Smarter Taxi Regulation
All around the world taxi regulators are investing in their technology platforms to increase staff and driver engagement online efficiencies, manage changing policy and regulatory compliance and create Realtime collaboration with industry and government partners along the taxi regulation continuum.
Zero paper and reduction in call centre investments is the ultimate goal. Many regulators are struggling to drive even 20% of its service and business processes online which given the complexities and breadth of taxi authorities role, is understandable. Advances in workflow technologies, online customer engagement portals and API availability in most modern systems, moving towards a 100% online function, is now an achievable goal for many.
While in Ireland taxi regulation is a national regulatory duty, taxi regulation responsibilities across the world vary. In the USA, various states have eliminated regulations in order to completely level the playing field between traditional taxis and the newer Transport Network companies ie Uber. Other States are considering regulation of TNC’s at a State level while retaining the traditional regulatory powers of city and county regulators.
Outside of London, taxis in the UK are regulated by over 300 local councils, many of which adopt very old taxi legislation in various ways using very different systems, which is a challenge currently under review by the Department of Transport which aims to publish their national working group report in January 2019. In 2018, the Urban Transport Group“Taxi! Issues and Options for City Region Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Policy” report called for a new approach to taxi and PHV policy to ensure a good service for users whilst also making sure the sector contributes to wider public policy goals around public safety, congestion reduction, economic inclusion and air quality.
How are Taxi Regulators using Technology to achieve a safe, compliant and collaborative industry?
In Ireland, drivers can engage with the National Transport Authority through the driver portal and complete all their engagements (pay fees, book in skills test, create link etc) online on a selection of devices, applications / renewals remain offline and all industry contractors and government partners collaborate in Realtime with the Taxi Directorate through their core business application – CABS. All drivers and vehicles are linked in Realtime through a smart mobile application which enables the driver to link to a particular vehicle and this is enforced strictly by the NTA inspection team through the mobile inspection app iCABS.
In the USA, according to the IATR, the Transportation Network Company (TNC) movement has run its initial course, there is now some freedom from political pressures exerted on taxi regulators, who may now pick-up the pieces following the casualties of disruption. Finally, for the incumbent taxicab and limousine industries, key decisions are being made on whether to lobby for the elimination of regulations that tie their hands from competing. From a technical standpoint the Federal Transit Administration’s Mobility on Demand Sandbox Program presents an interesting moment of opportunity to connect TNC’s and taxi regulators with federal services through data sharing.
Department of For-Hire Vehicles (DFHV) for the District of Columbia in Washington D.Clead the charge in terms of technology and its application to modernise the regulations engagement with drivers, inspectors, the public, industry and government partners. The authority has recently launched its Open Data Taxi Dashboard, An Option For Payment Technology (OPT) and can showcase other useful technology applications however licencing and renewals remain offline.
In New York, the biggest taxi regulatory body in the USA (similar in numbers of taxis licenced to London & Ireland) – The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), created in 1971, is the agency responsible for licensing and regulating New York City’s medallion (yellow) taxicabs, for-hire vehicles (community-based liveries, black cars and luxury limousines), commuter vans, and paratransit vehicles and employs 600 staff assigned to various divisions and bureaus.
The TLC licenses and regulates over 50,000 vehicles and approximately 100,000 drivers, and performs safety and emissions inspections of the 13,587 medallion taxicabs three times each year, as well as biennial inspections of all TLC-licensed For-Hire vehicles, making it the most active taxi and limousine licensing regulatory agency in the United States.
Systems at the TLC are traditional mainframe systems at the core, but the team at the TLC, along with support from the DoITT have developed some unique driver information upload portals, licencing applications and renewals are only taken online and data and Google Big Querys are open and shared. Tapping into the potential offered by unifying smart meter data with the information held by the TLC, is clearly an interesting exploration for the Commission.
In London, Transport for Londons Taxi Regulation body approved plans to modernise London’s private hire industry which included:
- A fare estimate for customers in advance of their journey
- The provision of driver and vehicle details to customers, including a photo of the driver, before the start of each journey where customers are able to receive this information
- Requiring operators to keep improved records and provide driver and vehicle information to TfL regularly to make enforcement easier and more effective
In 2018, for the first time TfL’s Taxi and Private Hire (TPH) Compliance Officers have been granted new powers by the Metropolitan Police to carry out road stops without police presence for the first time. TFL offers website visitors an online taxi checker and while drivers can register to apply online, renew online and pay fees online, there are still steps in the process offline. The TFL Twitter handle for Taxi Industry updates has over 14.5k followers and is a good example of using social media for industry engagement. As Uber renews its licence in London for the foreseeable future, how can technology help TFL level the playing pitch and ensure the safety and high taxi standards it holds so dear in London?
In London, New York and Dublin, taxi regulation teams continue to invest in innovative ways of building smarter systems to support smart regulation, albeit in various ways depending on public priorities, economic conditions and evolutions of taxi policy and regulations. The Role of Taxis in the Future of Digital Urban Mobility was a key issue explored by regulators from around the world at the 4th edition of UITP International Taxi Seminar in London this year and technology was discussed as a key enabler of unlocking the value of the taxi transport system to wider public transport strategies. Many regulators from around the world presented their use of technology in maintaining safe, compliant and collaborative taxi industries including Montréal Taxis Bureau, Land Transport Authority of Singapore, Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) of Malaysia and the Dubai Taxi Corporation, UAE. Overcoming industry obstacles and supporting rapid adoption of changing taxi regulations using the best in class innovation in technology is a common theme when speaking with global regulators
Our Taxi Regulation team at opensky data continue to work with regulators across the world assessing technological landscapes, future visions for model architectures and secure data management and enhancing the technological capability of in house technical teams or where support is minimal from in house tech support, providing a one stop shop for rapid innovation in line with strategic policy.
Interesting Links from around the World
IATR – International Association of Taxi Regulators – http://www.iatr.global/
UITP Taxi Platform – http://www.uitp.org/expert-groups
The Regulation of Taxi Markets in the European Union: a liberalisation forced by technological disruption – https://www.coleurope.eu/regulation-taxi-markets-european-union-liberalisation-forced-technological-disruption
Taxi driver licensing in select EU countries/cities – http://www.ttnh.ie/news/taxi-driver-licencing-doc2..pdf