Thursday, May 16, 2013
The D.C. Taxicab Commission has a message for drivers using the new ridesharing mobile app SideCar: they are breaking the law.
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
An appellate judge has issued a restraining order preventing New York's pilot yellow cab e-hail program from going forward.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
(Isabel Angell -- San Francisco, KALW) The e-hail concept might have just cleared legal hurdles in New York and D.C., but in San Francisco, it’s faced heated opposition from taxi drivers who say they’re being cheated out of fares to city officials worried about regulations and safety.
Meanwhile, hailing a taxi in San Francisco can be nearly impossible if you’re not downtown. Calling ahead isn’t a guarantee either – often, the cab is late and sometimes it never comes. Of course, there’s an app for that, several actually. The most prominent one, Uber uses GPS to match town cars and taxi cabs with people who need rides. The app figures out where you are, shows the cars near you, and sends the first free one over. You pay with a credit card on file, and the charge includes a tip.
Since 2010, the company has launched its service in 23 cities around the world. It contracts with car companies and individual drivers, and gives them free iPhones to run its software. Because Uber doesn’t go through traditional licensing channels, it’s running into trouble.
An Uber dilemma
I stood on the corner of 48th and Cabrillo, and with no cab in sight I opened the Uber app on my phone. It was eight minutes from the time I pulled out my phone to the time my Uber car showed up. Half an hour later, I arrived at the 16th and Mission Bart station in style – $50 worth of style, actually. I got the email with the credit card charge, a few minutes later.
Now, I did take a town car, instead of the cheaper yellow cab option. It was the closest car when I requested my ride. And we did hit some rush hour traffic. Still, that’s a pretty big chunk of change for a drive through the city, but maybe the convenience is worth it. Uber’s tens of thousands of San Francisco customers seem to think so. I decided to repeat my ride – same time, same corner – but this time, just calling a regular cab.
And instead of seeing a car rushing to pick me up, I got stuck on hold.
Two years ago, Ilya Abyzov found himself in a very similar situation to mine. He had just moved to San Francisco from New York. It was late.
“And I found myself sort of stumbling out of a karaoke place at 2 am in Japantown and wanting to go home to the Mission, and my prospects were either to walk for half an hour or to seek alternatives, because there were no taxi cabs around,” Abyxov remembers.
Uber got him home that night.
“I thought it was amazing,” he says.
So amazing that he applied for a job with the company, and now is the general manager of Uber’s San Francisco operations. Clearly, Abyzov is a fan, but he says Uber fills a real need in the city.
“There’s a lot of excess demand for transportation that cabs can’t fulfill,” says Abyzov.
In most cities, the taxi industry is heavily regulated – it’s considered part of the transportation network. San Francisco is no exception. Part of the reason Uber is so efficient is that it sets up shop first, and asks official permission later, essentially skirting a lot of those regulations. The company has been expanding rapidly, though, and it recently hit legal walls in several cities. Here in SF, two local taxi drivers are suing Uber. Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission slapped Uber with a $20,000 fine, calling its rule-bending “a matter of public safety.”
City officials are concerned about safety as well. Christiane Hayashi is in charge of the taxi division at San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA).
“We make sure that a San Francisco taxi driver has shown us a ten-year driving history, as well as a criminal background check to make sure that there is no crime in their background that would [make] them dangerous when they are alone in a vehicle with somebody,” explains Hayashi.
Uber says it’s just a middleman: a tech company that helps people find cars, but not a car service itself. Still, Ilya Abyzov says the startup does take safety seriously – and that it verifies whether all its drivers are licensed and have insurance.
“We only work with people who satisfy those conditions, we gather and track all those documents, and we verify their compliance,” says Abyzov. “So I think the biggest misconception about Uber is that we’re going rogue, but really we’re working with entirely regulated entities.”
MTA’s Hayashi says she doesn’t buy it.
While it’s not yet clear how the legal cases will shake out, the idea of Uber – or something like it – seems to have taken hold.
San Francisco already has an app that helps people find available parking, using data provided by the city. MTA’s Christiane Hayashi says it’s a model San Francisco is embracing: “I think that’s the next step in making this technology really effective, to get all the city’s taxis in one sort of data stream that then private application developers can use to make taxi service more reliable.”
In other words, to make all the city’s cab information available to companies like Uber, but to keep control over what that information is, and how it’s used.
Steve Webb is a taxi driver in San Francisco. He’s been driving his cab for 25 years. It’s how he put his daughter through college. He shares some of the city’s worries about Uber’s safety, but he says his biggest problem with Uber is something he thinks will bring them down: the price.
“I’ve had numerous people tell me they were standing on a corner, they were very very cold, there was four of them, and Uber charged them sixty dollars for a $12 cab ride.”
That sounded familiar. I asked Webb what he thought of my $50 ride from Ocean Beach to the Mission. He guessed that would have been a $14 meter.
I did my own calculations based on the cab fares listed on the MTA website. Taking traffic into account, it looks like that cab ride would have cost me more like $20 or $25. Unfortunately, I never got to test either calculation with a real ride, because the cab I called from Outer Richmond never showed up. Instead of forking over another $50 for an Uber car, this time, I took the bus.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
D.C. could eventually have one cab color to rule them all. Or stripes.
Mayor Vincent Gray unveiled four new color schemes on Monday, one of which will be chosen next year as the new paint job for the district’s 6,500 taxicabs, a process that will take years to fully implement. The multicolored striped patterns are one piece of a larger modernization effort that is coming together slowly -- too slowly for D.C.’s top taxi regulator.
“I’m a very impatient person and I would like to speed it up,” said Ron Linton, the head of the Taxicab Commission.
Although district lawmakers passed a taxicab modernization bill this year, the most important changes have yet to come to fruition: GPS smart meters, credit card payment machines and touch screen monitors for customers in the back seat.
The new paint jobs will be introduced when taxi drivers replace their aging vehicles; by 2018 no cab on Washington’s streets will be older than 7 years, as per a new regulation, Linton said.
“The people who ride in the cabs were pushing and pushing for a modernization program,” said Linton, referring to a survey undertaken by the office of D.C. Council member Mary Cheh that found widespread dissatisfaction with the current conditions of taxicabs. That survey also found the public’s preferred color to be yellow (38%). Red was second (15%).
Linton’s office will choose the winning color scheme next year, taking into consideration public opinion. The public may vote for their favorite inside Verizon Center through January 7 where two sample future taxicabs are on display, or choose designs online.
(UPDATE, 12/11/12 1:30pm: Two D.C. city council members -- one of whom said he was "appalled" by the color choices - say they will consider legislation to end the public vote so a new color scheme can be chosen.)
Last month a panel of administrative law judges killed the district’s plan to install credit card machines in cabs because of problems with the contract awarded to VeriFone, which beat out seven other tech firms. Linton says the matter is still being resolved by the District Office of Contracting and Procurement.
“We selected Verifone on the basis of what was, in my judgment, an honest evaluation and a cost analysis,” he said.
At a news conference to unveil the proposed color schemes and encourage the public to vote on their favorite, Mayor Gray said changes to the district’s taxis are necessary not only to improve the hospitality industry but for the cabbies, too.
“The changes have to come,” Gray said. “This industry has got to change to be competitive. I actually think the cab drivers will make more money as a result of this.”
Gray said touch screen monitors that offer riders the option of tipping 15, 20, or 25 percent will induce larger tips.
“As opposed to what you have now where people in a cash business sometimes give nothing or give a meager sum, I think the cab drivers will ultimately do better as a result of the changes we’re proposing.”
When those changes ultimately arrive is unclear, although Gray and Linton said it will take years to fully implement the new color scheme. Roughly one-third of taxicabs have installed credit card machines on their own, Linton said.
As for D.C.’s cabbies, some have been reluctant to accept changes that are commonplace in other cities. A common complaint is credit card processing fees will bite into a day’s pay. Others say GPS smart meters are an invasion of privacy. As for the proposed color patterns, one cabbie waiting for customers outside Union Station on Monday was not impressed.
“It looks ugly. It’s no good for the city color,” said B.K. Anthony, who drives a light blue SUV. “It looks junky.”
For the record, Mayor Gray called the colors “funky.”
: The multi-colored patterns of yellow and green OR red and white are – in the words of some D.C. councilmembers – appalling! And now two lawmakers say they will consider legislation to end the public vote so a new color scheme can be chosen. Councilmembers prefer a solid color like yellow or red to the striped patterns unveiled by the D.C. Taxicab Commission yesterday, which would have the final say on a color regardless of what the public picks. A survey conducted by Councilmember Mary Cheh on the state of the district’s cab industry found that 38 percent of respondents want all-yellow cabs, 15 percent want red.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
The question of "is that taxi free or not?" could soon be easier to answer in New York. On Thursday, the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to do away with the off-duty lights. Here's a visual:
Whereas once there were two categories of lights, with four combinations:
The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to just have this -- the medallion number:
David Yassky, the TLC commissioner, said off-duty taxi lights "are a relic of bygone days" and that the rules change will make the system easier to understand.
"The only purpose it serves today is to confuse the passenger," he said, adding that the TLC hears complaints "all time" about rooftop lights. "Taxi roof lights should be simple. If it's on, it means you can flag the cab down. If it's off, it's unavailable."
Yassky said people hailing cabs don't care about the particulars of the lighting system. "The passenger only cares if the cab is available or not."
He said he hopes the new system will do away with another perennial vexation -- the way some cabbies use the off-duty light to cherry-pick customers. "It's a source of frustration (for passengers)," he said. "Sometimes they see drivers with the off-duty sign on go from person to person asking 'where are you going' and we don't want that to happen."
That's currently possible because the switch controlling the lights is manual. But when the off-duty lights fade away, so will the driver's control over the roof light.
According to the minutes of the May 2012 public hearing on the rules change, the single light roof light would eliminate the manual switch that controls the off-duty light. Instead, it would be controlled automatically and synched with the meter. So when the meter is engaged, the medallion number light will automatically turn off, and when the trip is over, the light will turn back on.
The new rule technically takes effect 30 days after being posted in the city record. But there could still be off duty lights on top of cabs until April, which is the end of the first quarter inspection period.
Monday, October 22, 2012
(Alec Hamilton -- New York, NY, WNYC) One month after the city launched a program to let disabled passengers use cellphones to hail a taxi, some riders say there aren't enough available cabs.
The Accessible Dispatch program allows riders to use phone, text or app to summon one of the city's wheelchair-accessible taxis. There are over 13,000 yellow cabs in New York City, but only 233 of them have ramps.
Anne Davis is on the board of the Center for Independence of the Disabled. She said when demand is low the service is pretty good, but as the day progresses delays tend to grow. "Sometimes you can get a taxi within minutes," she said, "(but) one of my friends waited two and a half hours in the rain. The major problem with the system is that there aren't enough taxis."
According to the program's website, "if the closest available taxi does not accept the job within 120 seconds, the job request automatically jumps to the next closest available cab — and so on, until the job is accepted by a driver."
NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission chairman David Yassky said an effort to put another 2,000 accessible cabs on the streets is currently held up in court as part of the five-borough taxi plan. But he said service has improved.
"We're getting somebody a wheelchair accessible taxi in average of about 20-25 minutes," said Yassky. "We've never done that before. That's really good."
The system is operated by Connecticut-based Metro Taxi and uses GPS to locate and dispatch the nearest accessible cab. Rides must originate in Manhattan.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
In a bitter blog post, the head of a taxi-hail smart phone app said his company was pulling the app out of New York City yellow cabs -- one month after launching.
Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber, said bureaucracy had prevented his app from gaining a foothold in the city's taxi fleet.
"We did the best we could to get more yellows on the road but New York’s TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission) put up obstacles and roadblocks in order to squash the effort around e-hail," Kalanick writes.
Uber allows ride-seeking passengers to hail available cabbies with their smartphones. But the app got a chilly reception when it entered the New York market in September. Only 160 cabbies participated in the UberTAXI pilot -- a fraction of the city's 13,000 yellow cab fleet.
The TLC said it was restricting the use of electronic hail apps due to "current contractual agreements between the TLC and payment processors." A passenger using the smartphone app pays its fare to Uber. But the TLC has existing -- and exclusive -- contracts with two companies (Verifone and CMC) for payment service. The agency says until those contracts expire next year, it can't allow any other company to process fares.
And another obstacle: the TLC also reminded cabbies last month that New York law forbids the use of electronic devices while driving.
While some cities (most notably Boston and San Francisco) are Uber-friendly, the app has met with resistance in other places. The company has been battling the Washington D.C. city council over regulations, and it's being sued in Chicago over its practice of automatically charging a 20 percent gratuity.
"We’ll bite our tongues and keep our frustration here to ourselves," Kalanick writes, not entirely succeeding. "In the meantime you can try UberTAXI in more innovation-friendly cities."
But the taxi app could one day return to New York. TLC commissioner David Yassky said the agency "is moving toward rule changes that will open the market to app developers and other innovators. Those changes cannot legally take place until our existing exclusive contracts expire in February. We are committed to making it as easy as possible to get a safe, legal ride in a New York City taxi, and are excited to see how emerging technology can improve that process."
That rule change could be introduced at a TLC meeting next month.
Uber's car service hail apps -- UberX and Uber Black -- continue to operate in New York.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
One of the biggest gripes about D.C.'s taxicabs is that so few of them accept credit cards -- but that could be about to change.
The D.C. Council passed regulations last spring requiring all cabs to have credit card machines, but since then the changeover has been mired in red tape: the city is still trying to settle a dispute among contractors who bid on the $35 million contract to install new credit card readers in the city's cabs.
Meanwhile, a new app launching in D.C. allows customers to order a ride on a smartphone — much like the smartphone-based Uber service, which has caused some consternation among the city's cab drivers. myTaxi's GPS will locate the nearest taxi and send the driver a notification on his smartphone, and the driver has five seconds to accept. Payment is made at the end of the trip using the passenger's previously approved credit card.
"We support Visa and Mastercard, or if you are with PayPal you can also store your PayPal account," says Lina Wuller, spokesperson for the Germany-based company. She notes that the GPS feature of that app means that a person doesn't need to have an exact address to order a taxi — which is the case with Uber.
Passengers can begin downloading the app today, but it's still unclear how many taxis are actually participating. Wuller declines to disclose how many taxi drivers have signed up, but she says one of them is taxi driver Masood Medgalchi.
Medgalchi is also active in the D.C. Professional Taxicab Drivers Association, which opposes the Taxicab Commission's proposed reforms, including the plan to install the credit card machines.
"We were trying to be proactive about what the government of the District wanted us to do without having the government impose on us," he says.
Medgalchi's group calls the credit card system the district is attempting to push into taxis "antiquated." It's also on hold until the District clears up a dispute over what company should install the card readers.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
UPDATED with Chicago dooring figures below.
New York is dreaming of a world where taxis and cyclists can be friends.
And so will the taxis of today, according to Taxi and Limousine Commission Chairman David Yassky.
"We believe the stickers and video will really resonate with riders and inspire them to pause for that critical second before they open the door and exit the taxi,” said Yassky. “It’s that moment of pause that could make all the difference in the world to both a bicyclist and the taxi passenger alike.”
The message not to fling cab doors open without first checking for bicyclists will be hammered home in a video message that will play on all 13,000 Taxi TVs (assuming passengers don't turn them off first). "Take out a friend," reads the message on the video. "Take out a date. But don't take out a cyclist."
Getting doored is rightfully high on the list of fears for any urban cyclist. When a car door opens in a cyclist's immediate path it can not only injure him/her, it can fling the biker into the path of oncoming traffic. It can be common and even deadly, though few studies track dooring.
Illinois began what we believe to be the first statewide effort to track dooring last April. We've asked the Illinois DOT for the figures from that effort and will report back as soon as we get them.
UPDATE: Steve Vance of Grid Chicago got in touch with the data. He used his access to the Illinois DOT online Data Mart and found there were 344 reported doorings in Chicago last year, responsible for one in five bike crashes. It should be said that's a big spike over 2010.
A 2010 survey in NYC counted bike-related infractions at 11 locations found that dooring (including near-hits) is a pervasive phenomenon with 77 infractions over the two days of measurement, 19 of them on one street alone.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin enacted an anti-dooring law in 2009 that switched culpability from cyclists to motorists for dooring accidents, and added a $40 fine for striking a cyclist with a car door.
Taxis, with their frequent stops and passengers exiting from both sides, are at high risk for causing dooring incidents.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Motorists may find their cars at a standstill as the UN General Assembly kicks off. Bottlenecks and detours are daily headaches for drivers and cabbies plying Manhattan's roadways. WNYC’s New Tech City looks at how technology is being used to help people travel around the city more efficiently.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
The city’s plan to appeal a ruling blocking its five-borough taxi plan may be the most direct route to extending taxi service to the outer boroughs – and keeping the city’s budget balanced.
Thursday, August 09, 2012
If you're traveling by taxi this summer, chances are your driver is hungrier than usual. Nearly half of licensed drivers in the city are Muslim—and they’re not eating because they’re observing Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and reflection. That means thousands of cabbies are working 12-hour shifts without food, water or caffeine.
Muslims break their daily fast at sundown. One recent evening, the West 29th Street curbside in Manhattan held so many taxis that the street glowed yellow. This commercial district in Manhattan has free evening parking, a boon for drivers.
Around 8 p.m., as the day's light faded, cabbies rushed into a mosque called Masjid Ar-Rhahman. A mountain of their shoes rose in the vestibule. Soon their sung prayers emanated from a loudspeaker at the top of the mosque. Outside, vendors selling prayer books and sweet treats waited patiently for the cabbies to emerge from inside.
Driver Lansana Keita was one of the first ones out. He smiled as he ate his first food of the day, a sweet rice concoction that resembled rice pudding. "You need something soft after fasting all day, to help your metabolism to digest,” he said.
Keita said his biggest obstacle during Ramadan is keeping up his stamina during a shift that typically features mind-numbing traffic, the threat of parking tickets and the never-ending drone of the TV in his backseat. He said driving on an empty stomach while dealing with the daily guff from passengers becomes a spiritual exercise.
"When someone cusses on you, you have to let it go," he said. "When someone wants to have drama with you, you have to let it go--those are the principles of Ramadan.”
Drivers who chose not to eat in the mosque huddled on the sidewalk in small groups to consume their long-awaited meals.
"I love this: it’s called pakora, samosa and chana,” said Mohammed Tipu Sultan, a driver of 10 years, about his Bangladeshi meal. Sultan made the food disappear in a hurry, like anyone would after fasting for 16 hours.
Driver Yehya Abdeen was on his way to get his first caffeine fix at a local cafe before resuming his night shift. He said a purpose of Ramadan is to teach patience—a trait city cabbies aren't always known for.
"I try to be nice all the time, but we try to be more nice during Ramadan," he said, before joking, "But it’s hard when you don't take your coffee, you know?"
During Ramadan, Muslims are required to pray more than the usual five times a day. So you may see drivers stopping to kneel in the direction of Mecca on squares of cardboard or small rugs in the back of bodegas and restaurants.
Or at JFK airport. At the airport's taxi lot, hundreds of drivers were lined up awaiting a fare to Manhattan. About two dozen drivers made use of a makeshift prayer area, bowing and kneeling next to a pair of public restrooms.
Tely Diallo, a tall driver in a gingham shirt, was about to jump into his cab again. He paused to complain that it’s hard to make enough money when you're pulling over to pray an extra two hours a day.
"You can't really do what you've got to do," he said. "You can't pray on time. I was supposed to be praying a long time ago but I couldn’t because you're always in a rush, you want to get the lease money."
Cabbie Mohammed Waheed said it helps that so many other drivers are fasting with him during the holy month. "The fifteen of my friends who are cab drivers—they all fast," he said.
Muslims, including many New York taxi drivers, will be observing Ramadan this year until the weekend of August 18, when the fasting ends and the completion of a month of self-control is celebrated.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
The price of taking a cab will be going up in the fall.
New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission voted Thursday to approve a fare hike that would increase the cost of a ride by 17 percent.
The TLC estimates that the average fare of $10.44 would rise to $12.21 after the increase is expected to go into effect in September. The plan increases the mileage and waiting charges, but not the base fare of $2.50.
The flat fee between Manhattan and Kennedy Airport would jump from $45 to $52 and the surcharge to/or from Newark Liberty International Airport would also rise from $15 to $17.50.
Commissioner David Yassky said even though New Yorkers will be paying more, they also realize it’s the right time. “Most passengers that I talked to understand that after six years it’s only reasonable to increase the taxi fare,” Yassky commented.
Six commissioners, including Yassky, voted to approve the hike, two voted no, and one abstained.
Cabbies attending the meeting cheered as they learned the measure they fought hard for was passed.
They were also were pleased by several other aspects of the proposal, including replacing the 5 percent-per-swipe credit card fees with a flat $10.00 fee per shift charge and establishing a driver heath fund.
There had been much angling behind the scenes by large taxi fleet owners who said they also deserved an increase in leasing rates because their costs were also rising. Borough Commissioners from Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn appeared to agree with them when they spoke and voted against the plan. Staten Island Commissioner Elias Arout described giving drivers a raise and not the garages “lopsided.”
Michael Woloz, a spokesman with the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, no stranger to litigating with the city, said they’re reviewing their options. “Time and time again when the TLC has passed unlawful rules we have fought them and the courts have affirmed our position,” Woloz said.
But Bhairavi Desai, head of the drivers group Taxi Workers Alliance, said not having to share the increase with rich medallion owners was a triumph. “We just defeated the 1 percent. We don’t have their money, their lobbyists, or their P.R. people,” a tearful Desai said. ”Today is evidence that working people can still win in this society.”
The commission said going forward, it would consider lease and fare increases every odd numbered year so that neither side of the industry had to wait so long to for an increase again.
Fares last went up in 2006 when waiting time charges increased. The last time overall cab fees rose was 8 years ago, when a 26 percent increase passed.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The increase, if approved later this week, would increase charge per mile but the $2.50 base rate would stay the same. The flat fare to and from JFK Airport would also jump from $45 to $52.
Speaking to a room mostly of fare-hike backers during a hearing Monday, TLC Commissioner David Yassky said he supports the measure, which would be the first time in six years that fares have increased.
"The price of a loaf of bread has gone up. A gallon of milk has gone up. Certainly, the price of a gallon of gasoline has gone way up, and I think that taxi passengers understand they have to pay for some of that,” Yassky said.
But approval of the plan isn’t a done deal. Just two of the commission’s nine TLC commissioners appeared at the hearing, and medallion owners have been angling behind the scenes.
At least one borough Commissioner, Frank Carone of Brooklyn, has said he’d vote against the proposal as it stands now because the increase doesn't meet the guidelines for rules that govern fare increases.
But the head of the Taxi Worker Alliance, Bhairavi Desai, said the wait has been too long.
“The idea that hard-working people are earning 25 percent less today than what they earned in 2006 is absolutely unacceptable,” Desai said. “After 12 long hours behind a wheel, collectively serving over a half a million people, there’s no question taxi drivers deserve to make a livable income.”
Fleet owners complained the fare proposal leaves them out. The TLC isn't considering increasing the amount garages can charge drivers for renting the taxi and medallion—otherwise known as lease caps.
Michael Woloz, spokesman for the fleet group the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, urged the commission to consider their rising costs too. He said the price of maintaining a garage is expensive.
“(To) have tow truck operators, gas stations and mechanics that work 24 hours a day to make sure New Yorkers’ taxi service is that best in the world—that costs money” Woloz said.
He said a 19 percent increase to both fares and lease caps would be more equitable.
But, according to TLC figures, fleets can make about $48,650 per medallion, meaning a 200-cab fleet could make more than $9 million a year, which the TLC doesn’t consider a hardship.
The TLC is scheduled to vote on the plan this Thursday.
Monday, July 09, 2012
(New York, NY -- WNYC) By the end of the summer, the cost of a taxi trip may be more expensive.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission is poised to vote this week on the first taxi fare hike in six years. The proposed increase would boost fares by 17 percent.
Cab driver Badr Battaoui, 29, said the daily cost of leasing the taxi and medallion, rising gas prices and 5 percent drivers are charged per credit card transaction add up.
“The bills are expensive,” he said during a short break from his 10-hour shift at the corner of Second Avenue and 1st Street. “I'm not going to tell you that I'm poor, but I don't save up that much, you know? I have student loans. My wife has student loans. We have kids."
Cab drivers are also hoping that the TLC will end high credit card fees and institute a driver health fund, which the city is considering for the first time.
Veteran cabbie Brij Jihingen, who has chronic illnesses such as diabetes, said he has been waiting 25 years for a health fund that would set aside 6 cents per ride.
"I have sugar, blood cholesterol and blood pressure-- you name it I have it,” said Jihingen, who, like many of his fellow drivers, does not have health insurance.
A health fund, he said, would show the city values its taxi drivers.
"Because we are working for the city as well… you can see a normal person's health and a taxi driver’s health -- you can recognize a taxi driver from a distance...here's a cab driver coming.”
Taxi passengers have mixed feelings about the proposed increase.
John Salvo, who runs a Soho art gallery and lives in New Jersey, said comparatively taxis are cheaper in New York City than many other cities like San Francisco and Las Vegas.
"They actually do a pretty good job and it’s a pretty fair bargain so perhaps rates should go up a bit,” he said.
Gayle Brown, who lives in Manhattan, said she rides her bike most places and takes cabs only when she’s wearing heels or heading to or from the airport. But she feels for the drivers.
“Well, everybody is pinching and food is going up, everything is going up”, she said. “I don't blame people for trying. Cab drivers aren't rich. You can see that.”
Of course, not all customers are on board.
Sherri Lynn Graham from the Bronx doesn’t think drivers don't deserve it.
“I think it’s crazy because they're not polite people sometimes, and they don't stop for black people sometimes,” she said. “You know, you want an increase then you should give us the service that we need.”
Also being considered is the elimination of the per-swipe fee of 5 percent cabbies must pay on credit cards, and instituting a flat $9-per-shift charge instead. Fleet owners vehemently oppose the proposal.
Michael Woloz, spokesman for the fleet organization the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade said “the $9-a-shift increase is not an increase at all—also, it’s far less than the 5 percent.”
Woloz said he thought the proposal was a punishment to medallion owners who are currently pursuing a lawsuit against the city to block a plan that would allow livery cars to accept street hails.
While drivers are hoping for a fare hike with no increase in the lease rates, many longtime passengers, like Gina Cecala, 80, of Manhattan are ambivalent about paying more for a ride.
"Dollar more, dollar less — don't bother me, beats walking,” said Cecala, who takes cabs several times a week. “They want it, they get it. That's it.”
The TLC is holding a public hearing on the fare proposal Monday and is expected to vote on the measure this Thursday.
Monday, June 11, 2012
(New York, NY -- WNYC) A taxi app competition sponsored by New York City is heating up. The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is accepting proposals for an app that will help passengers pay for their taxi trips with their smartphones.
"You could pre-load your credit card and pre-set the tip amount that you use and that way when you get in a taxi you click that app and you don't have to worry about swiping that credit card at the end," said TLC Commissioner David Yassky.
In addition to the convenience of not having to dig for a credit card before getting out of a cab and having a record of the receipt, at least two of the companies in the running also promise their technology will assist customers in locating a taxi.
One of the competitors, Jay Bregman, who is CEO of the company Hailo, said, “We want to help solve the inefficiencies in the taxi market.” The company already offers a popular taxi app in London. “Why go into the street when you can hail the cab from inside the house or the bar?” he added.
Radios and dispatchers are barred from use in yellow cabs but companies like Hailo said that there isn’t any need for a dispatcher with their app — it’s more like putting your technology in the air, instead of waving your arm in the air to hail a cab.
But some in the industry are against using gadgets to find cabs.
The Livery Roundtable, a group that represents over 300 livery bases in the city, said in a statement: “Digital hailing is just another sleight of hand by the TLC to masquerade its desire to de-reregulate ground transportation … Besides forcing the driver to text and drive — prearranged service is legally the exclusive right of the for-hire service sector.”
But TLC Commissioner Yassky said digital hailing isn’t necessarily their goal — it’s only a function they’re considering.
"App developers are welcome to give us other functions on top of payment … we'll see what comes in," said Yassky.
Another company keen on getting into the city’s taxi market is GetTaxi.
The company’s CEO, Jing Wang Herman, said they’d like to provide drivers with a dashboard-mounted box that will help them connect with customers. In addition to other functions, their app will help disabled customers find a wheelchair-accessible taxi.
Yassky said the number of winners in the app contest depends on the quality of the submissions.
The last day to submit entries is Thursday. Winners are expected to be announced this fall.
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
(New York, NY - WNYC) New York isn’t planning to appeal a temporary injunction against the city's five borough taxi plan — even though Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the decision “worrisome.”
Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engron’s ruling Friday against the plan has put the sale of 18,000 outer borough livery permits, as well as the auction of 2,000 yellow medallions on hold. That sale was estimated to bring in about a billion dollars to the city's cash strapped budget.
Bloomberg told reporters on Tuesday that money is key.
"If we were to not get it, it would be very serious,” he said. Bloomberg believes the city is on the “right side of the law” and the courts will eventually rule in their favor.
The court's ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by yellow medallion owners and lenders. It alleges the city’s plan to allow livery taxi street hail service outside Manhattan violated the state's constitution because Bloomberg went to Albany for approval instead of the City Council.
Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade (one of the plaintiffs in the case) said, “we hope the city realizes that the law is unconstitutional and unsalvageable – and that we can work on a clean slate so the city can get real revenue.”
While the city said last week that the court was “mistaken” in its analysis and was exploring its appellate options, Corporation Counsel’s Michael Cardozo said on Tuesday that the city isn’t appealing the ruling because the judge's decision is only an interim one, expected to be in place for only a few weeks. “We believe that immediate resolution rather than appealing one interim ruling is in everyone’s interests,” he said.
The court will be receiving submissions from all parties in the case on June 19 in connection with motions for summary judgment.
The livery permit sale was to begin this month; the medallion auction was set for July.
Friday, June 01, 2012
A state Supreme Court judge has brought the city’s five-borough taxi plan to a screeching halt.