BY PETE DONOHUE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Saturday, September 29th 2007, 4:00 AM
A federal judge yesterday refused to stop the city from requiring all yellow cabs to be equipped with Global Positioning Systems and credit card machines.
Citing privacy concerns, a taxi drivers union had filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary order delaying the new city rules.
But U.S. District Judge Richard Berman ruled yesterday that the use of the technology to improve taxi service appeared to outweigh drivers' privacy rights.
By Joseph A. Slobodzian
Inquirer Staff Writer
Leaders of Philadelphia's striking taxi drivers ended their 48-hour strike a day early yesterday but promised to continue fighting problematic new high-tech dispatch and credit card systems mandated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Leaders of the drivers and Parking Authority officials disagreed about how many cabbies stayed off the streets and about the strike's effectiveness. But officials of the authority, which since 2005 has regulated city cabs, said there was no shortage of taxis yesterday at Philadelphia International Airport and only brief rush-hour delays at Amtrak's 30th Street Station.
All 1,200 members of the Taxi Workers Alliance will be back at 6 a.m. today, alliance president Ronald Blount announced yesterday during an afternoon rally in front of Parking Authority headquarters at 3101 Market St.
"We've made our point. We've proved that we can launch a two-day strike," Blount told reporters in front of about 25 supporters. "This system is not working. It's been almost a year now. How long are we supposed to be patient?"
Cabs Are on Strike, but Are on the Street, Too
By JAMES BARRON
A strike called by a New York City taxi drivers' group over city plans for a high-tech video-and-fare system thinned the ranks of yellow cabs on the streets yesterday, producing frustrating waits on corners, long lines at the airports and angry exchanges over an ad-hoc fare system.
Union leaders and city officials differed over the effectiveness of the walkout. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which called the strike, maintained that 90 percent of drivers were idle yesterday. But Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the figure was far lower.
Still, many would-be passengers spent more time with hands in the air, stuck in that eternal pose of big-city hopelessness. And at the airports, a five-minute wait for a cab stretched to half an hour at some terminals, with 25 people waiting in line, looking at their watches, wondering why they were suddenly going nowhere when the plane had been on time.
The city had introduced a zone-based fare structure during the planned two-day strike - the ride into Manhattan from Kennedy International Airport would be set at $45, for example - but according to anecdotes, at least, the plan seemed to sow more confusion than convenience. It permitted group rides, but some drivers were unaware of it and were uncertain how much to charge. That led to more than one instance of audible angry dialogue between passengers and drivers.
DRIVING a taxi in New York City can be a grueling, thankless job. It is also a unionless job. But on Wednesday, many of the city’s 44,000 licensed cabdrivers are planning to go on strike for 48 hours to protest the new global positioning systems being installed in the city’s 13,000 yellow cabs.
While the Taxi and Limousine Commission supports these devices and has mandated that they be up and running in the city’s entire fleet by January, many cabdrivers — myself included — see this new technology as one big expensive headache. Perhaps the commission should listen to cabdrivers before pushing a device that we’d be better off without.
The device has no navigational abilities. The monitor, which is set into the partition separating the driver from the passenger, cannot be seen or accessed from the front of the cab. It does not give directions or plot routes. All it does is keep track of where you are — both on- and off-duty — and this information is then stored in the commission’s databases.
Officials at the commission say the primary purpose of the devices is to track lost property and make sure cabbies aren’t taking passengers from point A to point B by way of point Z. Sadly, there are some bad cabdrivers out there who take visitors for a “ride,” but in reality, we have much more to fear from our passengers than they have to fear from us.
However, for me and many of my fellow drivers, privacy issues aside, it’s all about money. With prices ranging from around $3,250 to $4,000 to lease and install each unit, the initial costs alone are enough to drive some cabbies out of business. For private owner/operators, this could kill their year.
The costs continue to pile up after the devices are installed. The test drivers who already have the touch-screens have reported finding the monitors covered in spray paint, stickers, soda and scratches.
As Strike Looms, Mayor Vows to Install Taxi Devices
By GLENN COLLINS
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday that the city would not back down in its determination to install credit card and video devices in city taxicabs despite a threatened two-day strike by a major cabdrivers' group.
"All they would be doing is hurting themselves," the mayor said of a planned 48-hour work stoppage by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, scheduled to begin at 5 a.m. tomorrow. "Hopefully, they won't want to sit there and let all the other taxi drivers have extra fares while they earn nothing."
Nevertheless, the mayor said he hoped that "cooler heads will prevail and that nobody will strike."
The alliance claims to represent more than 7,000 hack-license holders among more than 20,000 active cabbies. Bhairavi Desai, the group's executive director, said that 50 volunteers were out leafleting and talking to drivers yesterday at taxi stands, terminals and hotels.
Submitted by BradyDale on Mon, 08/27/2007 - 1:12pm.
Public Authorities continue to be one of the best means for taking control out of the hands of voters and putting it in the hands of bureaucrats two or three or four steps removed from anyone elected. I've written about the Taxi Drivers in this space several times now, but now Philly Independent Media Center has a great new video coming out a week or so in advance of a two day taxi strike.
Check the video out here.
I'm really glad IMC is paying attention to this issue. It's a fascinating case. It's one that I'd think the Nutter Butters would be going NUTS over. Closed door decisionmaking. Gouging a group of workers and the public. Capricious rulemaking. Lack of access to decisionmakers and no voter oversite. Everything that should be making them crazy mad. I hope they do pick up on it and take action. It really sucks that nobody is in control of the Parking Authority any more and that it has control of Taxis (isn't that ironic? Taxis hardly ever park, you know?).
As an Organizer, I find it exciting because this is a very diverse group of people who are hardscrabble and refuse to be victimized. If they have even close to the participation in their strike that they anticipate in the video, it's a real coup. A beautiful show of worker solidarity. It's so great to see these guys excited to take action, and any time I've sat down with them they really have been.
Now if the taxi cab drivers could just drive a little nicer...
In competing Manhattan press conferences yesterday afternoon, rival advocacy groups said that (1) there could be a citywide taxi strike in September, and (2) there would not be a strike.
“We are ready to have a 48-hour strike on Sept. 5 and Sept. 6,” said Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, as she stood near a line of taxis outside Pennsylvania Station. “We are ready, willing and able to walk out.”
The Taxi Workers Alliance said in a press release that it wants to work out a resolution with the Taxi and Limousine Commission to avert a strike.
Two hours later, Fernando Mateo, a spokesman for the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, said no walkout was ahead.
Standing in front of the Taxi and Limousine Commission office on Rector Street in Lower Manhattan, he said: “Read my lips: There will be no strike.”
The two groups, which have been vying for the right to speak for city cabdrivers, were at odds over a decision by the Taxi and Limousine Commission that requires all of the city’s 13,087 medallion taxis to be equipped by the end of January with new technology including a global positioning system, a credit card system and a monitor that provides passengers with an electronic map. About 1,300 taxis have already had the devices installed.
The G.P.S. that will go in cabs will not be used to navigate routes, but will be connected to meters and track the vehicle’s movements. Commission officials have called it an “electronic trip sheet” and said it could be used to help recover lost property.
by Sol Hess
In a matter of months, New Yorkers riding in taxicabs will have more to look at than the view. The constant media buzz of modern life - television programs, sports scores, advertisements - will invade the back of cabs starting in October, the result of a new city regulation requiring that all yellow cabs be equipped with global positioning systems and video screens.
The city Taxi and Limousine Commission says it simply wants to make cab rides safer and more enjoyable for passengers. But the drivers of the city's 13,000 yellow cabs have protested, arguing that the new technology will cost them money and impinge on their privacy.WHAT THE SYSTEM WILL DO
Through the GPS system, taxi passengers will be able to know where they are at any moment. For New Yorkers who never want to be out of touch, the monitors and tracking system will make a cab ride -- 13 minutes on average -- more enjoyable. Passengers will be able to follow sports scores, get up-to-the-minute news, weather and more. (Those who want some peace and quiet will be able to turn off the monitors.) The driver will also notified of traffic congestion in the area and of large parties or concerts that are ending – and could be fertile ground for finding fare-paying customers. With the new system, passengers can pay their fares using credit or debit cards.
Taxi and limousine commissioner Matthew Daus has called the tracking and the monitors “nothing short of revolutionary and evolutionary for the taxi industry" and has written that the technology “will benefit both drivers and customers.” The commission believes it will make it easier for tourists, who may not want to carry much cash, to use cabs. And the system believes such high-tech taxis will enhance New York’s image as the "city of the world.”
But cab drivers are not convinced. They worry that the tracking system will enable the police department and traffic agents to follow the cabs and prosecute drivers for violating traffic laws. “For myself, I am not against it, but I can see my fellow drivers being angry for being dictated to sacrifice for other people's extra entertainment," said one driver, Ibrahim Jane.