Cab Drivers Up in Arms over ‘Vision Zero’

Asan Polash, a cab driver who opposes de Blasio's 'Vision Zero' plan, fills up his cab at a gas station on West 36th street in Manhattan. (Joanna Plucinska/NYCityLens)

Asan Polash, a cab driver who opposes de Blasio’s ‘Vision Zero’ plan, fills up his cab at a gas station on West 36th street in Manhattan. (Joanna Plucinska/NYCityLens)

To many New York City cab drivers, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan means zero revenues.

On February 18th, de Blasio announced his proposals to make New York City streets accident-free for pedestrians and drivers alike. It highlighted some of the most dangerous intersections in the city and took a stand against reckless driving, specifically targeting speeding taxi drivers by placing monitors in cabs that will turn the meter off when the car goes over the speed limit.

Many cabbies feel that the plan will do more harm than good – specifically to their wallets. Many cab drivers feel the plan is far too controlling and hurts an already struggling industry.

“Drivers already have no guaranteed income, only expenses on the lease, fuel and vehicle repairs,“ said the NYC Taxi Drivers Alliance in a press release. It’s a reality that many cab drivers have had to face, with increasing fees to pay for medallions and modern technologies such as GPS systems.

Other cab drivers are concerned with the slow down in traffic in the city “The city’s not going to move at 25 mph,” said taxi driver Jasvindeer Singh, as he was taking his coffee break at the BP gas station on 36th street. He believes that driving along with the traffic, even above the speed limit, can still be safe and it keeps the cars on the road moving.

Alpha Diallo, another cab driver, agrees that there’s no point in punishing taxi drivers for driving over the speed limit. “Nobody respects that [speed limit.]” he said. “Even the mayor was caught speeding [two days ago.]”

Beresford Simmons, a cab driver in the city for over 40 years, thinks that there is a solution to the problem. And, it doesn’t involve taking money out of the pockets of cab drivers. He proposes to put the costs on the companies that own taxis instead of the actual taxi drivers by demanding an increase in training for those behind the wheel.

“The people I have a problem with are the new drivers,” he said. “For two to three weeks, they should have a professional driver in the car with them.” He believes that it’s a cost that large cab companies can easily afford, especially with the leases that cab drivers are now paying.

Pedestrians need to be more alert too, he points out. “Don’t look at your cellphone at crosswalks. Pay attention to the roads,” Simmons said. “Everyone has a responsibility to each other.” With these precautions and safety measures, Simmons sees no point in de Blasio’s clause to curtail cab drivers’ incomes.

However, some cab drivers still feel de Blasio’s proposals are exactly what is needed for both drivers and pedestrians. Gain Jay, who works the busy intersections surrounding Penn station, believes that New York streets are simply too busy to allow for speeding. “[De Blasio’s plan] is good for the driver,” he said. “Speeding causes accidents.”