City Council passed legislation on Wednesday to curb illegal commuter van operations while protecting those businesses that operate legitimately.

The bill, introduced by Councilmember Jumaane D. Williams in May, amends the definition of “for-hire vehicle” to include vehicles that seat more than 20 passengers and places them under the authority of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to enforce regulations, safety standards and licensing.

“This bill is a significant step in the right direction in curbing the proliferation of unlicensed commuter vans with a seating capacity in excess of 20,” said Hector Ricketts, president of the Commuter Van Association of New York. “Upon signing into law by Mayor de Blasio, the TLC will have the authority (previously lacking) to enforce against these operators who, for too long, have been circumventing the system, endangering the public, and hurting licensed commuter van businesses.”

Under the previous law, TLC was only permitted to regulate vehicles containing up to 20 seats, allowing some operators to circumvent necessary regulations and licensing processes by adding more capacity to their vehicles. This loophole disadvantaged law-abiding businesses providing a vital service to communities where public transportation is not expansive. With the passing of this new bill, all drivers are made to adhere to existing safety regulations.

“When bad actors circumvent those laws with unsafe, larger vehicles, they hurt the industry and the public they serve,” said Williams. “This bill will close a loophole and help further the success of commuter vans in our communities.”

Commuter vans, also known as “Dollar Vans,” have been a significant part of NYC’s transit system for well over 30 years, particularly in Williams’ district with includes neighborhoods such as Flatbush and Midwood. With Councilmember I. Daneek Miller, he previously co-sponsored the Commuter Van Safety Act, which cracked down on dangerous and illegitimate operations to improve safety for both businesses and passengers.

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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