Color Me Confused
Towards the end of November, the 27th to be precise, that unimpeachable source of news, the NY POST, ran a short article, which offers an instructive lesson as to why public policy regarding the taxi industry is such an unmitigated mess.
Talk about a bass-ackwards set of priorities. Color me confused. But not surprised.
Were one to enter unto the lower, middle or upper echelons of the bureaucratic gentry at the Sanitation Department, the Police Department and the Fire Department, enterprising Pilgrims would undoubtedly encounter a vast number of personnel in operational and policy-making positions who at one time or another put in significant face time riding shot-gun on the business end of a garbage truck, manning a patrol car on the midnight-to eight shift, or responding to residential fires.
Makes sense, right? Who better to administer the day-to-day issues and long-term goals of agencies involved in the critical business of New York, than those people who worked their way up the food chain by performing those self-same tasks they now oversee?
Having said that, and with all due respect, might we inquire of TLC Commissioner David Yassky as to how many people employed by his agency ever got out the day shift; paid off a medallion; kept a car serviced and running; or drove a yellow cab or for-hire-vehicle within the five boroughs of New York City?
Name one. [N]one would be an educated guess given the TLC’s bizarre priorities. Who but an inexperienced dilettante would seriously entertain the possibility of installing vending machines in the back of taxi cabs? Who would look to dole out contracts for mobile apps which allow customers to track down taxi cabs when the agency itself prohibits drivers from deploying cellular devices or accepting radio dispatch fares? Never you mind the Mayor’s enlightened decree that henceforth, all yellow cab/medallion vehicles in NYC will be sourced to one exclusive vendor, armed with a ten-year contract that precludes any competition from other vendors vying for their share of said marketplace by providing a better product?
Tragically, I am not sophisticated enough to truly appreciate the sophisticated reasoning behind Mayor Bloomberg’s imperial decree that come 2013, only one untried brand of Nissan vehicle will come to represent the iconic yellow cab throughout New York City.
Such decisions as to elements of iconic symbolism and aesthetically pleasing design criteria seem better suited to trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art than to those empowered to improve transportation options for New Yorkers and the millions of tourists who pump so much money into our collective economy.
One would think that TLC commissioners would be far more involved in divining some sort of traffic plan which would allow yellow cabs to make left turns at key intersections, or to move freely in express lanes—thus enabling them to make better time on behalf of their harried, impatient passengers.
One would be mistaken.
Because apparently, according to the NY POST, the TLC and emissaries of his honor the Mayor are presently embroiled in mortal combat with City Councilman James Vacca over his proposal to reverse the incredibly short-sighted decree which held that it was more important to come up with a “pleasing” aesthetic design for NYC cabs than to properly serve the riding public: thus replacing the term TAXI with a much sexier, iconic T, while at the same time, removing all the relevant rate charge information from taxi side panels—which had been prominently displayed on the doors of Yellow Cabs since man first walked erect.
Never you mind that taxi owners were forced to pay for this supercilious nonsense, much as they were once required to invest in those stupid public address contrivances wherein celebrities urged New Yorkers to buckle up and ask for a receipt—let alone to bear the cost of those wonderful TAXI TV systems which have been embraced with such unbridled enthusiasm by your average New Yorker.
Alas, since the rate information has been removed from the outside of yellow cabs, the poor bastards behind the steering wheels have been engaged in one testy, confrontational encounter after another with aggrieved passengers—confused as they are as to what they are being charged, assured of naught but the certitude that the taxi driver behind the wheel is trying to steal their money.
How does that old saying go? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?
You would think in the face of such unnecessary confusion that Councilman Vacca would be applauded for taking the initiative to reverse this incredibly petty, ill-conceived “policy” decision.
Guess what, Pilgrims—you would be wrong.
According to the POST: The City Council and city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission sparred yesterday over a new taxi design that eliminates printed fares from the sides of taxicabs.
Councilman James Vacca (D-Bronx), Transportation Committee chair, is pushing a bill to require the TLC to reinstate the printed fares, which the city dropped earlier this year.
“I think passengers have a right to know before they get in a cab what the fare would be,” Vacca said.
He also criticized the TLC for changing the iconic “Taxi” decal on cabs to a single “T” decal.
And what was the TLC’s position?
“…TLC officials testified yesterday at Vacca’s hearing that the printed rates are confusing and ugly and that TV monitors inside taxis will soon show riders the rates in real time during their rides. That feature will be available when the Taxi TV system is upgraded in February.
Since the final cost of a trip “is really a formula” that depends on traffic, per-mile fares “can be misleading” to passengers, said Ashwini Chhabra, a TLC deputy commissioner.
He added: “The fact is we now have technology aids that we didn’t have back when the exterior fare markings were originally conceived.”
The TLC opposes Vacca’s bill, which the mayor is likely to veto, should it pass the council.
I mean…WOW! There it is, your Taxi & Limousine Commissioners in action, calling upon their cumulative experience of ZERO Days Behind the Wheel of a Yellow Cab, and thus coming up with an answer for which there was never a question to begin with.
And surprise-surprise, technology is the answer.
How could we have doubted them? And we all know how enamored Mayor Bloomberg is of technology, and how successful his other technology initiatives have been; initiatives which flushed billions of dollars down the public toilet; so much lost coin in fact that the Mayor was inspired to concoct a cynical end run around the Haas Act of 1937—purportedly in the name of enhanced Outer Borough service… not to mention his notion of looting revenues from the taxi industry through the sale of another 2000 medallions—further burdening a system already super-saturated with cabs amidst rising costs and an ever-diminishing passenger base.
Just ask those drivers who cruised aimlessly over the Thanksgiving weekend, barely making their gas and lease, how another 2000 medallion vehicles on the street would impact them economically? Just ask those drivers how much cumulative hostility they have had to endure from the riding public since the TLC removed the rate information from the doors, and replaced that hopelessly outdated word TAXI with a far more aesthetically pleasing T.
And what of the riding public? Again, a sampling of comments from the NY POST’s readership offers an accurate indication as to how potential passengers perceive this enlightened TLC initiative—and who they hold culpable.
“Since when is it ‘ugly’ to specify the price on anything, unless you are one of those merchants looking to rip off customers. Yes the decals are also confusing, why not just average everything out and make it just one price on the meter?”
“I stopped using yellow cabs long ago and instead support my local and community private car service when I need to.”
“Too many loopholes where the driver can scam the passenger.”
“When I don’t see a price, I don’t buy.”
Well-played, Taxi & Limousine Commission, well-played.