In recent days, there has been a spate of articles speaking to the comeback of taxis as the riders’ transportation mode of choice over the app-based companies. Currently, it appears that the app-based companies have become much more expensive relative to taxis due to manpower shortages (surge pricing?) or trying to make back last year’s losses. Or maybe, the venture capital has dried up and is no longer subsidizing the fares.
Whatever the reason, it is a window for the medallion taxi to make a comeback!
In the 30-plus years that I was associated with the taxi industry, whenever I attended a party or informal get together with family or friends, when the conversation drifted to the world of taxi, I heard a litany of complaints. Why does shift change have to happen at the same time for everyone at the worst possible time, afternoon rush hour? How do these taxi drivers get the arrogance to refuse to take me to the airport or the boroughs? As a person of color, why do these taxi drivers always pass me by?
Now is the time to self-correct some of the errors of our ways of the past. No more refusals. No more rolling down the window and asking, “Where you going?” Get the passengers in the car and take them where they want to go. Period. Paragraph. End of story.
Take them to Brooklyn. Take them to the airports. Take all people everywhere. Do not let Uber and Lyft back in. Crush them. Get the taxi-based apps to market their product so that when a taxi gets a job to the boroughs, a potential ride back to Manhattan can be connected.
Fleets need to continue to be innovative by structuring shifts in different ways. Eight-hour shifts, 6am-2pm, 2pm-10pm and overnight 10pm-6am should be included, as well as the classic 12 hour shift.
Fleets need to impress upon their drivers the importance of this moment. They need to reinforce the idea that everyone who raises their hand for a taxi deserves to be served with courtesy and promptness.
The city needs to make amends to the medallion owners who they’ve decimated over the last seven years. The political will to do just that has been sorely lacking. But, here’s an idea that would make life in the city markedly better. Traffic congestion needs to be dealt with. Even before the epidemic of app-based vehicles, traffic was bad. Closing off Broadway as a through street did much to worsen traffic. So, city policy needs to be corrective. Reduce traffic by reducing the number of app-based cars. Make all providers of surface transportation buy a medallion, green or yellow.
The taxi industry needs to lobby the city to do this as soon as possible. If traffic is lessened, people can get to their destinations faster, freeing up the taxi for the next person.
Same with buses. The pandemic has resulted in many people opting to work from home. One major reason for that is the commute. If the city wants the economy to rebound, the commute needs to be less onerous, and faster, and taxis should be a part of that equation.
Less traffic congestion is also beneficial to those with compromised respiratory issues. Governor Cuomo talks of “building back better.” Well, the last few years have taught us that the expansion of the number of app-based cars to 94,000 has made life in the city much worse. It is time to correct these poorly-thought-out mistakes of the past.