An unmarked, untagged, unregistered dollar van

l to r: Council Member I. Daneek Miller; Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 Vice President Luis Alzate; Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 Policy Director, Corey Bearak; Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Alexis Van Lines owner, Leroy Morrison; Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Nick Smith. Photo Credit: Vania Andre, NYC Council

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”These bills are about making sure people have the legal opportunity to operate commuter vans, while also stepping up enforcement, and ensuring passenger safety”[/perfectpullquote]

Commuter Vans– also famously known as Dollar Vans— that for the past two decades have sped up and down the Flatbush Avenue corridor providing riders with a quick, cheap and hassle-free transport may soon become a thing of the past– or at the very least, will experience a major change in course.

On Feb. 15, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law the Commuter Van Safety Act– three bills sponsored by City Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Daneek Miller, that crack down on illegal commuter van operators: Intro 0570, Intro 0860 andIntro 0861A.

Intro 0570 aligns legitimate commuter van operators with the practices of other livery services by

  • Eliminating the 6-year renewal disparity;
  • Eliminating the requirement for petitions to receive operating approval; and
  • Eliminating the requirement to maintain records of prearrangement – a practice not in line with Commuter Van operations

Intro 0860 calls for no more than 735 licenses for commuter vans, as well as the launch of a study that will examine such issues as the number of illegal commuter vans operating in New York City; the number of safety violations recorded so far; and a plan on how the commission will ensure that commuter vans do not operate on bus routes, amongst other concerns.

And Intro 0861A increases penalties applicable to operators of commuter vans. Under this bill, any person who knowingly operates a commuter van without the proper authorization faces a maximum fine of $3,000 for the first violation, and $4,000 for a second violation, if committed within two years of the first violation.

In addition, all commuter van operators must continue to provide, upon demand by enforcement officials a commuter van license, a driver’s commuter van license, an authorization to operate a commuter van service; and a vehicle registration and evidence of current liability insurance.

Under the Commuter Van Safety Act, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will now retain the power to revoke operating authority following any of these violations.

An unmarked, untagged, unregistered dollar van
“Commuter vans are a major source for transportation in my district, and in many other communities across the City,” said Councilmember Williams, sponsor of Intro 0570 and who represents the neighborhoods of Flatbush, Marine Park and Midwood. “They fill the gap in transportation starved areas. Unfortunately, commuter drivers often get painted with a broad brush, and are accused of infractions that legal drivers are not committing.”

Rogue, illegal drivers have long posed a safety threat to pedestrians and passengers. In a 2016  incident involving an illegal Dollar Van, a 16-year-old girl was fatally struck while the van was speeding. In a 2014 incident, a 27-year-old man was run down by a commuter van.

“These bills are about making sure people have the legal opportunity to operate commuter vans, while also stepping up enforcement, and ensuring passenger safety,” said Williams.

This bill takes effect within 120 days of being signed into law.

“TLC-licensed commuter vans are an invaluable community resource,” said Taxi and Limousine Commission Chair Meera Joshi. “This legislation strongly supports them, and reflects the value we place on their service. It will also help them continue to protect their passengers and their community by operating within the laws of our city.”

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