Taxi Cab Confessions

Diane McGrath-McKechnie would not be happy about the current state of her Taxi & Limousine Commission.  McGrath-McKechnie was the Giuliani era Chairman of the TLC, and despite some controversial tactics that have lead to still going lawsuits, she made sure the most controversial laws were not passed under her watch.

Matthew Daus took over when Bloomberg began his stay at the Gracie Mansion (or more accurately declined the invitation and stayed at his 45 million dollar town house on 79th St. off 5th Avenue, but as we know is in his 3rd term as Mayor of New York city).  The controversy spoken of above is all about technology.  The two points that lead to the day long taxi cab strike a few years ago were the usage of credit cards to pay for taxis as well as the GPS systems being installed.

Nobody was rejecting the utility of both of these new technological improvements.  No doubt, the ability to pay on credit has increased attendance in said taxi cabs, and the GPS (although hard to prove) makes trips more efficient.  Overall, there is more money to be made with these than without them, something that nobody involved should be upset about.

Problem is where the money is going though.  The first problem was the installation.  Somebody had to pay for the thousands of cars that needed to be remodeled to house the 17” televisions in the backseat that would contain the GPS, credit card payment system, as well as annoying weather updates and promos from hype machines such as LX.TV.  The conversation of how we’ve yet to meet the potential of the taxi cab network can come another day, but let it at least be said.

The main thing that got drivers angry was that they, the drivers, were the ones footing the bill, but they were not having their salaries increased. Basically the only incentive for them was the potential for slightly more income.  Slightly is the opportune word though, because even with the increased gross from credit cards, the companies take a 5% percentage of every receipt.  Tips get taxed and taken out of their salaries more than before, when they would obviously just pocket 100% of the cash they were given on top of the fare.  Overall, their salaries will still not really jump up at all until the foretold fare hikes coming in a few months, at which point that would have happened anyway, and it is years later.

Their problem with the GPS contains a slightly less legitimate argument, but either way, they have no reason to want it.  Apart from the costs of installing it, now their every move is tracked.  Now, unless they own their cab, they cannot use the car for any kind of personal use.  If the choose take a fare outside of their assigned coverage area—they will get in trouble.  Before, there would be little chance of getting caught, and nobody really cared.  Now, they need to remain on their route, even if they are assigned to do airport runs all night without taking any fares back in the city, something that could cut their gross in half on a shift such as that.

Apart from the 5% take, they also do not get any money for two weeks when somebody pays with a credit card.  At this time of the year, drivers complain to their passengers because they’re understandable overextended already and won’t actually see any of that money until the new year, when it will be much less useful.  The usage of credit cards in their cabs forces them to likely max out their own personal credit cards, just to avoid giving coal to their kids for the holidays.

Overall, the problem is lack of leverage.  Drivers of taxi cabs are not in short supply.  When all they can do is strike, scabs are brought in very quickly.  It takes too much organizing of too many unions to be effective.  They just have no leg to stand on to fight these new regulations, thus need to simply suck it up.  None of them are fair, nor does anyone really argue that they are.  The only thing someone like Daus would argue is that he doesn’t have the funding to do it another way, and the changes undoubtedly bring in more net money to the city, while also making taxis cabs a more enjoyable and efficient experience and form of travel.  It’s an unfortunate situation, but again unfortunately, no changes are seen on the horizon.


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