What we have here is a failure to communicate

By Don McCurdy

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission is looking for ways to help a brother out. They know the yellow cabs are hurting so they want to add a surcharge to the fare. The surcharge will help drivers buy health insurance.

I don't think I get it, raising the end user fare and taking the extra fee from the drivers to help them buy health insurance simply adds an expense to the process of the driver purchasing said insurance.

Who selects what insurance is purchased? The taxi riders already pay for the Metropolitan Transit Authority and wheelchair accessible vehicles. The city is also reported to be starting a $2.50 surcharge for any trip below 96th Street.

It would only be a government entity that would believe that raising the cost of a product is going to improve the life of those already suffering from a lack of business. The report did not say what the south of 96th Street surcharge is going to. One can only hope it goes to the driver.

A long, long time ago.

Several years ago, San Francisco decided to implement a medallion system. Watching New York City rake in a couple of mil every few years selling medallions was just more than politicians can stare at without wanting to wet their beak. Well, now the worm has turned.

Taxicab drivers who purchased medallions from the city are stuck with loans taken out to pay for the medallions. Even more, the taxicab medallion owners no longer have exclusive rights to on demand service due to the hometown heroes Uber and Lyft.

To sweeten the pie, a credit union holding a bag on medallion loans on the near worthless junk the city pitched to the drivers and the credit union, offered an alternative way to value medallions. What to do in response to a devalued medallion?

Well, reports are that they are considering two "levels" of medallions, the ones the city sold and the medallions owned before the city started selling them. The sold medallions would have access to the airport while the older medallions wouldn't. No doubt the attempts at solving the devalued medallion problem will only add to the problem, or so it seems.

Not one, but two!

A report out of Tokyo indicates that the first ever fare paying driverless taxicabs are on the street. The vehicles reported to have two front seat occupants currently, an emergency driver and a "tech assistant" to insure there are not setbacks in testing.

ZMP and Hinomaru taxis are reported to be planning to ferry athletes to and from the 2020 Olympics. Toyota is reported to be investing $500 million in Uber's autonomous efforts that will be incorporated in the Toyota Sienna. It appears the driverless taxi is one step closer to worldwide acceptance.

Poison the pie.

Chicago is grappling with the idea that their taxicab industry is about to collapse. They are reported to be discussing a New York City type moratorium on new ride share licenses. The Chicago industry was plagued with service issues prior to Uber's arrival and, while the citizens have gotten better service, the people purchasing the coveted taxicab medallion are being financially destroyed.

According to the report, the "almost half of the city's nearly 7,000 licensed cabs are in foreclosure or idled". The artificial cap on the number of taxicabs in the city no doubt contributed to the poor service anywhere outside the loop. There's little doubt that the addition of a cap on the shared ride would also lead to poor service in slower traffic areas.

Just like that, taxicabs congregating inside the loop realize that shared ride vehicles will be attracted to areas of higher ridership. The estimated 66,000 shared ride vehicles currently servicing the city are providing the locals with better service than the business traveler oriented taxicabs ever have.

I have often wondered how much the cap on taxicabs really helped the industry. My speculation is that it stifled growth with caps and other limitations. Uber and Lyft drivers in Chicago are complaining about the same low wages as New York City drivers so there may be some action on the part of the city to remedy this problem. We'll see if the Uber, Lyft cap happens and if it somehow saves the industry. I don't see how it will, but then I'm not a regulator.

Remedial customer service?

I recently read an article about Uber's customer service class that drivers are required to attend if they get deactivated for poor ratings. While I've congratulated Uber for having a driver rating, I have to question the absence of any sort of company independent contractor orientation class.

According to the article, the class was all men and all but one are immigrants. Since the class took place in New York City, I assume nobody knows the legal status of the immigrants. However, the reported countries being emigrated from points up some cultural and language issues that might cause a driver to get a poor rating from passengers.
According to the author, some of the drivers couldn't speak enough English to tell the class leader how long they'd been driving . The article also made me wonder if Uber wouldn't be better served if they set some expectations when drivers started rather than after they've been exposed to customers.

Drivers were reported to be from China, India and Yemen, which made me wonder exactly how many GPS units these drivers may have seen prior to arriving here and applying
at Uber?

Further the article talked about drivers getting a low rating for not knowing the streets, which reminds me of a "newest New Yorkers" comment with regards to being able to speak English and navigate the streets. Perhaps, remedial drivers can get additional points on their rating for driving an accessible vehicle since that's the only growth vehicle in New York City.

If you have any comments regarding this or any of my articles please feel free to contact me at: - dmc