On September 30, 2021, Aziz Bah, Organizing Director Independent Drivers Guild (IDG), testified before the MTA, NYS DOT, NYC DOT in a hearing on the Central Business District Tolling Program. He urged leaders not to add any additional fees on for-hire vehicle drivers who are already subject to congestion taxes and sales tax. Instead he urged that the congestion tax be focused on private, commercial and construction vehicles who pay no congestion fees.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to caution you, to implore you to not add any additional fees on trips in for-hire vehicles, including Ubers, Lyfts, Liveries and Taxis. The fees will not come from the pockets of Silicon Valley billionaires, but the pockets of hard working New Yorkers. New Yorkers that have invested in driving, pouring their life savings into the industry. These are the workers that end up paying the fees.
All drivers were struggling and barely able to make ends meet before the pandemic and we have been through some even tougher times, to say the least, over the last 18 months and counting. Drivers across all our industry’s sectors (FHVs, medallions, liveries) are some of the true unsung heroes of this crisis, putting their own lives at risk shuttling essential workers, doctors and nurses back and forth from their jobs and delivering millions of meals to those in need. Many of our drivers were out of work for several months and some still are. Some drivers got sick. Some drivers died. Some have and continue to suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. Many drivers have been financially devastated, have simply left the industry, filed for bankruptcy or on the brink of doing so.
While companies like Amazon thrived in the pandemic, for-hire vehicle drivers were suddenly without work, but were still on the hook for contractual expenses for vehicle payments and TLC insurance which often total more than $1000 per month. And that’s before rent and food. Even now as pandemic unemployment payments have ceased, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission reports that the number of average daily For-Hire Vehicle trips is still significantly lower than during the pre-pandemic period.
That being said, we simply cannot absorb another fee or another tax. Even if it is paid for by the consumer, the ultimate impact will be on the drivers in lost business and income. And in order to remain competitive, we fear the app-companies will simply lower their rates, again, impacting driver income. For-hire vehicle travel in New York City cannot be seen as an untapped source of funding for the state, city and MTA. This must stop as it is only hurting the working class, poor and immigrant communities and drivers.
FHV rides already pay more than their fair share. While the deep-pocketed commercial, construction and big box delivery vehicles that clog our streets have been exempt from congestion fees to date, low-income drivers and riders have already been subject to congestion fees pursuant to NYS law since 2019. We are already paying congestion fees of $2.50 on trips in taxis, and $2.75 for trips in an Uber or Lyft.