Van Supporters Call New York City Council Report “Desperate Attempt to Preserve Illegitimate Control Over Industry”

Institute for Justice · January 11, 1999

Washington, D.C.-After fighting every attempt to expand the commuter van industry and vetoing more than 90 percent of new operators’ applications, New York’s City Council has at last acknowledged the need for additional van service in New York City. The City Council’s report, which reportedly calls for an additional 141 vans, is little more than a desperate attempt to preserve its illegitimate control over the commuter van industry. Unfortunately, the Council has once again exercised its command-and-control approach, setting artificial limits on how many vans are needed, rather than simply letting the van operators and the riding public decide. The report in no way addresses the many problems created by the Council’s van restrictions which have caused the current shortage.

“By begrudgingly acknowledging-but greatly underestimating-the need for additional van service, the City Council is merely trying to defuse the political momentum that has built up for vans,” said Chip Mellor, president of the Institute for Justice, which represents van owners in their legal challenge to provide their service in New York City. “Well-known problems created by City Council keep vans from reaching their potential. These include an arbitrary application process, a prohibition from operating on bus routes, and efforts at political intimidation. None of these underlying problems are addressed by the Council’s report and, until these problems are solved, vans and their customers will continue to suffer.”

Hector Ricketts, owner of Queens Van Plan and president of the Interborough Alliance for Community Transportation, said, “I’m not buying into the City Council’s numbers game. The riding public and not the City Council should decide how many new vans are needed.”

Ricketts and other van operators currently have 12 applications before the City Council for approximately 200 vans. Additional applications continue to flow into the Taxi and Limousine Commission on a regular basis. Hearings for Ricketts’s new van licenses will be heard on January 29 in Queens and February 1 in Brooklyn.

“The City Council continues to exercise illegitimate control and unilateral veto authority over new licenses,” Mellor said.

“Van operators will be playing close attention to see who gets these permits,” Ricketts said. “We are wary of any inside deals where the Council gives away the state’s blessing to insiders.”