hosting a most unusual panel. It was at the annual conference of the International Association of Transport Regulators—basically, the governing bodies of taxi systems all over the world—and it was hosted by the New York Taxi & Limousine Commission (the TLC). The panel was about the future of taxi technology.

I’ve always thought that it’s cool to meet the people at the center of huge operations that touch thousands of lives a day. Meeting the people who run the world’s most famous taxi operation—the TLC—is like meeting whoever runs the subway system, or the tax system, or the weather.

I’m obviously not a taxi-industry person. So I did what any sane panel-hoster would do: beforehand, I pinged Twitter for ideas.

A number of the responses addressed one screamingly obvious problem: matching up taxis with people who want them. Until the two parties have a more efficient way to connect (GPS? smartphone app? text message?), both will continue to spend way too much time fruitlessly hunting for each other.

Lots of people want Wi-Fi in the cabs. Lots want GPS on the back-seat screen, so you can monitor the cab’s route and avoid being swindled. There were many hopes for quicker payment methods, too, pay-by-cellphone systems.

In the discussion that followed, and in various chats with TLC staffers, I learned all kinds of interesting things about New York’s taxi system:

* There are 13,000 taxis in New York—and three times as many “black cars” (freelance drivers for hire). The average cab makes 55 trips a day, averaging 14 minutes.

* There’s a good reason why there’s no GPS navigation in cabs: the drivers of New York’s 13,000 taxis despise the idea. It makes them feel monitored, spied on. It’s a toxic hot-button issue for them.

* There’s a good reason why there’s no still no wireless way to let taxi drivers know you want a cab. Or, rather, a bad reason.

In the 1970’s, New York made a deal with the taxi drivers and the “black car” drivers. The rule: Black cars aren’t allowed to pick up passengers spontaneously hailing on the street; those people are for the yellow cabs only. On the other hand, in New York, you can’t call ahead for a yellow cab; that would eat into the black cars’ business.

There are, in fact, smartphone apps that let you summon a cab to your position, like TaxiMagic for the iPhone. But they can’t call cabs in New York. Why? Because summoning a taxi like this is against the law. That’s not hailing; it’s prearrangement, and that’s the domain of the black cars.

I don’t know. If I were the taxi union, I’d argue that the definition of “hailing” has to change with the times. Surely sending out an “I’m here! Come pick me up” signal, by Taxi Magic, text message or whatever, is little more than a modern-day version of sticking your arm out at the curb.

* Know what over 50 percent of the consumer calls to the TLC are about? Want to guess? Anybody? Anybody?

Things left behind in taxis.

Allan Fromberg, deputy commissioner for public affairs at the TLC, told me that *stringed instruments* make up a bizarrely disproportionate number of the things people leave in cabs. Violins, violas, and cellos. “Nobody knows why,” he told me. “It’s a Bermuda Triangle thing.”

I could not stop grinning when he told me what he had planned for the third day of the conference, yesterday: a concert performed entirely by musicians using the instruments they’d left in taxis—and later recovered.

* One of my Twitter respondents asked for a return of the celebrity recordings that, for six years in the 90’s, greeted everyone who entered a NYC taxi and urged them to buckle up. Danny DeVito, Eartha Kitt, Elmo—there were 38 different celebrity recordings in all.

“How come you discontinued that?” I asked Mr. Fromberg.

“Because people hated it,” he said with a hint of disappointment.

* You can’t believe how much behind-the-scenes lobbying and regulating goes on in the NYC taxi business: safety, anti-corruption policies, work rules, and on and on. You have to get your car inspected every four months. Windows can’t be more than 70 percent tinted. And so on.

For example, dispatchers can send messages to the screens of individual taxis. But they don’t show up until the car is going 0 miles an hour. To prevent distraction, they pile up until the car is stopped. (Emergency messages can blast past this limitation.)

* Taxi drivers aren’t allowed to drive more than 12 hours a day. In this economy, nobody’s putting much energy into enforcing that particular rule. But it’s interesting to note that, if necessary, the fleet operators can turn off a taxi’s meter remotely—or even, in some systems, the engine as well.

Wild, huh?

Anyway, as you can tell, the air was full of interesting taxi tidbits and techno-tales; I’m sure there’s enough more to fill a book.

In the meantime, I’ll look forward to the day Wi-Fi comes to the already tricked-out techno-cabs of New York City.

 

 
 
Other Media Coverage

 
 

Cabbies are recognized for 'Character and Compassion'
September 17, 2009, 11:47 am – New York Times

 

Taxi and Limousine Commission Ann Roggen, who left her viola in a cab driven by Deniz Getting, right, performed at a ceremony to honor praiseworthy cabdrivers. Joining them were Malachi Hull, left, departing president of the International Association of Transportation Regulators, and Matthew W. Daus, chairman of New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, who is the association’s new president.

Twenty cabdrivers from around the country, including seven from New York City, were honored in a ceremony Wednesday afternoon by the International Association of Transportation Regulators and the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The Driver Recognition Ceremony was one of the culminating events of the association’s 22nd annual conference, which took place at the Marriott Hotel in Brooklyn Heights. Matthew W. Daus, the current chairman of the commission, was inducted as the association’s new president.

“We are here to recognize certain individuals who did not need any of our policies or laws to influence their behavior,” said Malachi Hull, the association’s departing president, in his opening remarks. “Instead, it was their courage, their commitment, their character and compassion which influenced their behavior.”

The awards, in other words, had little to do with driving ability.

The afternoon’s top honor, International Driver of the Year, was awarded to Thomas Chappell, 56, a cabdriver in Phoenix who won national acclaim when it emerged that he planned to donate a kidney to a passenger with kidney disease. (Mr. Chappell had driven the passenger to several dialysis appointments this summer and learned that none of her family members were compatible donors.)

After a series of tests, it was determined that Mr. Chappell was a match. The procedure will take place before the end of the year, he said.

“Just seeing how sick she was every time I saw her, I knew I had to do it,” Mr. Chappell said in an interview. “There’s been no second-guessing. I’ve had no doubts about it.”

Mr. Chappell said he never desired much attention. But the heavy news coverage had one startling consequence. This month, Mr. Chappell received a phone call from his daughter, Aimee Requena, 36, whom he had not seen since divorcing her mother 30 years ago. Mr. Chappell will fly to Kentucky on Thursday to see her and her three children.

When Mr. Chappell finally took the stage, he was greeted with a lengthy standing ovation. “That’s an award I think even Kanye West could not argue with the deservedness of,” said Allan J. Fromberg, a spokesman for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, as the applause died down.

Other drivers were honored simply for returning things to absent-minded passengers.

(At the same time, any of the New York cabbies who felt overshadowed at the event should be happy to know that Mr. Chappell, who was born and raised on a dairy farm, could only shake his head and laugh when asked if he could drive a taxi in Manhattan. “What they do is just so different,” he said of New York taxi drivers. “Phoenix is not nearly as fast-step as New York.”)

Gulam Mustafa of Kew Gardens, Queens, was recognized for finding a wallet in his cab that held several thousand dollars and returning it to its owner. Another New York cabby, Haron ur Rashid of the Bronx, earned honors for returning a trunkload of gifts to the apartment of a newlywed couple.

A third city cabby, Fabio Peralta of Flushing, Queens, won something called the Mobile Muse Award for his efforts to inject some creativity into the cab-riding experience. Whenever a passenger steps into his taxi, he hands that person a pen and paper and asks him or her to draw something. He has collected more than 7,000 of these backseat sketches.

“My passengers come from all over the world, and I love all of them,” Mr. Perlta said as he accepted the award.

The other honorees from New York City were Tareque Ahmed and Deniz Getting, of Long Island City, Queens; Sergio Castillo of Jamaica, Queens; and Jack Dym, 82, of Bayside, Queens, whose 60 years behind the wheel earned him the nickname Jack the Hack.

The ceremony also featured solo performances from two musicians who in the last year have had valuable string instruments returned to them after leaving them in cabs.

Ann Roggen of the New Jersey Philharmonic last September had a viola valued at $40,000 and two $20,000 bows returned to her by Mr. Getting. She had left the items in his cab on the way to her Upper West Side apartment from Fairway supermarket.

Last month, Hahn-Bin, a 22-year-old violinist, left his $600,000, 18th-century violin in a taxi driven by Dalbir Singh. Within 12 hours, the Taxi and Limousine Commission, using GPS technology, located the instrument and returned it to him. (Mr. Fromberg said Mr. Singh played only a passive role in the return of the violin and was thus not one of the afternoon’s honorees. “Technology was the hero of that story,” he said.)

“My first thought at the time was, ‘What am I going to play Carnegie Hall with?’ ” Hahn-Bin said in an interview after his performance. Hahn-Bin, 22 (who goes only by his given name), is set to make his debut at the famed hall next month. “I thought I would never see it again.”

Ben Bailey, the host of “Cash Cab,” a popular game show on the Discovery Channel, also made an appearance at the event. He stayed just long enough to deliver a brief address and present the afternoon’s first award.

“In all honesty, New York cabdrivers have gotten kind of a bad rap,” said Mr. Bailey, 38, a fully licensed cabdriver, in an interview after the event.

After four years doing the show, he said, he feels he has become something of a spokesman for New York cabdrivers. As such, Mr. Bailey has done his best to cultivate a positive image for his colleagues.

“I’ve never hit anything or been hit by anything,” he said proudly.

Then he skipped to a nearby table to tap its wood surface.


Worldwide Taxi Drivers Honored in NYC

 

CABBIES HONORED: Left to right, Jim Hickey (VIP Taxi), outgoing IATR President Malachi Hull, IATR International Driver of the Year Thomas Chappelle, and incoming IATR President (and NYC TLC Commissioner/Chairman) Matthew W. Daus. (Courtesy Allan Fromberg)

NEW YORK—A transportation regulators’ association held its International Driver Recognition Ceremony on Wednesday in New York City, celebrating taxi drivers from around the world, including one who plans to donate a kidney to a passenger-turned-friend.

This international celebration of unprecedented scale was a merge of the International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR)’s 22nd annual conference and the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (NYCTLC)’s 2009 annual Driver Recognition Ceremony.

“I cannot tell you how many times that I have been inspired by the actions of our drivers,” said outgoing IATR President Malachi Hull, director of the Atlanta Police Department’s Division of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire.

The organization awarded 20 honorees for recognizing their “exemplary service.”

Some standout drivers include Celso Flores from Chicago and Sam Khaddage from Ottawa, who received Access for All awards for their efforts to serve passengers with disabilities.

Recently retired 82 year-old Jack Dym, a second generation New York City taxi driver, was awarded for working behind the wheel for 60 years, becoming the city’s longest-serving veteran driver. Known for entertaining his customers, Dym has inspired a documentary filmmaker to record his life as a cabbie.

Veteran Washington, D.C. driver Clarence Drew succeeded in transporting passengers for 56 years, but also in assisting Africans. He has improved the lives of 1,500 men, women, and children of a remote South Central African village by starting a bible school, assisting in the paving of local roads, helping in the eradication of ringworms and scabies, and dedicating a personal gift of $9,000 to help educate and buy soccer equipment for the children.

“Whether it is for exceptional customer service, or heroism, or simply for going above and beyond the call of duty to return a passenger’s lost item, we owe these special drivers our gratitude for what they do. Their stories should be told,” said newly-sworn-in IATR President Matthew W. Daus, who is also the commissioner and chairman of NYCTLC.

The grand award, “International Driver of the Year,” went to Phoenix driver Thomas Chappell, who plans to donate a kidney to passenger-turned-friend Rita Van Loenen, a special education instructor. Van Loenen suffers from a deteriorating kidney disease and only a kidney transplant can save her life.

Chappell’s employer, VIP Taxi, flew Chappell to New York City to receive the award. Van Loenen was unable to attend due to conflicts with her dialysis schedule.

The ceremony was also an opportunity for passengers to send their gratitude to taxi drivers who once helped them.

Earlier in August, violin virtuoso Hahn-Bin left his $650,000 18th century Giovanni Francesco Pressenda violin in a taxi, in which NYCTLC found it within several hours using GPS. Hahn-Bin treated the audience of the ceremony to “Recitativo and Scherzo, Op. 6” by Fritz Kreisler.

Renowned violist Ann Roggen had a similar experience in September 2008. Her one-of-a-kind 18th century Tyrolean viola—valued at over $40,000—was lost and returned by taxi driver Deniz Getting, the day’s “Integrity” award recipient. Roggen offered several Bach pieces.

The IATR’s next annual conference, already in the planning stages, will be held in Chicago, Illinois.

Last Updated Sep 16, 2009

   

IATR holds International Driver Recognition Day

 

"International Driver of the Year" Set to Donate Kidney to Passenger

NEW YORK CITY -- The International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR) today hosted its International Driver Recognition Ceremony as part of its 22nd annual conference, held this year in New York City. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (this year's conference host) merged its own 2009 annual Driver Recognition Ceremony with the IATR's to create an international event of unprecedented scope.

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The event served to bring together the singular most concentrated group of worldwide taxicab and ground transportation regulators, and an exemplary representative slice of those they regulate.

"It is important for the IATR to recognize and show its appreciation for drivers who set so strong an example for their colleagues," said newly-sworn-in IATR President Matthew W. Daus, who is also the commissioner and chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission which hosted this year's conference. "Whether it is for exceptional customer service, or heroism, or simply for going above and beyond the call of duty to return a passenger's lost item, we owe these special drivers our gratitude for what they do. Their stories should be told."

"I cannot tell you how many times that I have been inspired by the actions of our drivers," said outgoing IATR President Malachi Hull, Director of the Atlanta Police Department's Division of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire. "Our regulated industries are collectively made up of hundreds of thousands of hardworking drivers dedicated to servicing our citizens and guests. Many of whom do extraordinary things on a regular basis. As regulators, we have a responsibility to acknowledge this work; as well as, encourage others to follow their example. Today is about recognizing their exemplary service."

The organization lauded 20 carefully-chosen honorees that ranged from two drivers whose efforts expanded efforts to serve passengers with disabilities in both Ottawa and Chicago, to New York City's longest-serving veteran "hack" who spent 60 years behind the wheel pampering his fortunate passengers. Other standouts included Washington, D.C.'s 56-year veteran humanitarian cabbie whose singlehanded support has revolutionized the lives and health of 1,500 men, women and children living in a remote South Central African village and a crime-stopping hero hack from Manitoba. While most of the international cadre of honorees was able to attend the ceremony thanks to underwriting from their employers, others were honored in absentia with awards accepted by their local regulators.

In what was to be the most gratifying portion of the ceremony, the IATR's leadership bestowed the coveted "International Driver of the Year" award on Phoenix taxicab driver Thomas Chappell, who plans to donate a kidney to passenger-turned-friend Rita Van Loenen, a special education instructor. Chappell's employer, VIP Taxi, flew Chappell to New York City to accept the well-deserved honors. Van Loenen was unable to attend due to the demands of her dialysis schedule.

Special guest speaker Ben Bailey, popular comedian and host of the successful Discovery Channel TV show Cash Cab presented one of the day's many awards, the "Mobile Muse" award, to NY cabbie Fabio Peralta who was lauded for having inspired many thousands of his passengers to create artistic drawings that he collects to share with others. In addition to the award, Bailey presented Peralta with a drawing in his own hand. Guests at the event also were able to enjoy several classical musical performances, courtesy of several representatives of an exclusive fellowship, musicians whose irreplaceable antique instruments were left in a taxicab and subsequently returned to them thanks to either a conscientious driver, or recent innovations in taxicab technology (the theme of this year's IATR conference).

Virtuoso violinist Hahn-Bin, who famously left his $650,000 18th century Giovanni Francesco Pressenda in a taxicab before the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission used GPS to find it within several hours this past August, treated the audience to Recitativo and Scherzo, Op. 6 by Fritz Kreisler.

Renowned violist Ann Roggen, whose own one-of-a-kind 18th century Tyrolean viola, valued at over $40,000 (along with a pair of $10,000 antique bows) was lost and returned by exemplary driver Deniz Getting (one of the day's many honorees) in September 2008 offered several Bach pieces.

The IATR was formed over two decades ago to establish a professional association of municipal, county, state, country, provincial, or federal transportation regulators who are directly or indirectly responsible for the regulation of transportation industries. In general, the purpose of the organization, which is acknowledged as the most active international regulators group in existence, is to encourage close inter-jurisdictional cooperation and facilitate the sharing of information between the various entities represented and to work to resolve common problems. The IATR's next annual conference, already in the planning stages, will be held in Chicago, Illinois.

A detailed listing of honorees awards follows below.

  • Access for All Award: Celso Flores
    Celso Flores is a man with strong feelings about the needs of taxicab passengers with disabilities. Acting on these feelings has led Mr. Flores to work to provide demonstration projects designed to educate other drivers, as well as passengers, on the ways to properly use wheelchair-accessible vehicles. A Chicago taxicab driver since 1996, Mr. Flores' efforts on behalf of the disability community earned him the Chicago Taxi Driver Excellence Award in 2004. In recognition of his continuing efforts, the IATR is pleased to honor him with its coveted "Access For All Award."
  • Access for All Award: Sam Khaddage
    Sam Khaddage has the distinction of being one of the first taxicab drivers in the city of Ottawa, Canada, to provide on-demand accessible taxicab service to the city's persons with disabilities. He has been a cab driver for 20 years. For the past six years, he has devoted himself fully to the needs of the disability community, even as he has demonstrated leadership qualities as a serving member of Ottawa's Taxi Advisory Committee. Mr. Khaddage continually works to improve the transportation mobility options available to those with disabilities, and his commitment to the cause is truly unshakable. His efforts have included supporting and tutoring other drivers so that they can successfully pass the necessary training course, and also making personal visits to retirement homes and hospitals.

    The city of Ottawa is justifiably proud of Sam Khaddage and his work to better the lives of its residents and visitors, as is the IATR, which honors him with its "Access for All Award."
  • Heroism Award: Abdinasir Kahin
    Bravery and good citizenship are two traits that one can accurately associate with Abdinasir Kahin, a Chicago cab driver since 2004. What happened on August 5, 2009 tells the story. After dropping off a passenger during the early hours of the day, Mr. Kahin saw two men in the act of attacking another person, and police officers capturing one of the offenders. But the other offender ran away which happened to be in the direction of Mr.

    Kahin's cab. Acting quickly, and with little thought of his own safety, Mr. Kahin jumped out of his cab and then chased, caught up with, and held the offender until the police arrived. All in all, a fine day's work, and one worthy of the IATR's "Heroism Award."
  • Heroism Award: Balwinder Singh Gill
    Since 1994, Mr. Balwinder Gill has been affiliated with Duffy's Taxi in Manitoba, Canada, as the owner and driver of his own taxicab. Mr. Gill is a man who acts when situations call for action - situations that others may choose to ignore. This was demonstrated on April 10, 2000, when Mr. Gill saw smoke emanating from a house that was apparently on fire. He quickly swung into action by calling the fire department, honking his horn to arouse people, and knocking on the door of the house to warn any occupants. He also knocked on the doors of other nearby houses as a warning. In 2007, Balwinder Gill won recognition as Driver of the Year in his hometown. The IATR echoes those sentiments and is pleased to honor him with its "Heroism Award."
  • Humanitarian Award: Clarence Drew
    Back in 1953, Clarence Drew became a taxicab driver in the District of Columbia because he wanted to be in business for himself. For 56 years, he has served the citizens and visitors of the Washington, D.C. area in an outstanding manner. Of course, this success may be enough to satisfy some individuals, but Mr. Drew, an ordained Minister, was seeking another, more spiritual kind of success. His path to that success came in the form of a passenger - a young man from Malawi, a country in South Central Africa. The young man, impressed by Mr. Drew, soon arranged for a friend of his to come to America to be in Minister Drew's care. Soon thereafter, Clarence Drew found himself visiting Malawi, which launched a wonderful chain of events. In brief, his visit to Malawi inspired Minister Drew to "adopt" the Malawi village of Ntandile, with its 1500 men, women and children, starting a bible school, assisting in the paving of local roads, and helping in the eradication of ringworms and scabies. He even helped make possible medical treatment for a blind student, who today can see thanks to his intervention. He worked to send many of the local children to secondary school (equivalent to American high schools), and dedicated a personal bequest of $9,000 to help educate and buy soccer equipment for the children of the village.

    Given the scope of his accomplishments, this exceptional Washington, D.C. taxicab driver is a most worthy recipient of the IATR's "Humanitarian Award."
  • Humanitarian Award: Kebede Teshome
    On what seemed an ordinary day for him, St. Louis cab driver Kebede Teshome one day picked up an elderly lady and took note that the grounds surrounding her house were in great need of care. There were overgrown shrubberies, weeds, never-mowed grass - the sorts of things that detract from the appearance of a house.

    The elderly lady embarrassingly acknowledged all of this, but said she had neither the strength to tackle the problem herself, nor the money to pay others to do it. Kebede Teshome, clearly moved by the situation, took it upon himself to bring the matter to his church group, which agreed to help him take matters into their own hands. Mr. Kebede and members of the group went to the house and did what needed to be done, cutting grass, trimming bushes, removing dead limbs, getting rid of trash; anything and everything necessary.

    It all boiled down to a few good people, led by a very good man, extending a helping hand to an elderly lady in need. For performing this considerate and unsolicited deed, Kebede Teshome qualifies as one of those stand-out taxicab drivers deserving of recognition . . . and, on this occasion, the IATR's "Humanitarian Award."
  • Humanitarian Award: Sergio Castillo
    There's a phrase that goes' "if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck." This phrase usually means "what's real is what's real." In this case, the old chestnut can be taken more than one way thanks to his humane and compassionate actions. On June 20, Castillo stopped his cab in the nick of time as a mother duck and her ducklings crossed into Park Avenue traffic. At the risk of infuriating his fellow motorists, who didn't immediately understand what he was trying to do, Mr. Castillo got out of his cab and helped reunite the ducklings with their mother, without a doubt saving their lives.

    Mr. Castillo, who had a passenger in his cab at the time, grudgingly left the ducklings with another upstanding individual . . . a park ranger. For demonstrating such extraordinary humanity and compassion Mr. Castillo revealed himself to be an exceptional individual, exactly the type of person everyone wants to see behind the wheel of a taxicab, in New York City or anywhere for that matter. At the time of his deed, he was recognized for his wonderful efforts by the NYC TLC with a plaque and the promise that he would be more elaborately acknowledged at a later date. That day has arrived, and we now present Sergio Castillo with the IATR's "Humanitarian Award."
  • Integrity Award: Hosiar Singh Gill
    Mr. Hosiar Gill is the owner and driver of his own taxicab, affiliated with Unicity Taxi in Manitoba, Canada. A taxicab driver since 1995, Mr. Gill is clearly a man of integrity. On one occasion, he was cleaning the interior of his cab at the end of a long shift and found a wallet, containing $525 in cash. Mr. Gill contacted the customer, and proceeded to immediately return the wallet and its contents to the owner, who turned out to be a visitor from Ottawa. Mr. Gill is a deserving candidate for the IATR's "Integrity Award."
  • Integrity Award: Deniz Getting
    When New York City taxicab driver Deniz Getting dropped off passenger Ann Roggen at her Manhattan apartment, both failed to realize that a musical instrument had been left behind-a viola valued at $40,000 and an accompanying pair of bows, valued at $20,000. Once inside her apartment, Ms. Roggen remembered and called 311. Using GPS technology, the TLC was able to determine the identity of the cab that had dropped her off. Text messages to the cab's computer at first went unanswered, as the driver was off duty. But when the driver returned to his cab and got the message, he looked and found the valuable instrument still nestled on the back seat. The story had the ultimate happy ending when Getting, joined by TLC Commissioner Matthew Daus, personally returned the instrument to a very relieved and grateful Ann Roggen in time for her evening concert in New Jersey . . . Deniz even drove her there. For his role in this remarkable saga, Deniz Getting has earned both an encore performance by Ms. Roggen, and the IATR's "Integrity Award."
  • Integrity Award: Haron ur Rashid
    New York City taxi driver Haron ur Rashid is a man who likes making people happy. When a newlywed couple, fresh from their wedding ceremony, departed from Haron ur Rashid's cab, they neglected to take the wedding gifts that had been stored in the trunk. When realizing this, they contacted the authorities. Using GPS technology, officials tried to determine which taxicab might be carrying the gifts. A big break came when a relative of the groom spotted a cab with an advertisement on top that the newlyweds had mentioned. The relative stopped the cab and found Rashid driving it. But it turned out that even as officials were furiously searching, Rashid had already discovered and returned the gifts to the building at which he left the newlyweds off and left them with the doorman, without calling any attention to himself. It was via the relative of the groom that Rashid's good deed was finally discovered. For his thoughtful act, performed with no personal gain in mind, Haron ur Rashid has earned the Integrity Award.
  • Mobile Muse Award: Fabio Peralta
    Presented by: Ben Bailey, Host of Discovery Channel's "Cash Cab"
    Fabio Peralta is a New York City taxicab driver with an obvious love for art. When passengers enter his cab, he hands them a pen and stack of paper and tells them, in his own words, to "create art, any kind of art." Some hesitate, but others proceed to sketch things as they travel to their destination. At this point Peralta has collected some 7,000 sketches, and whenever he has some extra money, he binds them into glossy booklets. He gives the booklets away free to any passenger who participates in his newest project-30-second video skits of his passengers. Some refuse, others agree to be filmed, at which point Peralta pulls over to do some filming. So far he's made videos of 214 passengers. One might never find another taxi driver who not only drives but encourages his passengers to do their artistic best at the same time, some of them discovering a level of talent they may not have known they possessed. In honoring Fabio Peralta, the name "Mobile Muse Award" just seemed like a natural way to go.
  • Role Model Award: Balwinder Dhanoa
    When the City of Edmonton bestowed its "Best Driver Customer Award" to Balwinder Dhanoa in 2008, it was in recognition of his record of providing exceptionally courteous, friendly and professional service to his customers. Dhanoa has also been recognized less formally by large numbers of the passengers he has served through the years. The efforts he has expended to deserve all the recognition he has received carries on to this day.

    It is for that reason that we pause to present Balwinder Dhanoa with the IATR's "Role Model Award."
  • Role Model Award: Gulam Mustafa
    Gulam Mustafa has driven a taxicab, accident-free, for the last 20 years. For the last 15 of these years, he has been a member of the All Taxi Management family, where his reputation is that of a careful, friendly and exceptionally kind person, someone who not only does his job, but is always ready to do that little bit extra. That's exactly what he did on a recent occasion when he found $5,000 that was left by a passenger in his cab. He not only returned it, but refused any reward. Selfless acts of this nature, coupled with his remarkable safety record and his passenger-friendly style make Gulam Mustafa a very deserving recipient of the "Role Model Award."
  • Role Model Award: Terry L. Jones
    For 15 years, Terry Jones drove a taxi in New York City. He then moved to Atlanta, where he joined the Rapid Taxi Company. In both cities he has displayed the same dedication to serving the public, being ever-careful to satisfy the transportation requirements of his passengers. In so doing, he has created for all to see a bridge of service and integrity between two great taxi towns that take pride in the levels of service provided by their driver-licensees. Not surprisingly, Terry has been recognized for his special nature before, having been named "driver of the year" by the Drivers Association of Atlanta back in 2003. In recognition of his exemplary history, we present Terry L. Jones with the IATR's "Role Model Award."
  • Lifetime Leadership Award: Stephen Belcher
    Stephen Belcher is the recipient of a B.A. degree in Business Administration. He spent two years in dental school. He worked as a Rate Auditor for the Ford Motor Company. And he's a taxicab driver in his home town of Atlanta, Georgia. As you might suspect from his varied career path, Stephen is something of a departure from what most people would consider a rather routine taxicab driver.

    In fact, Stephen sees his taxicab-driving career as a ministry, applying his professional and educational knowledge in every way that he can. He has assumed leadership roles in the city's taxi industry, helping to develop training programs, improve customer service, and shape helpful legislation. He helped develop the Rideshare Program that allows for flat rates to and from the major airports. He served two years as a member of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

    As a cab driver, Stephen Belcher has returned lost wallets, helped stranded pedestrians, and has even driven elderly people to their doctors without charge. This has not gone unnoticed, as numerous letters of commendation have been written by the many people he has assisted. A devoted citizen of Atlanta, Stephen says: "I like to think of myself as an ambassador for the city."

    Stephen Belcher is certainly a fine ambassador for an industry that we all identify with, and a person whose performance in many ways makes him an exceptional choice to receive the IATR's "Lifetime Leadership Award."
  • Lifetime Leadership Award: Steve Wiedersberg
    For 27 years, Steve Wiedersberg has been a taxi driver in Chicago and from the beginning was a champion of driver safety. An advocate for drivers since 1989, Mr. Wiedersberg is the founder and president of the Chicago Professional Taxi Drivers Association, and is a current board member of the Chicago Taxi Drivers Union.

    His concern for driver safety led him to lobby the state legislature of Illinois for an expansion of legislative protections for drivers, and he was instrumental in the passage of "Wiedersberg's Law" in 2007 which makes battery of an on-duty taxi driver a felony in his state. A former United States Marine, Steve earned a B.A. degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

    For his demonstrated commitment and dedication to the safety of taxicab drivers, Steve Wiedersberg has clearly earned the IATR's "Lifetime Leadership Award."
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Walter Wolff, Jr.
    Atlanta, Georgia taxi driver Walter Wolff, Jr. has been associated with the historic city's Checker Cab Company for over 23 years, serving as both a sales associate and a full-time taxi driver for 12 of those years. His attention to customer service has won him several driver awards at the Atlanta Checker Cab Company, and he has received numerous letters of praise for his efforts as a passenger-caring driver. In one exciting moment of Mr. Wolff's career, his taxi was the getaway vehicle for the robber of a Burger King establishment. He later assisted the police in apprehending the robber. Walter Wolff, who is a spry 82 years of age, has compiled an exemplary safety record over the years (for which he credits his keen attention to detail) which has become the envy of his considerably younger colleagues. For his efforts over many years, Walter Wolff, Jr. has earned the IATR's "Lifetime Achievement Award."
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Jack Dym
    At an active 82, Jack Dym is a second generation New York City taxi driver who has not only driven his passengers safely, but also in a most entertaining fashion. Through the years he has driven many celebrities that he speaks freely about (some that come to mind are Jacqueline Kennedy, Diane Von Furstenberg, Jack Lemmon and Sharon Stone), but to many of Jack's passengers, it is he who is the celebrity.

    Known affectionately as "Jack 'Da Hack," he can best be described as a fast-talking, yarn-spinning driver with a Brooklyn accent who has fits and doubtless helped to create over his 60-plus year career, the decades-old stereotype of the New York City cabbie. Mr. Dym has hundreds of stories to tell and has been telling them virtually non-stop over the years, much to the delight of passenger after passenger, so much so that he has inspired a documentary film maker to begin the task of chronicling his fascinating life.

    While Mr. Dym recently retired at the behest of his family, he is actually more active today than ever and in fact the reason why he could not be here with us today is that he had a prior commitment to participate in a major Masonic conference in the Midwest! For spending as much time as he has behind the wheel of a cab, transporting and entertaining passengers in the most positive way possible, Jack Dym has more than earned the IATR's "Lifetime Achievement Award."
  • Driver of the Year Award: Thomas Chappell
    The gift of giving was carried to extraordinary lengths by Thomas Chappell, a Phoenix, Arizona taxi driver, who offered one of his kidneys to a passenger in desperate need. That passenger, Rita Van Loenen, suffered from a deteriorating kidney disease and faced the reality that only a kidney transplant could save her life.

    Tom Chappell had picked up and driven Ms. Loenen to her dialysis treatment sessions on several occasions, and in conversations held en route learned of her plight. But more than simply express his sorrow and his empathy for her obvious discomfort, Tom went a quantum leap further, offering her one of his kidneys.

    While no less grateful, Ms. Loenen took Mr. Chappell's offer with a "grain of salt," and was stunned to find out that Mr. Chappell was as good as his word and was tested to see whether he was a good match. Remarkably, and after a number of Ms. Loenen's friends and family had already been tested with no matches having been found, it was revealed that Tom Chappell's kidney would be a perfect match for Ms. Leonen, with doctors remarking that if was any closer a match, they would have been siblings. Plans are well underway for the transplant to take place later this year.

    Stand by, because there's another happy side to the story. Six days after the unique story appeared on a local TV newscast, Chappell received a call from his estranged daughter whom he hadn't seen in 31 years. These days they talk almost nightly, mostly about his four new grandchildren. Regarding his daughter, Chappell said: "I'd have gave my whole body to see her and all it cost me was a kidney, no big deal."

    A self-described man of faith, Tom Chappell says: "I never knew what it felt like to give somebody life and that's what I'm doing."

    Tom Chappell . . . an extraordinary taxi driver . . . an extraordinary human being…and certainly an extraordinarily deserving selection to be the IATR's "International Driver of the Year

    For more information please contact:

    NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission
    40 Rector Street, 5th Floor
    New York, N.Y. 10006
    Contact: Allan J. Fromberg, Deputy Commissioner of Public Affairs
    Tel: (212) 676-1013
    Fax: (212) 676-1101
    Internet: URL http://www.nyc.gov/taxi (Click!)
   

Presentations

   
 
   

Day 1
The program for the day focused on using technology to enhance service for taxicab and for-hire ground transportation passengers, as well as to benefit drivers and businesses.  First, a case study was presented on the inception, implementation and evolution of New York City’s taxicab technology service improvements (aka T-PEP), that examined and explained all aspects of this program implemented by the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (NYC TLC).  Second, a broader survey and regulatory discussion of credit and debit card technology and business applications ensued.    

Taxicab Technology Passenger Enhancement Program (T-PEP)
The T-PEP program includes the mandatory installation in all NYC taxicabs of: (1) credit and debit card payment options; (2) rear seat passenger information screens (to convey public service announcements, and NY city information including tourism, news, weather, restaurants, nightlife, advertising and other content-based programming, and to complete the credit card transaction); (3) global positioning system location technology and wireless communication capabilities to facilitate payment transactions and assist in the location of lost passenger property; and (4) front seat text messaging screens for drivers to communicate important and emergency information, locate lost property, notify drivers of business opportunities to serve passengers at events or specific locations.  There are three (3) authorized vendors/contractors with NY City that compete to sell the required equipment and information technology to taxicab medallion owners.  

Overview and Introduction
An overview of the day’s events and the history of the development of the T-PEP program was discussed, including pre-proposal outreach (technology summit and request for information), the procurement and proposal evaluation process, rulemaking, implementation and enforcement.  A variety of options and themes were addressed that were a part of the deliberative process, including: (1) the pros and cons of selecting one vendor vs. a market competition model; (2) whether the program should be voluntary or mandatory; and (3) whether to implement the program via a competitive procurement and contracting process, or by promulgating equipment specifications that could be met by an unlimited number of product manufacturers.     

SESSION 1– System Security and Acceptance Testing
This session focused on the technology or system integration process of program implementation, including a discussion on security testing (ethical hacking) and passenger acceptance testing (including focus groups and surveys).

Panelists:             

SESSION 2 – Contract Negotiation & Legal Issues
The first panel discussion focused primarily on the contract negotiation process and explored all related legal and policy aspects of the implementation of this program, including planning, rulemaking, contract drafting, and litigation.  Specific areas that were highlighted include: (a) the dynamics of contract negotiation with multiple vendors; (b) setting service level agreements; (c) penalty provisions; (d) timelines; and (e) mandated medallion owner contracts as part of the vendor contracting process.         

SESSION 3 - T-PEP Data Applications & Policy Analysis
The actual and potential future use of T-PEP taxicab location data was discussed for the purpose of policy analysis and transportation planning by regulators, including the use of such data to determine the amount of fare increases, the location of taxi stands, the role of taxicabs in overall traffic patterns, and to develop key industry data indicators to assist in making regulatory decisions.  Also, there was a discussion of the use of data, other than trip sheet data, that you may already have and how developing data sharing arrangements with other agencies and private entities can be used to increase regulator compliance and enhance customer service.

Panelists:

SESSION 4 - Credit & Debit Cards
A survey of regulatory jurisdictions that utilize various forms of credit and debit card technology was presented, and various products as well as their performance, data and logistics will be analyzed, including usage, the underlying economics of the payment industry and its marketing synergy with taxicabs.  Topics that will be explored include: mandatory vs. voluntary regulatory approaches; tips; transaction costs; “no signature” requirements; store forward information; and impact on ridership. 

Speakers:

SESSION 5 – Panel on the Future of Taxicab Technology 2.0

SPECIAL GUEST MODERATOR: David Pogue

Personal technology columnist for the New York Times, Emmy Award-winning technology correspondent for CBS News, bestselling author, popular podcaster and blogger, accomplished musician and magician – these are just a few of his career highlights!
In an open forum setting, Mr. Pogue moderated a panel session – in his own inimitable and humorous style – that explored the boundless evolutionary future of the integrated taxicab technology system known as “T-PEP”.

Panelists: 

Discussion Starters  included:

Driver Benefits

  • Navigation systems
  • Enhanced driver information screens to include – traffic information and the ability to locate the nearest restrooms, gas stations and taxi relief stands or parking areas
  • Driver debit cards (money deposited directly into a driver’s bank account) linked to specific benefits such as discounts on car washes, gas, restaurants, etc…

Passenger Benefits

  • Improved passenger screen content to include PIM content
    • Programs, games
    • Driver information (a photo of the driver and license information)
    • Interactive “point of interest” maps based on cab location
    • Wayfinding (knowing location, finding best route & way back)
    • Multiple languages
    • Music & music video menu
  • Internet or WIFI capability (check email, surf web, etc..)
  • I-pod or MP-3 plug-in capability
  • Passengers with disabilities
    • Close captioning
    • Hearing loop technology
    • Accessible dispatch system compatibility
  • Real time interactivity with TLC – surveys, complaints, compliments
  • Receipt improvements, such as:
    • Driver information;.
    • Coupons, advertising, promotions;
    • Electronic delivery to an e-mail address

General Public Safety Benefits

  • Multiple metered rate of fare & split fare capabilities
  • Group ride facilitation
  • Transit strike or major transit outages
  • Driver integrity/security – to prevent unlicensed taxi operation
  • Bar code scanners
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) readers or biometrics
   

Day 2

Overview and Introduction
The program for the morning will provide tours of the facilities of the NYC Taxi Licensing Commission and its licensed base operations giving conference attendees a good understanding and overview of one of the largest and most successfully regulated taxi and livery industries in the world.  The afternoon will focus on the use of various forms of information technology, telecommunications as well as highlight best practices in enforcement and administration to enhance the efficiency and performance of the regulator in an effort to meet the needs of the public.

SESSION 6 – On-Site Tours
(NO POWERPOINTS FOR TOURS)

Tour of NYC TLC Safety & Emissions Facility (Woodside, Queens)

  1. The NYC TLC’s Safety & Emissions Division of its Uniformed Services Bureau houses a state-of-the-art centralized inspection facility (certified by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles), where every taxicab is inspected thrice annually (as well as limousines and other vehicles) and over 60,000 safety and emissions inspections are held each year.  A tour will be held of this facility by knowledgeable staff during actual inspection hours.

Tour of Licensed Base Operations

  1. An overview will be provided of various forms of vehicle dispatch technology and related systems developed for the location and dispatch of licensed vehicles, including the integration of base call centers and billing systems, the collection and analysis of data and dispatch operations, with the goal of enhancing understanding by regulators of this technology and its potential data gathering possibilities.  A detailed tour and orientation will be performed by industry leaders, business owner(s) and their staff at either a livery, black car or limousine base company’s facilities, which will include viewing software, vehicle hardware and business operations.     

Tour of NYC TLC Licensing & Adjudications Facility (Long Island City, Queens)

  • The NYC TLC’s Licensing & Adjudications Facility accommodates the Licensing and Standards and Adjudications Divisions.  The TLC’s Licensing & Standards Division is in charge of efficiently processing license applications for over 160,000 licensed entities, including driver, vehicle, and business licenses for six for-hire ground transportation industries (taxicabs, liveries, limousines, black cars, paratransits and commuter vans).  The Adjudications division is charged with the responsibility of fairly and expeditiously adjudicating all summonses and appeals for tens of thousands of violations per year, employing impartial and independent Administrative Law Judges and other court staff.  There will be an option to tour both facilities during operating hours.
   

SESSION 7 – Internet Media Training                              

Session Moderator: Allan Fromberg, Deputy Commissioner of Public Affairs

This training session expanded upon the successful media-training seminar provided at the IATR Conference in Atlanta and further explored the ever expanding and changing role that technology is playing in enhancing and developing an effective communications program for government regulators. The session was led by the US Army Public Affairs Division who highlighted the benefits, opportunities and challenges in utilizing a variety of media relations tools such as “Blogging”, Facebook, and Twitter in communicating effectively with the public and other stakeholders.

Click here to view/download the presentation

 

SESSION 8 – Management Information Systems (MIS) for the Regulator to Increase Efficiency, Enhance Integrity & Security, and Assist Policymaking

Session Moderator: James Bisson

Panelists:
  1. Nitish Mukhi, CSDC Systems
  2. Diane Bertolin, Windsor
  3. Angela Morgan, Burlington
    Click here to view/download the presentation
  4. SGS VIMs IATR 2009 Final Presentation presented by Michael McGee

The development, use and application of MIS and related technology products to assist in licensing, enforcement, adjudication and other regulatory functions will be explored and discussed.  This session will engage regulators in trading best practices on how to structure management information systems, including the storage, retrieval and use of data. The session will also focus on technology and equipment for field enforcement officers, including presentations about successful programs, the specific technology and products available, and both the risks and benefits for regulators to implement such programs to effectively enforce and administer its regulations.

 

SESSION 9: Best Practices in Technology and Enforcement to Implement an Effective Accessible Taxicab Program

Panelists:

  1. Samara Epstein, NYC TLC
    Click here to view/download the presentation
  2. Marc D. Klein, Vehicle Production Group LLC
    Click here to view/download the presentation
  3. Ray A. Mundy, Centre for Transportation, St. Louis
    Click here to view/download the presentation
  4. Norma Reyes, City of Chicago
    Click here to view/download the presentation

The concept of integrating technology with enforcement to implement a successful wheelchair accessible vehicle program was explored.  In addition, industry licensees, businesses and regulators discussed the various applications being deployed and best practices to meet the rising demand for accessible taxicab service.

   

Day 3

SESSION 11 – In-Vehicle Security Cameras vs. Partitions/Shields
Panel members represented manufacturers and taxicab regulators, who debated the pros and cons of both technologies

Pro-Camera Panel Members:

  • Security Camera Manufacturer
    • Terry Walker, VerifEye—largest camera vendor in North America, summarize state of technology/trends in security cameras, identify cities that use cameras in US, Canada, and overseas.
      Click here to view/download the presentation
  • Taxicab Regulators
    • Glenn Steeves, Toronto—second generation security cameras, lessons learned (routine inspections), trends in crime statistics prove effectiveness
      Click here to view/download the presentation
    • Craig Leisy, Seattle—security cameras installed in 2005 as part of a comprehensive driver personal safety program (GPS, silent alarm, camera, driver training, dispatch procedures, driver refusal of suspicious trips), trends in crime statistics prove effectiveness, unusual taxicab murder/arson case in 2007
      Click here to view/download the presentation

Pro-Partition Panel Members:

  • Partition Manufacturer
      • Alberto Villalobos, taxicabpartitions.com—large partition manufacturer, summarize state of technology/trends in partitions.  Baltimore study (1999) on effectiveness of partitions, identify cities that use partitions in US, Canada, and overseas
        Click here to view/download the presentation
  • Taxicab Regulators
    • Tom Drischler, Los Angeles—long experience with partitions in standard taxicabs (cameras in wheelchair vans), trends in crime statistics prove effectiveness
    • Mark Cohen, Boston—long experience with partitions in standard taxicabs, trends in crime statistics prove effectiveness
      Click here to view/download the presentation
    • Jerry Kozubal, Winnipeg—long experience with BOTH security cameras and half-shields together, trends in crime stats prove effectiveness, driver opinions about half-shields
      Click here to view/download the presentation
   
SESSION 12 – In-Vehicle Cameras
Brief presentations by NIOSH researcher leading the security camera studies to describe nature of each study and give a progress report. 

 

Panel Members:

  1. NIOSH: briefing and progress report on scope of studies regarding the effectiveness of taxicab security cameras and safety partitions pursuant to a recent IATR-NIOSH Letter of Agreement. 
    1. Cammie Menendez, NIOSH – Multi-City Study, Case Control Study, Technological Evaluation of Security Cameras Study
      Click here to view/download the presentation
  2. Taxicab Industry
    1. Scott Wallace, Burlington Taxi – results of cameras to improve taxicab safety, impact on insurance premiums