Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bits and Pieces

Maybe when Mad Cabbie gets back he can tell me why that Diamond Cab driver has a silver skull piece on his cab passenger door lock. Nicely propped up on top of it - warning to passengers? Who knows :).

You never appreciate the nice, clean cabs as much as after you've been in traffic going nowhere fast while you're trapped in a cab that has cigarette smoke oozing from every pore, has pieces of the cab stapled to the roof so it doesn't fall down, has a door frame that separates from the door when you close it, or has a smell that just can't quite be identified, but is definitely NOT good. Fortunately I've not had to experience more than 2 of those things in any one cab. Unfortunately, I've experienced some of them several times over the years.

And don't you love it when your head is just barely hanging onto your shoulders with a migraine from hell and you luck into the driver who either 1) can't hear the radio unless the back speakers are on maximum; or 2) considers the car horn the driving equivalent to a valley girl's use of the word "like."

Meters vs. Zones. I was in a cab in heavy traffic a couple of days ago. The driver was railing against meters. He said at one point, "If we had meters, do you know how much this ride would cost you?" I don't think he liked my response - "not much, I would have gotten out by now and gotten onto the subway while you'd be still here stuck in traffic."

And to the driver who was speeding along on the parkway while turning back to look at me while making one of his several points on Bush & the war -- no, I wasn't terrified we were going to crash and die - I've had crazier rides. But yours was close.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

From the Courageous Souls at the DC Taxi Commission

When faced with the issue of making a recommendation to Mayor Fenty whether DC taxis should continue with the zone system or switch to meters, they took a courageous position of ... ok, so you know better. They took NO POSITION on either. "In a half-dozen votes, the commission declined to recommend time-and-distance meters, zone meters or any kind of meter at all. A motion to recommend that the mayor simply retain the zone system also failed."

Now you could say that they did this to say fuck you to Sen. Levin, who like other members of congress have found themselves unable to resist sticking their nose into DC matters (what, Detroit is fixed now? So Levin has time to work on DC?). THAT position I could get behind. But no, they just couldn't figure out which one would give them less heat, so they instead asked Fenty to make the decision, and tossed in option #3, the use of GPS equpment in the zone system. So now it's up to Fenty.

What WILL he do?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Meters vs. Zone in DC -- Are Zoned Meters the Answer?

From today's WaPo -

For the first time in decades, the District is poised to change the way taxi fares are calculated. Armed with a survey showing widespread discontent with the system, the eight-member D.C. Taxicab Commission will vote Tuesday whether to recommend that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) stick with zones or switch to meters, which every other major U.S. city uses. But in interviews with commission members last week, it appears a third option is gaining momentum.

It's the "zone meter" or zone-fare calculator. With signals from a Global Positioning System, the device calculates fares based on existing zones. At the end of the journey, the device prints a detailed receipt, giving riders the reassurance they are not being cheated. Zone meters were installed in about 300 Yellow Cabs in the District over the past year.

It will be interesting to see what happens here. I've ridden in a couple of the Yellow cabs with the zone meters, but have yet to see it in action. Guess since most of my taxi rides are in zone 1, they don't break it out for us.

I'm sure the non DC folks are puzzled about the district's love for the zone system, but it's pretty wide spread (for good & bad reasons). According to a recent survey of drivers, "Of more than 600 cabdrivers surveyed, 183 said they liked the common time-and-distance meters and 177 did not want meters at all. But more than 300 favored the zone meter."

Background information from the story:

No other U.S. city has a taxi system quite like the District's. Its zone system dates to the 1930s, and about 90 percent of its 7,500 licensed cabdrivers are independent owners. . . .

Because of the setup, local cabdrivers historically have had a lot of power, Toney said. He thinks the commission, established in 1986 after Congress relinquished control, has failed to act in the past because of fears that drivers "would create a crisis." "Every time the issue comes up, drivers say, 'We're going to strike,' " he said, describing the response as "scare tactics." "From 1986 until today, the commission has been fiddling with this issue and has been unable to resolve what is at its base a common-sense issue." He does not have much faith that zone meters will solve the problem.

"It does nothing to address one of the largest failings of the zone system -- the fundamental unfairness of the system itself," he said of the zones, which were originally drawn to benefit Congress members and others on Capitol Hill. You can go from Constitution and Second to Foggy Bottom and consume a driver for 25 minutes and pay only $6.50 for a trip three miles or more -- and somebody else goes less than a third of a mile and has to pay twice that. The zone calculator does nothing to address that."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

NY Cabbies on Strike

Hey, actual news on this blog. I don't do that much LOL. Anyhow, apparently many of NYC's cabbies have started a two-day strike. Why? Well the CNN brief piece played it like this - Bloomburg gave the cabbies a raise a while back, and in exchange they were to upgrade their cabs technologically-speaking. Village Voice offers options for needy riders and Newsday gives us drivers' views about their strike against GPS technology and credit card machines:

"The group has met with the mayor's office and the taxi commission to voice concerns, including that the GPS technology unfairly tracks cabbies and includes credit card machines that will charge the drivers more than $1,000 yearly, Desai said. Some drivers also say the machines are unreliable and will cut into their income. Fare rates enacted in 2004 bumped the initial cost of a ride from $2 to $2.50 and added an extra $1 during the evening rush, among other increases. The TLC expected the rate hike to increase drivers' after-expenses salaries to at least $13 to $20 per hour, from between $9 and $17."

A site called David Havslaib's Jossip has an amusing piece, Taxi Strike Mainly Affects High Maintenance Women, Jerks On Wall Street:

"Can you survive two days without being able to stick up your hand and scream “TAXI!” in the dirty and overcrowded recesses of midtown? Most likely! Fortunately, however, you won’t really have to since the “strike” only seems to have moderately diminished (rather than eliminated) the presence of yellow cabs circling around Manhattan."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Still Here

But been riding in very few cabs these days - summer in the city, fewer people around, fewer jobs, fewer meetings. Just taking it easy. A couple of long weekend trips out of town, to the beach, to the mountains. Just having a nice, relaxing summer.

Today - things are changing, right? It's Ugly Tuesday - the day after labor day when Congress & lobbyists & kids all come back into traffic at the same time. Fortunately, I don't have to go back to work until tomorrow.

Hope everyone had a good summer too.