NYT: $1 Cab Fuel Surcharge for Hands-Free Guarantee

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
nyt 1 cab fuel surcharge for hands free guarantee

I'm not sure I'd want The New York Times brokering a deal for me. In this case, the Gray Lady's Op Ed folk are suggesting that New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission acquiesce to cabbies' demands for a $1 per trip fuel surcharge. In exchange, the paper calls for a free ride IF a cabbie talks on his or her cell during a fare. It sounds sensible enough– until you consider the fact that there is already a law against cabbies on cell phones (even hands-free) whilst working. In other words, the NYT wants the government to bribe taxi drivers to comply with an existing regulation. Surely the time to do the carrot stick thing was before the law was enacted. "New York did raise taxi fares two years ago, which helped drivers’ incomes, at least until the price of staying on the road quickly climbed to more than $4 a gallon at area stations. According to drivers’ advocates, costs have risen as much as $1,000 a month for some drivers." If The Big Apple's "giving" taxi drivers an extra grand, they should look for some sort of new concession. Suggestions?

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  • Geeber Geeber on Jul 09, 2008
    psharjinian: Reliable to a fleet/owner and an end-user are not the same thing. Yes, they’re rugged, but they still suffer electrical, control, trim and minor (and sometimes major) mechanical issues to a greater degree than, say, a Camry or Accord. These things aren’t a big deal for fleets, but piss off end-users enormously. They also tend to driven under much worse conditions than a Camry or Accord, and for many more miles per year. psharjinian: As for safe: the Panther regularly gets trounced by it’s unibody competition in IIHS and NHTSA testing. That big, heavy frame holds up, but the body built atop it crumples like a tin can. That kind of construction makes sense for fleets (especially taxi and cop, where it’s so much cheaper to fix a frame than a unibody assembly, and you’re regularly hopping curbs and bumping other cars), but it’s not safer for the average buyer. I agree that the Panther cars hardly represent the cutting edge of technology in safety (or anything else). But that doesn't mean that the Panther cars are unsafe, which was the original contention. psharjinian: Every time I see one of these, I can’t help but think they’re the automotive equivalent of a shark: they do what they do well, but they’re an evolutionary dead end, and when you look at what rules the roost, you can see why. Very true, but, in all fairness, Ford isn't promoting these all that much (the Crown Victoria, for example, has been all-fleet for a few years now, and even the Town Car is mostly a fleet queen, too). And it certainly isn't placing its passenger-car hopes on these vehicles. Say what you will about the Fusion, Taurus and MKS, but these are legitimate attempts to appeal to today's family car buyers. It's not as though Ford is pitching the Grand Marquis or Town Car as the ideal family car, or even as the ideal car for older people. It sells most of these cars to fleets, and some Grand Marquises and Town Cars to conservative buyers who haven't moved with the times. (They want one, so why not sell them one? The tooling has been paid off for years now.) When they die off, the cars will, too.
  • Essen Essen on Jul 09, 2008

    Are you sure "hands-free" wasn't referring the the steering wheel technique of NY cabbies?

  • Mgrabo Mgrabo on Jul 09, 2008

    The taxi cab business in NYC is run as a truly capitalist enterprise where the capitalist (medallion owner) will always reap the economic benefit of constrained supply and the laborer (taxi driver) will make minimum wage. This is the way it works - since there are more licensed cab drivers than medallions the drivers show up at the cab stands each day at 5am or 5pm (there are two 12 hr shifts in the day). Based on the relative number of cabbies available to drive on a given day, the stand sets a shift rental rate for their cars. Guess what - the stand charges more for a hybrid than a Crown Vic (approximately the incremental cost of filling the Crown Vic for the shift). The cabbie pays the stand for the car & hits the street. The meter tallies a total according to the rate schedule set by the Taxi & Limo Commission, but he keeps 100% of you pay him (fare + tip). The proof this is the case - if cabbies working alone had to divy up their earnings with the absent medallion owner wouldn't cabbies offer flat rate, off meter rides to pliable passengers? I've lived or worked in NYC for nearly 10 years, look the part of a cheapskate and never had a yellow cabbie suggest we take a ride off the meter (other than airport fares which are the flat-rate exception on the T&LC rate sheet). Any economist can tell you that the gas surcharge won't make a difference in what these essentially unskilled, virtually unlimited laborers will earn from threatening your life while behind the wheel - the cab stands will just raise their shift rates by $1 x avg. number of fares per shift. The coolest thing I learned in business school is that strip joints & strippers work the same way - the girls pay for stage time. Yup - the homilier girls that work the breakfast shift pay much less than the talent on stage FRI night - they could get the FRI night gig, but don't since they couldn't cover the rent with their assets.

  • Jcp2 Jcp2 on Jul 10, 2008

    My uncle has a medallion. He got it several years ago for $120,000. We've suggested that he rent out his car for the times when he's not driving himself, but he's very particular about how his car is treated (Camry hybrid) and doesn't want anybody else to mess with it. He just drives six days a week doing mainly airport runs from JFK to Manhattan. Totally flexible hours, fixed fares, interesting clients. I think he just turns the "Off Duty" light on once he's dropped off his fare to loop back to the airport. I'm told by other cabbies that this arrangement would be their preferred route if they owned their own medallion as well.