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Mayor Bloomberg Battles Fleet Owners Over NYC 'Taxi of Tomorrow' 278

Posted by Soulskill
from the both-soon-to-be-replaced-by-autonomous-vehicles dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In April, Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced that the Nissan NV200 minivan had won a citywide competition to replace the current cab model, the Ford Crown Victoria, in a phased-in period of five years. Cab owners sued, pointing out that New York City law requires that hybrid electric models be available for immediate use for cab medallion owners; that excludes the current Nissan NV200, with its 2.0 liter, 4-cylinder engine rated at a combined 24 mpg. The NV200 also has poor accessibility for wheelchair users. After a state judge blocked the mayor's plan, Bloomberg allegedly told the CEO of Taxi Club Management at a private club, 'Come January 1st, when I am out of office, I am going to destroy your f--king industry.' Tim Fernholz of Quartz speculates that Bloomberg (a billionaire) may be planning to launch a cab-hailing service like Uber, which was just allowed back onto the streets of New York, with significant limitations."
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Mayor Bloomberg Battles Fleet Owners Over NYC 'Taxi of Tomorrow'

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  • You can still get a cab in manhattan for a profitable trip. What is uber going to change?

    Not like drivers are going to take on an unprofitable trip just because of the Internet

    • by MightyYar (622222) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @07:16PM (#43824311)

      When I see the huge lines of cabs at taxi stands and the airports, I find myself wondering if a routing algorithm could better utilize these idle cabs. Any operator who can better utilize the cabs will beat out the others.

      • by rossz (67331) <ogre@@@geekbiker...net> on Saturday May 25, 2013 @07:55PM (#43824481) Homepage Journal

        It was attempted. A system that automates the routing of taxicabs via voice calls and cell phone apps is available and works extremely well. The companies that control the taxi business in NYC made sure it couldn't get a foothold. One of the reasons it is disliked by the entrenched powers is it eliminates the dispatcher. Now you'd think that is a good thing since it reduces overhead while increasing efficiency. Except it also eliminates the bribes the taxi drivers need to pay to the dispatchers if they ever want to get work.

        As much as I dislike Bloomberg, I hope he is successful in destroying the current taxi business status quo.

        • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @09:10PM (#43824781)
          In my town they went with a GPS and electronically dispatched system. I asked a driver what changes it made and he said that it nearly instantly doubled his income and then it nearly doubled again over the next couple of months. First he said that the old drivers had some sort of kickback system with the dispatchers. So he could be pretty well parked across the street from a call yet the dispatcher would send a taxi that was presently across town and presently had a fare. So he said that with the modern system the old dispatchers and drivers all quit overnight. Another set of drivers that quit were the illiterate drivers who couldn't work the system. He also said that the silence was bliss. If his computer bleeped he had a fare but otherwise it was reading time.

          The slower increase in his income was when everybody discovered that the computer based cab company was much much faster.

          Now it was too early at that point but one problem for him would be that the training time to become a fairly good cabbie would be nearly zero. You didn't have to learn to work the radio and with the computer both telling you how to get to your fair and the route to dropping them off you could be pretty well fresh off the boat and still be able to be a halfway decent cabbie in this city.

          So when all is said and done the technological solution will benefit the customer and the cab company but not the worker.

          Personally I am a huge fan of technological improvements but society is not well structured to prevent people from really getting hurt by all this. As robotics take this all to the next logical step there will be a point where very few owners are able to have huge businesses with almost zero workers. While individually this will be great for the producers and providers, the real base of any economy is consumption not production. So without employed people there will be little consumption and much rioting and crime. Society needs to be restructured so as to make sure that inequality doesn't get out of control. This would even hurt those who would like to be unequal.
          • by Nimey (114278)

            The next logical step is a driverless taxi.

          • with the computer both telling you how to get to your fair and the route to dropping them off

            I'm imagining Google getting into the Taxi business. With no drivers at all, just per-passenger screens showing ads.

          • by mysidia (191772)

            So when all is said and done the technological solution will benefit the customer and the cab company but not the worker.

            It seems like it will benefit the workers as a whole -- more fares, at the expense of the above-average workers; they will have a lot of skill and experience developed that is no longer provides any value. In other words... it will achieve "fairness" among all workers, regardless of how many years they have been working, and "unfairness" in the sense, that having worked fo

          • by rossz (67331) <ogre@@@geekbiker...net> on Sunday May 26, 2013 @03:10AM (#43825913) Homepage Journal

            Yep. The new system is pretty damn good. The app is great. Here's a basic step through.

            1. Press "taxi" icon
            2. Press "Send cab"
            3. Press "Now" (or enter a time)
            4. It asks "at your currently location?" (uses your phones gps)
            5. Press "Yes"
            6. I think it asks for destination, but I don't remember the details.
            7. Responds with "Cab in route. Approximate arrival time is 4 minutes 33 seconds"
            8. A few minutes later your phone buzzes and a message shows, "Your cab has arrived".

            It doesn't get any simpler than that. The taxi drivers love it (for the reasons you stated). The riders love it because it's faster and easier than the old phone system. The dispatchers hate it because they can no longer skim the drivers' fares. In NYC, I'm sure the cab companies skim from the dispatchers. The thing is, the cab companies probably see increased profits, except it will all be "on the books". The entire taxi infrastructure of NYC is rotten to the core (pun intended). A side note. The cab companies in NYC have hired lobbyists to get Washington, DC to implement a NYC medallion system. The tax drivers are fighting that tooth and nail.

            My roommate could have gotten in on the ground floor of the company that makes this system, but he turned it down (he's still kicking himself over that).

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by nyckidd (213326)

              8. A few minutes later your phone buzzes and a message shows, "Your cab has arrived".

              It doesn't get any simpler than that. The taxi drivers love it (for the reasons you stated). The riders love it because it's faster and easier than the old phone system. The dispatchers hate it because they can no longer skim the drivers' fares. In NYC, I'm sure the cab companies skim from the dispatchers. The thing is, the cab companies probably see increased profits, except it will all be "on the books".

              Yes, but "on the books" works both ways. I would think that having the fares of your drivers logged on a server would probably stop some skimming that goes on at the driver level. Besides, from what I understand many drivers these days pay a base 'rental' rate for taking out a car (they rent the car from the company that owns the medallions), plus they pay for their own fuel any other incidentals. At the end of the day, driver brings the car back to company, and most don't make a whole lot after the cos

        • by Anonymous Coward

          What he's talking about isnt a routing problem, it's drivers taking a break. The yellow cabs will sit at JFK for a bit (for example) then grab a $50-100 fare. Not a bad wage, considering. Routing is more of an issue with Livery. Livery (per-arranged, dispatched car service), is not allowed to pick up a street hail. And are often not "in line" at the airports. Yellow cabs can be hailed on the street and Uber offers little value over raising one's arm in the air.

          Really though, Uber's problem was that t

          • Where in your links do they mention the breaking of public safety laws or the contempt for their own employees? "Safety" doesn't even appear in your first two links, and the third only talks about it in an abstract sense, with no real connection to Uber.

            So what the fuck value does Uber bring to the table? Very little.

            Well, I don't even no why we have competition and consumer liberty. We should just hire you to choose a company for each sector and give them a monopoly.

            But that's not *all* they are, they also have some good regulations.

            Then cite all the good regulations that Uber is breaking.

            Uber wanted to cry "look at the entrenched bully!" while being just as big assholes themselves, with the added benefit of ignoring laws and charging a premium for it all.

            Being assholes doesn't make them wrong.

            And ignor

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          I can't wait until they break the medallion system. Most of them are fixed-numbers. That means the population doubles, and taxis don't. If they issue more medallions, the current holders sue (and win) because it's a "taking".
    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @09:01PM (#43824753) Journal
      Not sure how taxi's operate in NYC but the ones I drove here in Oz have a meter that ticks over after a fixed time or distance, whichever comes first, the fees are mandated by state law so all taxis charge the same amount for the same trip. There's also a flagfall fee just for getting in the cab, so really there's no such thing as an unprofitable trip.

      Having said that the only way to make a reasonable income from a cab is to make sure a customers arse is in the seat at all times, getting a 5min job that puts you at the back of a 2hr queue is just the luck of the draw. Although I have heard that airport staff here in Melbourne are issuing "short trip" coupons to drivers who get stuck with a local job, it entitles them to come back to the front of the queue, but again that can happen at any rank and most ranks are not staffed/policed like they are at the airport. Also 5min jobs themselves are not the problem, on Friday and Saturday nights you want the 5min jobs because you know you can get another one straight away, doing that all night on your home turf is about as profitable as taxi driving gets.
      • It is not much different in US. The difference ,at least in NY , is that
        1) You need a medallion to drive a Yellow Cab - this fixes the number of Cabs that are allowed in the city. The medallion often costs hundreds of thousands of dollars or recently close to a million dollars.
        2) Automated taxi hailing systems were banned until recently (or atleast they were being sued even if Mayor Bloomberg was pro-Cab-Hailing-Apps)
        3) Taxi despatch was a completely different operation (I think it was semi-public or
        • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

          In my neighborhood on the opposite coast, a lot of the cabbies are switching to the limo program because hailing a cab is as easy as using your smartphone now, and that is the only limitation for the limos-- they can't pick up a passenger on the street.

          I imagine Bloomberg has something like that in mind.

    • Intelligent Grouping Transportation, AKA Taxibus...

      http://www.taxibus.org.uk/index.html [taxibus.org.uk]

      People summon taxibus service with their cellphones, then a computer directs a nearby driver to a curb within a block of passengers' location... while figuring out how to accomodate more than one passenger at any given time.

  • Note to self... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @07:13PM (#43824293)

    Don't piss off the rich guy.

    • by tmosley (996283)
      Actually, it should be "don't piss off the powerful fascist".

      But really, those are exactly the kind of people we should be pissing off, if not hanging them in the streets. Bloomberg is the very epitome of the corrupt merger of government and corporate power. He wants to dictate what everyone does, and will stop at NOTHING to do it.
      • Re:Note to self... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @07:33PM (#43824411)
        Hear hear. I live in the Chicago area, and the amount of money he's pouring into ads and orginazations (particularly gun-outlawing) promoting his Nazi/nanny state agenda is breathtaking. Last election cycle his PAC was all over the airwaves, telling massive lies both pro and con to promote their selected candidates. Bloomberg won't rest until he controls every aspect of our lives, including the size of our soft-drink cups.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          Honestly, I don't think Bloomberg himself really believes in the BS he's pushing. But, he is a HUGE attention whore and he desperately wants to be President. He's found his PR niche where he knows exactly how to get his name in the papers. So, he just keeps dropping these nanny state jewels every few months. I'd feel that he was sincere if he came at it with a sound comprehensive plan rather than a drip-drip-drip of "he's what our strong, dear determined Leader is going to do for us today" edicts.

  • by pongo000 (97357) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @07:19PM (#43824325)

    Here's a man with so much obscene money than he has a right to, and thinks he can buy what he wants if he can't get it any other way. First it's gun control, then it's a police state, and now it's his own taxi monopoly (along with whatever kickback he and his cronies are getting from this backroom deal). Bloomberg is a plague on society, a grown man who is prone to throwing tantrums when he doesn't get his way, and enough money in his pocket to crush anyone that stands in his way.

    I can't wait until the feds get enough hair on their balls to take him down. Anyone with that much money is bound to have broken some law, somewhere, sometime.

    • by pongo000 (97357)

      That first sentence should have read "such an obscene amount of money." Just to be clear that I'm not ranting about people with money, or money in general, but those like Bloomberg with an obscene amounts of money who think because of it they are entitled to what they want when they want it.

      • by Required Snark (1702878) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @07:56PM (#43824485)
        So people with "an obscene amount of money" and a political agenda who think "they are entitled to what they want when they want it" are "a plague on society".

        Does that apply equally to the Koch brothers and their NRA connected group ALEC?

        The Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, which brings together corporate lobbyists and Republican state legislators to write “model” legislation to introduce in Republican-controlled states on behalf of the corporations, has been doing everything they can to help out the gun industry.

        As reported by Alex Kane on AlterNet, they include:

        Guns on campus

        Doing away with waiting periods to buy guns

        More “Stand Your Ground” laws like the one ALEC got passed in Florida

        No borders to firearm movement between states

        Annulling local gun-control regulations

        Putting in jail government officials who take away people’s guns in emergencies

        Promoting more semi-automatic weapons like those used by the Newtown killer

        Yes, the Feds should go after the Kochs because "Anyone with that much money is bound to have broken some law, somewhere, sometime."

        How does that shoe feel now that it's on your foot? Uncomfortable?

        Just to make thing crystal clear, you are as dumb as you sound.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Does that apply equally to the Koch brothers and their NRA connected group ALEC?

          Yes?

          How does that shoe feel now that it's on your foot?

          How did you fit so many shoes into your rectum?

          Only a man with an entire Payless of shoes shoved up his ass could be demented enough to think that dislike of gross corruption is party driven.

          • by Rockoon (1252108)

            Only a man with an entire Payless of shoes shoved up his ass could be demented enough to think that dislike of gross corruption is party driven.

            Thats who you are talking to, though, He is party-driven rather than ethics-driven.

        • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @08:45PM (#43824691)

          Except Bloomberg actually HAS broken the law, he headed up an illegal gun-running operation (he called it an undercover sting, but as far as I am aware you really can't form up a private law enforcement club and wantonly break laws just because you say it's OK to do). Never been charged or arrested, never will.

          What laws have the Kochs demonstrably violated?

        • by dbIII (701233)
          How about "enough money that they think they should have nothing in their way like an English King before Magna Carta"? I think that's the problem a lot of people have with those that seem to act as if their wealth exempts them from the law.
    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Saturday May 25, 2013 @08:16PM (#43824567) Homepage Journal

      I can't wait until the feds get enough hair on their balls to take him down. Anyone with that much money is bound to have broken some law, somewhere, sometime.

      The entire problem with Bloomberg isn't just that he's really bad at solving problems, it's because there's too much government power and he just happens to be the one wielding it at the moment.

      Wishing for revenge from more government power is just the kind of thinking that perpetuates the system that makes Bloomberg a problem.

  • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @07:53PM (#43824477)

    Obviously Bloomberg is going to fund the installation of a Personal Rapid Transit [wikipedia.org] system with 100% coverage of the metro area, plus extensions to commuter parking lots upstate and in New Jersey. PRT proponents rejoice! Bloomberg will prove once and for all that PRT works!

    Or...

    Bloomberg is an entitled asshole rich kid who can vent whenever he wants because he's too rich for anybody around him to tell him to STFU [kym-cdn.com].

    Gee. I wonder which is more likely...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Bloomberg is not a "rich kid". Whatever you think of him or his politics, he's a self-made man and judging by the places he lived growing up, had a middle-class upbringing.

  • by Laxori666 (748529) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @07:59PM (#43824499) Homepage
    It would be so much better. More taxis, cheaper rates, being able to order taxis from your iPhones... but given that the going rate to buy a medallion is over a million dollars nowadays (based on my convo w/ a taxi driver who had done just that recently), there's a ton of interest against that. If only, if only.
    • What is this free market that you speak of? Who would give the bribes, I mean campaign donations, in a free market. That's what regulation is for after all. A company first pays to not be regulated, then they pay to be regulated in a way that only hurts startups or their competitors. Don't you know how the system works?

      • I thought that the taxi regulations and the anti-"gypsy"-taxi laws were so that out-of-town tourists don't get ripped off so frequently that they decide to stop visiting thereby dropping your tourist tax dollars: transportation, hotel taxes, restaurant visits, shamu - and - seaworld - and - the old village district (mission area) [that probably only applies to san diego and such). But the tourist market is large in NY, just as in chicago, SF, orlando, atlanta, etc. So the taxis do need to be regulated.

        Do

        • What does any of that have to do with designating an "official" (see required) taxi cab vehicle? Regulation, where required, can definitely help to keep a profession reputable. But in this case it seems to be far more about either pointless control or kickbacks from a government enforced monopoly.

        • by Laxori666 (748529)
          Well, having unregulated taxis wouldn't make people stop coming to new york. The only way that would happen is if it was so bad that everybody knew about it. But if everyone knows it happens then they can look up what the market price should be and only hire the more legitimate businesses that offer rides at that price. In the meantime everybody (tourists & residents alike) suffers from poorer quality taxi service.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Not really sure why the mayor wanted such a lousy automobile to be the replacement. Even if he has stock in Nissan he could find a better vehicle.

  • Nothing wrong from taking a page from the LEO sales and having Chrysler make a taxi (given they're the only manufacturer left that's willing to make American form factor cars these days).

    Then again, had Ford decided to not listen to Al Gore by killing all their American lineup (including the Crown Vic) we wouldnt have this problem.

    • by bogjobber (880402)
      What? What did killing the Crown Vic have to do with Al Gore? Ford still makes a police vehicle, just based on the Taurus chassis instead of the 30+ year old Panther.

      Seeing as how Chrysler had to be bailed out and sold to Fiat while Ford successfully weathered the recession and just posted their highest profit since the 90s, I'm sure they will continue to ignore your advice.
  • by Rick Chandler (2932423) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @08:34PM (#43824643)
    Being from Tennessee, I don't see much difference between Bloomberg and out set of politicos. All immediately circumspect out of the gate. The only way to rid the landscape of losers and abusers of the public trust (like Bloomberg) is through organizations like Change.org and social awareness. Bloomberg is just one more petty tyrant. If you want him out, get it done. I used to piss and moan and bitch about everything that is wrong in our country. That's fine as far as it goes. If I complain and watch from the sidelines, nothing gets done. Personally, I'm done with that method of survival. :)
  • Minivan taxis? More cars that sedans can't see past. Expect more rear-enders.
    • by chrismcb (983081)
      What does the height of the car in front of you have to do with rear-enders? I drive a pretty small car, and as much as I hate driving among the giants, I've NEVER had a problem with rear enders... cause I pay attention to the car in front of me. Not the car in front of the car in front of me.
      Besides, who else drives in Manhattan but taxis, town cars, and delivery trucks?
      • by Cederic (9623)

        On a motorway I can drive for a hundred miles without braking. I do this while driving faster than most of the people on the road.

        It's possible because I'm not watching the car in front of me. I'm watching the cars a quarter of a mile down the road, the cars merging onto the road, the lorries on the slower lanes and the cars that might want to overtake them.

        The car in front? It's almost fucking irrelevant. Pay attention only to that car and you'll have to brake every time he does, you'll have far worse fuel

  • by Dereck1701 (1922824) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @08:55PM (#43824729)

    What I don't understand is why there appears to be some monolithic entity designating the specific model of taxi cab for the entire city. Shouldn't each taxi company/cab owner be able to choose what car(s)/van(s) they want to use? Besides designating a paint scheme and setting some requirements (display of medallion, cleanliness of cab, etc) the city should butt out. It sounds to me like there is a lot of shady dealings & backdoor hand shaking going on.

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      There are a few (theoretical) good reasons. Accessibility for disabled people for one- it'd be no good if 70% of the fleet were low-riding luxury sedans (note, in my jurisdiction there is no mandated vehicle, and this is a real problem- most popular vehicles are VW Passats (plus Skoda/Seat variants), Mercedes E Classes and Vauxhaul Vectras- none are particularly disability friendly). Another would be safety. A third would be "image"- fleets of similar-looking taxis are an iconic part of NYC mythology (and d

  • I've not got a strong opinion about Bloomberg but there is something wrong with the taxi business and its close relationship to retiring police cars. Other than some hardened suspension components, there is nothing about a police car that makes a good cab vehicle.

  • or is there something seriously wrong with our entire economy when one guy can threaten to destroy an entire (very profitable) industry, and the threat is credible? Seriously, why do we tolerate individuals having this much power/wealth? Hell, what the *bleep* is wrong with the world when the mayor of a city can amass 27 Billion (with a 'B') dollars?

    ok... done venting.
    • by chrismcb (983081)

      or is there something seriously wrong with our entire economy when one guy can threaten to destroy an entire (very profitable) industry,

      No there isn't. While there may be problems with our economy, this isn't one of them. Not to mention, that it has always been like this.
      Why do people have a problem with one person acquiring a fortune. Should there be a limit to how much one person can own? What happens when the person is at the limit, and is walking down the street, and is handed a dollar? SWAT comes zeroing in? Or should we fine and tax them as the close in one some arbitrary dollar amount?
      Or are you just bitter that he is successful?

  • If Bloomberg wants to provide technology for this industry, the customers are guaranteed to hate it. Bloomberg is in business of providing overpriced services to clients after monopolizing the data streams they need through exclusive contracts. He loses money on everything else (TV, websites, etc.) If he gets into competition with anyone, it's a good bet his competition will only look better by comparison.
  • by stenvar (2789879) on Sunday May 26, 2013 @03:02AM (#43825897)

    You have more and more tech startups challenging the cesspool of corruption that New York City has been historically. I wonder how this turns out in the long run and who will win. For now, New Yorkers still seem to voting for Bloomberg...

  • by bhmit1 (2270) on Sunday May 26, 2013 @11:09AM (#43827379) Homepage

    If you really want to "destroy an industry" then allow self driving vehicles to replace cab services. People could subscribe to a car service or pay per use to have a car when they need it. The cars would automatically recharge when not needed, automatically deploy to areas of high demand, be callable with a smart phone app and station themselves at predetermined locations for non-app users. Google can integrate voice commands, local search, maps, and their field trip app so there isn't even a need to talk to a cab driver again.

    When cab drivers are finding alternate ways to get customers, you've altered an industry. When cab drivers are looking for a different career, you've destroyed an industry.

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