Meera Joshi, since 2014 CEO and chairwoman of New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, will be stepping down in March, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Saturday, January 6. A source told Crain’s New York, a local business publication, on Friday that Joshi had told her senior staff Tuesday of her plans to depart. The unusual Saturday announcement may have been due to word leaking out. City Hall promised to name a successor in ‘the coming months.’
While Mayor De Blasio praised Joshi in his announcement, her departure comes on the heels of their strong disagreement over the passage – by New York State – of the congestion surcharge for taxis and for-hire vehicles in Manhattan. Joshi publicly expressed deep concern about the effect that the fee would have on the taxi industry, while the mayor supported the charge as a means to speed up traffic, according to Crain’s.
Joshi and City Hall also butted heads last July over implementation of a minimum-wage study for app-based drivers that the mayor’s office felt was being pushed through too quickly in the light of the troubles facing yellow cab drivers. The recently passed minimum wage rule was one of her signature accomplishments.
In an interview with Crain’s on Saturday, Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer said “that I don’t know if there’s ever been a better commissioner at the TLC or anywhere else.” She mentioned in particular the extensive trip data the TLC collects from Uber and other app-based services, which has allowed the agency to formulate groundbreaking policies for the companies.
Joshi will be leaving in the midst of a series of dramatic changes for the industry, including the minimum wage and the surcharge, which has been stalled by a lawsuit. The City Council had passed a bill establishing the minimum wage for drivers and Joshi’s commission created regulations to enforce it. The chairwoman had been expected to preside over the implementation of those measures this year.
One advocacy group for taxis – the New York Taxi Workers Alliance – called the timing of her pending departure “concerning.” Its executive director, Bhairavi Desai, said that “the crisis for New York City drivers is far from over and the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s work to fix it is just beginning.”
Since Uber’s rise in 2014, the yellow-cab industry has been wracked by an 80% decline in the value of medallions. Joshi has been trying to stabilize the industry, which has also been devastated by eight driver suicides within the past year and a half.
Mayor De Blasio’s press statement mentioned that “commissioner Joshi’s tenure was marked by such progressive innovations as the protection and enhancement of driver earnings, citywide access to for-hire services for persons with disabilities, a 50% reduction of fatalities in crashes involving taxis and for-hire vehicles in the last year, and significant advances in consumer protections.” The statement also credited her with creating the first “pathway to the effective management of congestion and environmental impact relating to TLC-licensed services.” It added that during her tenure, the city managed to get data about the 1 million daily rides both from the taxi and FHV industry – including Uber and Lyft. Moreoer, “New York City is the only place where app drivers have pay protection.”
In City Hall’s press statement Meera Joshi thanked “a skilled and principled TLC staff, a commission dedicated to doing the right thing and engaged industry members and advocates, through public debate and data we increased accountability, safety, access, modernized taxi regulation, protected drivers and increased consumer protections.”
- Meera Joshi during a speech at Moscow’s Expert Council, July 2018.