City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley of Queens will introduce a bill Thursday requiring the Taxi and Limousine Commission to train police officers to identify illegal commuter vans so that they single out the right vehicles and drivers when they set out to enforce their operation.
The commission would also have to create a guide summarizing the many cumbersome regulations that licensed van drivers must abide by -– from the types of licenses they must have to where they are allowed to circulate and the kinds of violations they might face.
The bill (see here [pdf] and below)comes at a time when the city is trying to rein in the commuter-van industry, which offers the closest alternative to a public transportation system in neighborhoods where bus or subway service is limited or nonexistent. Vans have operated with little oversight in recent years, fostering cut-throat competition among legal and illegal drivers that has had them bend the rules of traffic and official regulations as they battle it out for fares.
Ms. Crowley said that complaints against illegal vans have ranked high among the issues she had heard from constituents since taking office last year. The problem seems particularly grave in Maspeth, Queens, she said, where commuter vans are not allowed to circulate, but do so anyway, mostly without a license.
“I look at it mostly as a public safety issue,” she said. “Many of these vans are operating dangerously and illegally. If they want to continue to do what they’re doing, they have to abide by the law or else face the consequences.”