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Queens Chronicle

Council Eyes Color Coding To Make ‘Dollar Vans’ Safer

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Posted: Thursday, April 6, 2006 12:00 am

Like their yellow cab counterparts, commuter vans—commonly known as dollar vans—may take on a uniform color.

City Councilman John Liu, chairman of the Transportation Committee, proposed that private van companies adopt one color for their vehicles last week during a City Hall meeting.

The idea, which is similar to the familiar yellow cab, is meant to increase commuter safety. Right now, passengers have no way to determine whether a van driver is properly licensed. One color, Liu said, would let commuters know immediately if the van was legal.

The initiative follows the death of a 56 year old Brooklyn grandmother who was killed in a hit and run accident three weeks ago. The driver is believed to be one of the many unlicensed, illegal van operators in the city.

Liu said licensed van services play a helpful role in the city’s transportation network, but “unfortunately there are too many illegal operations out there.” While there is no way of knowing how many illegal van services there are, Liu believes they far out number the legal operations.

A uniform color would allow people to make a better choice, Liu said. Other for hire vehicles would be prohibited from using the same color.

Dollar vans operate in parts of the city with less access to public transportation and are popular in many parts of Queens, including Flushing. They carry from nine to 20 passengers and may or may not cost a dollar. Unlike taxis, dollar vans cannot pick up people who hail them. Passengers must sign up with private vans prior to getting a ride.

Matthew Daus, chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which issues licenses for qualifying vans, also testified at the March 29 hearing. It was reported that Daus said the uniform color was a good idea at the hearing, but a commission spokesman, Allan Fromberg, said the statement was taken out of context.

“The TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission) does not have an official position on the color at this point,” Fromberg said. “It was among a number of things discussed.”

But Fromberg also said the commission hasn’t discounted the idea: “It’s a good idea; we can talk about it, but it’s not really the answer.”

Instead, Daus would like to see the rules governing commuter vans updated. “They have not been significantly revamped in more than a decade,” Fromberg said. “It makes a lot of sense to look at it from a legislative standpoint.”

Daus testified that currently 62 licensed companies operate 230 vans, a drop from previous years. He attributed the decrease in legal drivers to obstacles in the licensing process. “For owners and drivers that want to operate legitimately, the requirements set forth in the state and local law are voluminous.”

Welcome to the discussion.