By Juan Soto
Only days before a woman was injured while riding a commuter van in southeast Queens, City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), at a Primary Day campaign event in downtown Jamaica, asked one of his aides, “Did you see that? Take photos.”
He was referring to “dollar vans” that were operating illegally and making U-turns in the middle of Archer Avenue to pick up passengers.
Now the lawmaker has asked the Taxi and Limousine Commission to improve the safety of the commuter van industry. He also wants law enforcement agencies to crack down on its illegal drivers.
“It is apparent that the Taxi and Limousine Commission…has ignored the need for safe and reliable transportation in southeast Queens,” Miller said.“They have ignored our concerns, which we have expressed multiple times.”
The legislator sent a letter to Meera Joshi, chairwoman of the TLC, in which he calls for a temporary suspension of all commuter van approvals and renewals.
Miller wants Joshi to “spearhead a reform of this industry that goes beyond surface measures.”
The request was a response to a high speed chase by the NYPD of an illegal commuter van driver that left an innocent woman in the hospital after she jumped from the vehicle trying to escape on Sept. 14.
The TLC “has a strong track record of working closely with elected officials and community leaders to advance the goal of safer transportation,” a spokesman for the city agency said. “We place a high value on their input on this as well as other issues, and we look forward to having productive discussions.”
According to the TLC, so far this year 391 vans were seized for operating illegally.
There are 464 commuter vans licensed in the city and 48 licensed commuter vans operators. Out of the 48, 36 are based in Queens.
The popular “dollar vans” take people around in areas underserved by public transportation and are widely used in southeast Queens.
Commuters usually take these vans in downtown Jamaica for about $2 a trip as a much faster way to get to neighborhoods like Rochdale, Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale after a long day at work.
City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) said in a statement, “New Yorkers have the right to clean, reliable, and most important safe commute” in public transportation.
“I look forward to working closely with transportation advocates, the TLC, DOT, the NYPD, and the van companies to formulate a solution that enforces compliance with the same standards that apply for transportation across the city,” Richards said.
Miller insisted in a moratorium “for all commuter van renewal and approval applications until it has been determined that the TLC is up to task of meeting the legal and safety standards that our community deserves.”
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.