Janet Lee

Janet Lee
Photo:Janet Lee, injured by a taxi partition.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sage of the Taxi Industry


By Don McCurdy
Won’t happen here.
Senator Antonio Navarro Wolff, of the South American country Columbia, took advantage of the latest legislative break to learn more about the taxicab industry. He is reported to have done this by getting up at 3:55am and driving a taxicab all day.
The 67 year old senator said that the best way to learn about an industry’s needs is to actually do the job. Say what? I guess being the ruling class in Columbia is way different than being in the ruling class here in the United States. Our ruling class won’t even ride in a taxicab let alone drive one.
Imagine, if you possibly can, taxicab regulators throughout the land having to go out and drive a taxicab under the rules they propose. What a great reality show that would be. Let’s see the regulator who wrote the refusal to convey statute pick up a couple of thug dressed young men on a dimly lit street at 3 am. “Wet cleanup, aisle 3 please.”
I sometimes wonder if it’s just ignorance of the dangers, stupidity or political correctness? Well, okay, political correctness and stupidity are pretty much the same thing. Taxicab drivers, with the usual few exceptions, are looking for a reason to pick you up rather than not, so when you look dangerous you have made it to the not list. Since these decisions are life and death for the driver it leads one to wonder what the regulators’ priorities are.

Now, there’s a plan.
Reports from Chicago are that taxicab drivers are driving through the loop and not picking up passengers to protest UberX and other “ride share” services. Yeah, that’ll teach ‘em! Excuse me, what? What dope thought up this plan?
Let me see if I understand. I’m going to stiff the people that use my service because other people stopped using my service? That’s good stuff. The one thing I’ve always liked about the taxicab industry is that you never have to make up stories, they come bizarre ready. This one fits right in.
I wonder if the next clever step is to drop the phone number of UberX off to people who attempt to flag you down? That would make just as much sense. Let’s fight fire with gasoline and get this sucker burned down in a hurry.
Okay, how about this instead: dress professionally, keep your vehicle immaculate inside and out, drive like a professional, stay off the phone, converse with your passengers, open their door and in general act in a manner that projects you as a business professional instead of a whining malcontent.
Pouting and having a fit isn’t going to endear the public to your plight. Uber, UberX and various other “ride share” companies have brought something to the taxicab industry that it has been missing for decades, competition. Perhaps, you should step up or step out. Try to think about what makes you better and what will inspire riders to call you.

Level the field.
Des Moines, Iowa is reported to be altering their ground transportation ordinance to accommodate Uber and the taxicab companies under the same set of rules. While there are some bugs to be worked out, they appear to grasp the concept of everybody working under the same set of rules.
One of the reported sticking points is the usual cover all neighborhoods rules that politicians like to impose on unarmed cash machines, the taxi driver. They’re busy trying to figure out if they can make Uber take cash. Well, of all of the attractions Uber brings to the table, no cash on board is one of the most important.
You cannot read the taxi news in the country without reading of robberies, shootings, knifings and all other manner of chicanery against taxicab drivers. Getting the cash out of the car will improve the taxicab driver’s lot in several ways.
First, there will be no impetus to rob the driver, eliminating the vast majority of violent situations. With a credit or debit card required to order a vehicle there will be no fare jumpers eliminating another losing situation for the taxicab driver.
While there will be those who bemoan the poor people not being able to pay cash is some sort of discrimination, the murder of taxicab drivers across this land is not conceptual, it’s real. Violence against drivers continues to be the insurmountable problem which upfront payment could minimize.
If the city is concerned about cash customers they can always sell taxi cards that allow for the city to subsidize poor riders and keep track of who is riding with vulnerable taxicab drivers.
Compelling Uber to accept cash would be a major loss of an opportunity to make taxicab driving safer. Compelling drivers to accept cash and work dangerous areas has been getting them killed for decades. Let’s hope the wise leaders of Des Moines don’t squander this opportunity to improve a driver’s lot.

Johnny Cab on the way.
According to reports, Uber and Google are both on the trail of driverless vehicles. Google is reported to be a major investor in Uber and is also reported to have developed its own ride share app. Imagine what Google or Uber could do with a fleet of driverless cars hauling customers with no percentage to be
squandered on dead weight driving up fuel costs. Driverless cabs would certainly not be a jobs program.

Just my point.
Any casual reader of this column knows my thoughts on government over regulation of the taxicab industry. Uber has pointed that out somewhat by entering most markets claiming they are not what they appear to be.
All that aside, the example of reported “state registration” of taxicab meters in Patterson New Jersey is a clear example of regulation that may once have been necessary but now no longer is.
Like a lot of government programs, the state taximeter inspection has outlived its useful life but lives on because nobody cares to dispose of it. According to reports, all of the Patterson’s taxicabs have been inspected, including the meters, by the city but do not have “state registration.”
Testing and sealing a taxicab meter is a fairly simple operation and can be done at any company willing to do it. Since the state nor the city has any idea who is supposed to be doing the registering it would seem that the law is of little value. I wonder if they will figure out who levies the fines for non-compliance? That sounds doable.

Uptown taxi baron reportedly struggling.
A medallion owner in New York City’s yellow cab market is reportedly struggling due to Uber stealing his drivers. The “taxi kingpin” reportedly owns 900 medallions and is in dire straits because he’s having a problem leasing out his vehicles.
Now, I don’t know this guy, but it would seem to me that if you owned 900 medallions for any length of time you’d have a couple of bucks put away for potential problems. Even at the super low price of $800,000 each that’s still a sizable chunk of change in assets.
The bank is suing with the usual he said she said claims of payment dodging and hidden agendas. At the rate of decline in the value of NYC medallions the bank had best hurry if they’re going to get what funds are owed against the medallions. No doubt a boon for lawyers in the making.

If you have any comments regarding this or any of my articles please feel free to contact me at don@mcacres.com. —dmc

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