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Taken For a Ride
June 6, 2012 8:10 AM   Subscribe

"When New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission held a public hearing last week to consider whether to raise taxi fares by 20 percent, cabdrivers pled poverty and passengers argued that fares are too high. Paradoxically, both groups were right." - Slate: The taxi medallion system in New York and other cities raises fares, impoverishes drivers, and hurts passengers. So why can’t we get rid of it?
posted by beisny (76 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
You talkin' to me?
posted by Fizz at 8:12 AM on June 6, 2012


If you think NYC Taxis are bad, you have clearly never taken a taxi in DC.
posted by schmod at 8:16 AM on June 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


All that began to change in 1979. That year, New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission changed its rules to allow medallions to be leased out for 12-hour shifts, making cabdrivers “independent contractors” under federal labor laws. The move cost such drivers their benefits, but the real fallout was far more profound. Even for medallion owners who operated their own taxi fleets, the economic value of the right to pick up fares was now severed from the value of actually doing so.

Because promoting rents over worker's rights is great for the consumer!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:18 AM on June 6, 2012 [12 favorites]


The medallion system is such, such, such a racket but no one wants to fight to reform it because it's only hurts those lousy customers and drivers, who don't matter.
posted by The Whelk at 8:20 AM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


He’s the chief executive officer of Medallion Financial, a publicly traded company that owns hundreds of medallions and lends money for medallion purchases.

I recommend that everyone interested read the whole article, but the fact that you can put the words above together to make an actual sentence tells you all you need to know about the system.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:21 AM on June 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


Having too many taxis on the street also impoverishes drivers.

There may be better ways of limiting the NYC taxi fleet than the eponymous "medallion" but the medallion seems at least an honest and straightforward way of limiting the number of vehicles.

A test of knowledge of streets and addresses - such as is used in London - would be a better way in that you restrict the number of drivers (instead of vehicles) while simultaneously raising the competence of drivers, but my guess is that it would be attacked by liberals as discriminatory against people who do not have English as a first language, etc. (which is pretty much every hack in NYC.)
posted by three blind mice at 8:26 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are almost no problems in this country that can't be attributed to intense lobbying for laws that provide huge benefits to a small, wealthy group at the expense of the common interest.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:27 AM on June 6, 2012 [37 favorites]


The government of NYC is no different from the rest of the US: bought and paid for.
posted by tyllwin at 8:28 AM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Having too many taxis on the street also impoverishes drivers.

Yes but there must be some kind of formula or general mechanism to decide on the appropriate number of taxis.
posted by beisny at 8:31 AM on June 6, 2012


If you think NYC Taxis are bad, you have clearly never taken a taxi in DC.

I have, and it cost about half as much as a similar ride would have in New York.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:31 AM on June 6, 2012


Capitalism exists to help those who don't need help.
posted by cloeburner at 8:32 AM on June 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Whelk: "The medallion system is such, such, such a racket but no one wants to fight to reform it because it's only hurts those lousy customers and drivers, who don't matter."

What's the viable alternative? Turn the market into a free-for-all?

As shitty as NYC's system is, unregulated taxis are an unmitigated mess almost 100% of the time. Consumers aren't empowered to choose between different taxis, and therefore it's up to the city to ensure that all cabs offer a consistent experience.

Also, just in terms of numbers, when you have a city as dense as Manhattan, the medallion system almost becomes a thing of necessity. Otherwise you get crowding and a race to the bottom in terms of cab quality.

Again. Look at DC's taxi system, and ask yourself: Is this really something that you want to copy?
posted by schmod at 8:35 AM on June 6, 2012


Wait, who says an unregulated system is the necessary alternative? You can have regulated, licensed, inspected cabs with fixed fares and even consistent branding but without any artificial limit on the number of taxis in the city.
posted by parudox at 8:41 AM on June 6, 2012 [18 favorites]


Having too many taxis on the street also impoverishes drivers.

... but that's the difference between "Competition forcing prices downward", which is how it should work, and "Rentier Capitalism", which is decidedly not how it should work.
posted by mhoye at 8:42 AM on June 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


The last thing I want is an unregulated taxi free market, schmod.
posted by The Whelk at 8:43 AM on June 6, 2012


All that began to change in 1979. That year, New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission changed its rules to allow medallions to be leased out for 12-hour shifts, making cabdrivers “independent contractors” under federal labor laws.

So, hmm, is this the fault of medallions? Or the fault of allowing someone to own a medallion and not operate a cab?

You want to fix the medallion price issue? Force medallion owners to directly operate cabs, which means they purchase them, maintain them, and *hire* drivers. Bing, suddenly, they're not licenses to print money, and the value drops.

I'm not saying that the medallion systems is a good one -- but let's look at how it was broken before we decide how to fix it. Then again, I'm guessing that fixing it will never happen, but then again, we aren't going to lose medallions either.
posted by eriko at 8:43 AM on June 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


What's the viable alternative? Turn the market into a free-for-all?

Do what we do in many other fields - establish a mandatory baseline of quality (License status, vehicle repair & cleanliness, etc), and support it with a regimen of inspection and taxation.
posted by mhoye at 8:45 AM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have, and it cost about half as much as a similar ride would have in New York.

Not anymore. Taking a cab to work used to cost me $14, now it costs me $20.
posted by downing street memo at 8:45 AM on June 6, 2012


If you think NYC Taxis are bad, you have clearly never taken a taxi in DC.

And, you know, I'm tired of this "it's either the existing system or no system" arguments.
posted by eriko at 8:45 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Competition forcing prices downward", which is how it should work

How is that any different from the driver's p.o.v? S/he's still not making a living wage if s/he works reasonable hours and s/he's still stuck without reasonable benefits.

And customers may well get cheap rides, but they also get unsafe vehicles, drivers who are forced to drive dangerously and to ignore fatigue-mitigation rules, and drivers who will routinely refuse to carry people on trips that look uneconomic.

Whatever the answer to NYC's taxi problems, deregulation isn't it.
posted by yoink at 8:48 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't live in a city with a large cab culture so forgive me if I'm missing anything here but it seems like from the City's perspective the ideal situation would be:

- Cabs meet some minimum level of quality
- Consumers can expect to pay a consistent rate no matter what cab they get
- There are not too few cabs on the streets

It seems like the ideal system would be to have licensing requirements for cabs but issue as many permits as are requested, and then set a fairly generous fare rate. That should make the number of cabs on the streets hover right around the "too many" mark, which would benefit consumers.
posted by ghharr at 8:50 AM on June 6, 2012


I'm tired of this "it's either the existing system or no system" arguments.


Well, what would you have us do? Work with the admittedly imperfect medallion system, or get mauled by a puma? Frankly, the medallion system sounds better to me. I mean, maybe if you want to bleed to death or feel the unbearable weight of a bloodthirsty feline upon your chest, the puma option might work, but honestly, I'm willing to deal with our current system in order to not spend my last moments screaming as a puma dismembers and consumes me in order to sustain its own malevolent life. It's kind of fucked up that so many liberals want the puma option imo, but welcome to Obama's America I guess.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:56 AM on June 6, 2012 [66 favorites]


What would be so difficult about:

1) Enforcing a perfunctory license scheme, essentially to get a list of operating taxis in the city. No caps, make it $5-$10 and a thirty-minute process.

2) For all licensed cabs and cab drivers, enforce basic (very basic) quality standards. For cab drivers, no more than X points in Y months (whatever makes sense); for cabs themselves, simply make sure they're in good working order, all safety systems work, and the meter is properly calibrated.

3) Establish "fare bands", rather than the standard fare list used in most cities. For instance, fare band 1 might be really cheap - $2 per mile, maybe - while fare band 5 might be $3 or $4. Cab drivers could dynamically update their prices according to their assessment of supply and demand; if you're the only cabbie out at 4am, for instance, you might charge fare band 5; at rush hour, it might be lower.

Prices settle in something that looks like equilibrium, no one's rent-seeking, cab drivers are getting fair prices for their labor. What's not to love?
posted by downing street memo at 8:56 AM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have, and it cost about half as much as a similar ride would have in New York.

DC: $3.00 flag drop, $2.16/mile

NYC:
$3.00 flag drop, $2.00/mile ($.40 1/5th mile.). Flag drop is $2.50 + $0.50 NY State fee.

So, really? Never mind the stacks of fees that DC charges -- or the fact that airport trips to BWI and IAD cover much more distance that trips to JFK or EWR. (I'm eliding DCA and LGA, though DCA is much closer to downtown DC than LGA is to lower Manhattan.)
posted by eriko at 8:58 AM on June 6, 2012


Well, what would you have us do? Work with the admittedly imperfect medallion system, or get mauled by a puma?

I'm convinced. I don't even want to know what the other option is if I don't vote for Greg Nog for president!
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:01 AM on June 6, 2012


Wait wait wait....can we ride the pumas instead of the taxis?
posted by The Whelk at 9:01 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait wait wait....can we ride the pumas instead of the taxis?

Then you get mauled by a wild taxicab.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:03 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


In fact, I imagine the day isn't too far off where we can have an open dispatch system - sitting in my living room, I can use computer/smartphone to say "$10 to H Street" and see who responds.
posted by downing street memo at 9:03 AM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you want to limit the sheer number of taxis, it's not difficult: abolish the medallions, and replace them with yearly permits: inspection required, and fee payable to the city. Set the fee high enough to enforce whatever maximum level of supply you want.
posted by tyllwin at 9:04 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


We have the medallion system in Toronto -- it just leads to taxi serfdom. No one sjould have the right to rent out a license like that -- it's not capitalism, because all of the capital investment and risk is born by the driver. I would have no problem if medallion owners were taxi owners and paid drivers an hourly rate, but they don't. They are just rent-seekers, literally.
posted by jb at 9:05 AM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Never mind the stacks of fees that DC charges

They did get rid of some (most?) of those with the latest (big) fee increase, at least. No more extra-passenger fees, I know that much.
posted by inigo2 at 9:06 AM on June 6, 2012


This is all very interesting but is anyone dealing with that guy who keeps carjacking cabs to complete side quests?
posted by brain_drain at 9:10 AM on June 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


mauled by a wild taxi cab
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 AM on June 6, 2012


What in sam hell is a puma?
posted by Zack_Replica at 9:12 AM on June 6, 2012


Although fairly expensive for single-person journeys, London's system is pretty good.
posted by generichuman at 9:15 AM on June 6, 2012


In fact, I imagine the day isn't too far off where we can have an open dispatch system - sitting in my living room, I can use computer/smartphone to say "$10 to H Street" and see who responds.

Uber is what you're looking for.

What in sam hell is a puma?

Chupathingy, how 'bout that?
posted by mhoye at 9:17 AM on June 6, 2012


They did get rid of some (most?) of those with the latest (big) fee increase, at least. No more extra-passenger fees, I know that much.

Except the cabbies still charge them.
posted by downing street memo at 9:19 AM on June 6, 2012


Can any DC people comment on the effect of getting rid of zones? I know you used to have them, now they have metered fares. Was this a fare increase slipped under the radar -- i. e. did the average fare go up -- or was it revenue-neutral?
posted by madcaptenor at 9:19 AM on June 6, 2012


It's amazing how some people will cling to their regulatory schemes out of what sounds like an abhorrence for market based solutions.

My suggestion from the last time this came up.


The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) should follow the model of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and go public.

The TLC and pre-IPO NYSE appear to have very similar characteristics. Like the TLC, the NYSE had a limited number of seats (medallions), little incentive to increase the number of seats, since the seat owners did not want to lose their investment, and their own rule making structure. The NYSE, which was losing market share to the other exchanges (NASDAQ), the upstairs market, and program trading, etc. recognized that the old system of selling seats was a hindrance to competing with the other stock trading systems and would eventually lead to its demise.

Instead of circling the wagons to protect their franchise, the NYSE incorporated as a for-profit and sold shares. The proceeds of the offering were used to pay back all of the seat holders at the market price for seats at the time, in NYSE shares. The old seat holders (now share-holders) now don’t mind having extra entrants, since each new NYSE dealer contributes incrementally to the NYSE, and ultimately, their own profits.

The TLC’s revenue will consist of fees for using the NY TLC logo and Yellow Cars. They will issue more logo and Yellow licenses and collect more than they ever thought they could from the occasional auction.

Of course, to keep it fair, other independent cab companies will have to be allowed to pick up passengers. A Nasdaq version of the taxi cab business, maybe with distinctive green colored cars, may even give Yellow cabs a run for their money. Maybe they could charge less, and use less expensive cars; or charge more and guarantee every driver is licensed or patrol the outer borough places Yellow cabs won’t go. In short, there is a model for ensuring existing medallion owners don’t lose their investment, and increasing the number of cabs on the streets. If the NYSE seat owners could be persuaded to give up their seats, so can the medallion owners.

posted by otto42 at 9:20 AM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can any DC people comment on the effect of getting rid of zones?

Great move for tourists, not so great move for locals (who could "game" the zone system)
posted by downing street memo at 9:23 AM on June 6, 2012


I live in the Bronx. Not so many cabs out here.

I don't think that there are too many cabs. I think that they're distributed unevenly.

And before anyone says anything about there not being a need, stand on a street corner on Broadway in my neighborhood for about ten minutes and count the number of honks you get from Lincoln Continentals. Also watch as they pick up people. Repeatedly. Let me know how many yellow cabs you see.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:27 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Almost ten years ago, I covered a taxi strike in a small village in Westchester County.

Back then, this is what was going on:

1. Drivers had to pay for special licensing
2. Drivers had to pay periodic fees to the village
3. Drivers also paid gas and maintenance on the cars they drove

BUT,

4. Drivers rarely owned the cars
5. So they had to "rent" the car by the week
6. Which could cost upwards of $700 a week, either to the taxi company or to the car owner

The village kept the fares low. I think the max fare was something like $4.00, and senior citizens (who were the most frequent customers) only paid $2.50.

Senior citizens also complained a lot, sometimes for good reasons. Drivers were unwilling to help them unload bags of groceries, or deal with folding their walkers, or wait for them while they picked up a prescription. And so on top of all the expenses of driving a car in Sleepy Village, they also had to:

7. Pay fines to the village every time someone complained to the taxi commission about a violation, which could range from overcharging a senior citizen to honking a horn outside a tardy passenger's house.

This meant that the drivers had to work ridiculous hours just to pay their expenses. The village hadn't raised taxi fares in twelve years. It turned out that drivers were renting apartments where they'd have as many as fourteen men sleeping on pallets on the floor, in shifts. They thought that by driving a taxi, they'd be able to make money and send it home to their families (most of the drivers were immigrants), but instead they found themselves in an indentured servant situation.

Ever since then, every time I take a taxi in NYC -- usually a livery car, because I live in Brooklyn -- if I have a nice chatty driver I will ask about the financial situation. And what I hear sounds terribly familiar: it's almost exactly like what was happening in that cozy little village an hour upstate. The livery cab drivers are often forced to work seven days a week, eighteen hours a day. If they work less, they risk owing the livery company or the car owner, meaning they won't earn a cent for food or rent for themselves.

The drivers who own their vehicles are somewhat better off, but even they are frustrated that they aren't allowed to pick passengers up on the street. (You can thank the medallion system for that situation. The yellow cab folks have been resisting all attempts to allow street pickups/taxi stands in the outer boroughs.)

Some of the drivers I've met dream (yes, dream!) of getting a medallion and driving a yellow cab. Because there is money to be made in yellow cabs, a thousand-fold more than driving a livery cab. The problem is that you've got to have a million bucks to even get a medallion. And what livery driver do you know who has a million bucks? You need either money or connections or both to get into the yellow cab business, and most livery drivers have none of the above.

Slate is right. The system is completely feudal.

Next time you're in a livery cab in Brooklyn, do your driver a favor and give him (or her!) a nice tip. Because chances are, he (or she) could really use the money.
posted by brina at 9:33 AM on June 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


I was coming in to say exactly what sciencegeek already said, only I was gonna say it about Brooklyn.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:36 AM on June 6, 2012


Took longer to turn in to a DC vs. NYC discussion than I expected...
posted by fredericsunday at 9:51 AM on June 6, 2012


The Manhattan vs Brooklyn discussion was efficiently established.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:53 AM on June 6, 2012


Can any DC people comment on the effect of getting rid of zones?

Fairly revenue neutral; occasionally you'd have a long trip that was only in 1 or 2 zones, but it was more likely that you'd cross over from NW to NE in front of Union Station, and doing that could easily give you 3 zones in 5+ minutes. Anecdotal, but I remember several people analyzed their fares around the time of the switchover and found that the new fare may be as much as $1-2 difference, but it seemed fairly equally distributed as to whether it was an increase or decrease.

I did like the "locals advantage" to the old zone system- I probably saved $40 knowing that my house was one block in the zone, so if they dropped me a block away I'd save a good chunk of money. having taken DC and NYC cabs recently, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to takeaway as the big difference between the two. I mainly noticed the lack of video screens and plexiglass.
posted by Challahtronix at 9:56 AM on June 6, 2012


Minneapolis actually got rid of its medallion system. Starting in 2006, the number of licenses began to increase and it was then completely eliminated in 2011. According to this article in the Star Tribune, the result has been a dramatic increase in the number of cabs, which has been good for consumers, but drivers are unhappy because there is more competition for fares.
posted by Area Man at 10:48 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]




Having too many taxis on the street also impoverishes drivers.

There may be better ways of limiting the NYC taxi fleet than the eponymous "medallion" but the medallion seems at least an honest and straightforward way of limiting the number of vehicles.


Why use such unfair and draconian methods to limit cab drivers? If it is a good idea why are not similar measures used to limit the number of coffee shops, hot dog vendors, gas stations, Gap stores, etc?

Let the market handle it. If too many taxis impoverishes drivers than some will seek other means of work. This method works fine for all other businesses. Why should taxis be treated differently.

Obviously make all drivers and cabs have to meet various minimum criteria, have to be licensed, regulated, etc. Various fees like any other business would be reasonable.

Don't understand why there is a need to limit drivers. Who decides what is the limit?

From a consumer point of view the more the merrier. This is something the market handles every single day all over the world.
posted by 2manyusernames at 11:16 AM on June 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why use such unfair and draconian methods to limit cab drivers? If it is a good idea why are not similar measures used to limit the number of coffee shops, hot dog vendors, gas stations, Gap stores, etc?

Oh, but there are such similar measures! Zoning codes and food vendor licenses often have the same nonsense. Rather than setting out the envelope in which a building can be built, most zones are very peculiar about what exactly you can do with the site. And if you want to get a zoning variance to open retail where the zoning doesn't allow it, be prepared for all those properties that are zoned for retail to fight against you.

That's not to say it's a good idea. It's all horrible micromanagement, which comes at the expense of good urban spaces and uses, and is in the benefit of entrenched interests.
posted by parudox at 11:40 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't understand why there is a need to limit drivers. Who decides what is the limit?

I think they have to have some limit because if they allowed even more vehicles on the streets of Manhattan, nobody would be able to move.
posted by Melismata at 11:45 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


^^ What I mean is the limit doesn't need to be set by the State. The limit will be set by the market just as it is done in a majority of places. If no one can move, no one would be earning money. This would cause some to close or move their business until an equilibrium would be found.
posted by 2manyusernames at 11:50 AM on June 6, 2012


Milwaukee has a similar problem with a medallion system. It's so bad, that one of the city's alderman owns most of the medallions. He requires all of his drivers to only buy gas through his gas station, which charges at least $.10 more than other nearby stations.
posted by drezdn at 12:02 PM on June 6, 2012


All that began to change in 1979.

Ah ha!
posted by mmrtnt at 12:12 PM on June 6, 2012


The key piece of economic wisdom I've picked up from Metafilter: Rent-seekers gonna seek rents.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:15 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Uber is what you're looking for.

Uber is amazing. I used it a couple of weeks ago. A bit more expensive than cabs, but I think worth it. It should replace the cab system, IMO.

Though, I talked to one of the drivers and he said the DC cab commission is trying to get it shut down.
posted by empath at 12:19 PM on June 6, 2012


"...no one is seriously proposing to overhaul the system that gives them so much power."

But if they were selling large cups of soda, then we could take action!
posted by mmrtnt at 12:20 PM on June 6, 2012


Uber is amazing. I used it a couple of weeks ago. A bit more expensive than cabs, but I think worth it.

It's "a bit more expensive" up until you use it on a busy night, and then it's a LOT more (5-6x) expensive. So be careful with that dynamic pricing.

Though, I talked to one of the drivers and he said the DC cab commission is trying to get it shut down.

DC's been trying hard (to the point of arresting one of the drivers and impounding the car), but my understanding is the (horribly corrupt?) Taxi Commission is starting to actually work with Uber towards a resolution at this point.
posted by inigo2 at 1:22 PM on June 6, 2012


Who would ever have imagined that a government monopoly on a non-essential private service would ever have a downside for employees and customers?

Shocked, shocked I tell you!
posted by IAmBroom at 1:29 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


three blind mice: Having too many taxis on the street also impoverishes drivers.

Citation? Because that would make taxi drivers unique amongst all service providers on earth.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:31 PM on June 6, 2012


I'm no economist, but I would think that NOT losing income as the number of competitors increases would make them unique among service providers.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:00 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


(That said I still would like to see all medallions melted down and recast as a whacking-stick I could use to hit the people who came up with the idea of taxi medallions. But as supply goes up, price goes down.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:01 PM on June 6, 2012


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "I'm no economist, but I would think that NOT losing income as the number of competitors increases would make them unique among service providers."

Losing income != being impoverished.

And since you're not an economist, let me help.

If there were not a limited number of medallions, independent taxicab drivers could compete with large taxicab companies. Instead of being paid only a portion of their cab fares, they would pocket the entire fare (less operating expenses, but in this case, management overhead would not be an operating expense). Some of those drivers would likely earn more than employees of Yellow Cab(tm) Incorporated.

Once again, having the government arbitrarily decide how many service providers many operate in a market is no guarantee that the employees in that market will be best looked-after.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:26 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "But as supply goes up, price goes down."

There's no guarantee that supply would even go up. A taxi medallion is a precious commodity that can't be sold away in times of low-business. It is conceivable that independent cab owners could end up busier per-cab, driving some of the less competitive companies out of business. Not necessarily likely, but it's possible.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:30 PM on June 6, 2012


The solution is for a fully government run and owned fleet of taxis, staffed by perons under compulsory membership in public unions. More bigger government is always the solution and is always perfect, never afflicted with corruption or the I don't give a damn I want a raise you can't fire me attitude.

The cab cup holders will hold only 16 oz. cups under penalty of jail.
posted by caclwmr4 at 2:41 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


caclwmr4, I have a crowbar here if you're having trouble wedging ideology into workable ideas.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:46 PM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why always this crude argument always between heavy regulation and no regulation? This is what Jon Stewart was railing against when he went on Crossfire a few years ago... overly dualistic thinking. We need to make the distinction between well-designed, "smart regulation" and regulation which doesn't accomplish its stated goals or which has unanticipated side affects.

It's one of the frustrating and tiresome things in today's political climate - if you support a proposed regulation, you are a socialist with no understanding of the free market; if you are against it, then you are soulless capitalist.
posted by beisny at 2:58 PM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Maybe they could force those useless fucking teachers to drive cabs.
posted by fleacircus at 3:00 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


crowbar here

Is it OSHA, FDA, EPA, USDA, DOE, DOE, NASA, CIA, FBI certified?
posted by caclwmr4 at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The idea of the medallion system is fine. The fact that it costs a million dollars to get a license to operate a taxi is the problem. A million goddamned dollars!
posted by gjc at 3:10 PM on June 6, 2012


It costs a million dollars to get a medallion because there are so few of the things. There are so few of the things because the people who own medallions have successfully lobbied the local government not to issue more. They can do that because the medallion system is crap.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:17 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


And before anyone says anything about there not being a need, stand on a street corner on Broadway in my neighborhood for about ten minutes and count the number of honks you get from Lincoln Continentals. Also watch as they pick up people. Repeatedly. Let me know how many yellow cabs you see.

Is this really a bad thing? -- Queens resident

I like being able to negotiate my fare, personally, and I'm not scared of black cabs in my neighborhood, all of which are operated by brand-names.

The ghettoized system of "outer-borough cabs" that is sometimes promoted never struck me as a serious fix. Meanwhile, there are WAY too many cabs in Manhattan. It takes a fraction of a second to hail a cab when on-island, and meanwhile some streets are choked with them (especially weekend nights).
posted by zvs at 4:35 PM on June 6, 2012


No one is limiting the number of car-service/livery drivers in NYC are they? And yet they aren't choking the city to death with the number of cars.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:59 PM on June 6, 2012


I know very little about the intricacies of the South Korean cab system (I know that some drivers own their own cars, and some work for a larger company) but hot damn this country is great for somebody who needs a cab. A 30-minute ride downtown for me is a little less than 10 dollars. There's no extra passenger fee so if I go with a friend or two you can just divide that amount down. They are uniformly clean and new-ish (I wouldn't be surprised if the government has some setup with Hyundai going on), and if you don't speak Korean there's a toll free number posted so you or the cabbie can call for a translator.

And an extensive and excellent bus and subway system as well.

That said, the cabbies sometimes drive like maniacs, especially at night. Red lights are optional here at times.

So American cities, please do whatever they do here for cabs. Just put in a restrictor plate and we'll all be good to go.
posted by bardic at 8:35 PM on June 6, 2012


"Maybe they could force those useless fucking teachers to drive cabs."

Nah, just do what the Brits do -- round up homeless and unemployed people, bus them to NYC, and let them drive all the cabs.

Capitalism can solve anything.
posted by bardic at 8:36 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having too many taxis on the street also impoverishes drivers.

Yeah, but what about a city like SF where everybody generally acknowledges that there aren't enough cabs? Here, the consumer -- hell, your average citizen -- is penalized in order to make cab-driving a more enticing profession. And I really gotta ask, why is that important? Why are their needs more important than mine? I mean, yes, let's all shed a tear for that poor cabbie who just wants to get by. But of all the professions out there, why have we singled out cabbies as an industry that deserves cartel protection? Why not do the same thing with software engineers? If you want to write code, you need to have a medallion, and we only give out X number of year. Think of the poor programmers that just want to make a living! What kind of asshole are you, anyway, wanting to steal the bread from their table?

The whole thing is just absurd. It's one of those situations where a free market actually WOULD improve the situation. But nobody cares about our vaunted free market economy where there's vested interests and rent-seeking cartels at stake.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:55 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


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