I have been driving taxicabs in new york city for many years -- too many, actually
Posted in nyc taxis on October 4, 2013
Bill Thompson decided at last to do the right thing, and end his obstruction of Bill de Blasio’s campaign for mayor. At this point de Blasio seems to be a certain winner on election day.
Perhaps, at last, the reign of a self-appointed tyrant will go, without so much as a glimmer of remaining influence. After all, Bloomberg surprised everyone by endorsing no one – an indication that no one really wanted his endorsement, and that, perhaps, he sensed his own irrelevancy.
Complaints have been heard coming from the concerned Business Class that it is time to fear for the future of New York.
Am I frightened? I don’t know. Not yet, at any rate. It will take a long time to decide on where de Blasio’s mayoralty will take the city. In the meantime I can only respond to the fearful : 12 years of such overbearing, devious and dishonest rule as we have suffered through until now has its own negative consequences. Had Michael Bloomberg not twisted Christine Quinn’s arm in 2009 to make it possible for him to run a third time, Ms. Quinn herself would probably have become mayor. She is, basically, a centrist politician, who knows how to smooth the rough edges of activist Business influences : she has made it harder for landlords to harass tenants, harder for the city to augment revenues by collecting excessive fines from small businesses via fraudulent summonses, etc. None of these constitutes a far left agenda; they can all be seen as upholding the conservative agenda by making it more palatable to the masses of people who can go out and vote and remove the excessive from office.
But Bloomberg insisted on having his way, and another (even worse) four years of robbing from the poor to give to the rich ensued.
Now, we hear complaints about the threat of Bill de Blasio …
Bill de Blasio probably would never have been elected without the oppressiveness of four extra Bloomberg years to work off of.
The Left becomes tempting when the Right becomes intolerable, and Bloomberg was – especially in his last four years – perfectly intolerable.
Those afraid of de Blasio have no one to blame but Michael Bloomberg for making this object of their fear look good enough to get elected, and that means that, if they supported Bloomberg, they have no one to blame but themselves.
Posted in nyc taxis on September 14, 2013
The previous post contains a link to a 2010 Village Voice article by Wayne Barrett, in which he elucidates the connections between Bill Thompson, the Democratic nominee for mayor in 2009, and Micheal Bloomberg, his ostensible “opponent.” (I am printing the link above for convenience’ sake.) For some of us, the Thompson campaign turned out to be a disappointment, because the candidate didn’t seem to be even half trying to win. The first debate between the two candidates ended with them declaring how much they enjoyed playing golf together [!]
It was all a bit fishy, and Barrett’s article, in which he traced a long patronage-style relationship between Bloomberg and Thompson’s wife, encouraged the logical, if disturbing, conclusion that Thompson was a deliberate fall guy.
That was then. The ugly episode seemed to be over and done with – just another game from the top, in the recognizable Bloomberg style.
But here we are in 2013, and Bill Thompson seems to be trying hard to win another one for the plutocratic Gippers he seems to have been in cahoots with 4 years ago.
How else explain his current preposterous position?
Having gotten 26% of the votes in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, to Bill de Blasio’s 40.3 %, Thompson is demanding that the votes be fully certified, a process entailing double-checking results coming from the 5,000 voting machines used, and reviewing tens of thousands of uncounted paper ballots. This could take many days, maybe weeks, before certainty is arrived at. And, if, as a result of this verification, de Blasio falls below 40%, then a Democratic run-off must be held, in order to decide firmly on who the nominee will be. (This will give Thompson a chance to impede de Blasio by calling on him to debate and respond not only to Joe Lohta, the Republican nominee, but to Thompson as well, so that de Blasio will be running two campaigns at the same time … )
Now, consider this : what is the ultimate purpose of Thompson’s ploy here? Usually, a politician demands a certification or recount if he thinks it will prove him to be the winner of the race in question. But, surely, Thompson can’t think he’s going to beat another candidate who has already gotten 40% to his 26%.
In a statement issued Friday, Thompson claimed that, “as a democracy, our top priority must be that every vote be counted.” (New York Times, Sept. 13, 2013, “As Vote Verification Begins, Thompson Stays Hopeful.”)
Over the past few years we’ve all grown used to – if not been exhausted by – flag waving in defense of bad behavior. Now Bill Thompson seems to be implying that, if these votes are not verified properly , we will be failing the very idea of democracy itself. And, remember, the other candidate already got over 50% percent more votes than Bill got when they ran together in an election held just four days ago.
Does anyone smell a rat here?
To Be Continued …
Posted in nyc taxis on September 13, 2013
Clicking on the link above will take you to an article from the January 5th, 2010 edition of the Village Voice.
The article is particularly relevant to the current election, in which Bill de Blasio has gained about 40.3% of the votes in the Democratic primary, as opposed to rival Bill Thompson’s 26%. (A figure of 40% would allow de Blasio to be declared the winner; anything less, and he would be forced into a run-off election several weeks in the future – a burden for a competitor who must make his case against the Republican nominee, Joe Lhota, as effectively as possible by the general election early in November.)
Thompson claims he will not concede until the vote tallies are verified – a process which will take, conceivably, weeks. He made his intention clear on election night, in a ringing speech conveying bravery and determination, and a will to win …
These are all commendable qualities. But : is there more involved than qualities of bravery and determination? Is there a whiff of fraud? Is there a suspicion that some third party has a devious hand in this? Why – really – would Thompson refuse to concede to de Blasio, when the interests of his party clearly demand he do so?
Read the article, and you decide …
Might as well get to the worst …
Here is a thing I would rather not be posting, since it might “compromise my credibility” – as they say.
Admittedly it is less of a problem now than previously. It refers to surveillance. At this point, with the Edward Snowden affair having been daily news for several weeks, the possibility of excessive snooping has gained a credibility of its own : fewer people, at this point, can deny snooping exists, and that there is a lot of it.
My own experience of excessive snooping has to do with the Taxi TV (another reason for wanting to publicize that gadget as the truly atrocious idea it really is.)
Since the first introduction of the TV, I have been struck by the curious timing of meter breakdowns. For a while it seemed to me that meter troubles developed according to a pattern. This pattern was : strenuous discussion between me and a passenger of the faults of Michael Bloomberg’s governance of the city … followed by meter breakdown. At first I assumed it was me, that I was imagining it all, and it was just a funny coincidence.
It persisted, however, and it was hard not to think the discussion was causing the breakdown.
After a month or more, there seemed to be an improvement. Long, even vociferous, discussions were not followed by, and even interrupted by, a meter shutdown. I was ready to admit to paranoia – it had all been a mistake …
No, not really. While the meter had originally “reacted” (seemingly) as the discussion between me and the passenger was in progress, or when the trip was over and the machine was supposed to accept payment, the meter mishap was offset by 20 or 25 minutes. I.e., it happened after the passenger got out – a fairly good time after.
Not hard to find a “paranoid” explanation for that : when the meter failed while the passenger was in the car, there was a danger that the passenger would notice, and draw the same conclusion anyone would draw – that the critical comments about the mayor had caused the mishap. (I had even pointed the timing out several times to passengers, all of whom found the suggestion of foul play very interesting.)
Now, with the meter mess delayed by 20 minutes, there was no anti-Bloomberg discussion taking place as the meter failed, and no suspicion on the part of a passenger likely to arise.
Now, we’re all used to the phrase, “This phone call will be monitored, in order to ensure quality control.” We assume that surveilling service representatives is done, and that it’s acceptable. Question : why wouldn’t “the powers that be” do the same with cab drivers? It seems to me likely they would – and, with the growing sense of the pervasiveness of spying and snooping, I see no reason why there should be a great deal of skepticism about such a claim.
Since my experience of this problem first arose, in the first few weeks after the installation of the TV, the same scenario has presented itself to me many hundreds of times, maybe a thousand or more. It’s inescapable. It happens over and over – it happened twice last night, as a matter of fact …
I will get to my ultimate point as quickly as possible.
When spying is accepted as a normal part of life, those who practice it are emboldened to go way beyond any acceptable limits with it – it is as predictable as the sun coming up in the morning that they will do so.
Remember, I am not complaining about having a lesson in bomb-building being interrupted by a bad meter. My discussions with passengers never involve conspiracies against government, criminal activities, racism, homophobia, plots, threats and the rest : these are serious discussions of whether the governance that Micheal Bloomberg and his people have brought to New York is of an acceptably high quality.
So what’s the matter with that?
In this case you have, it can be said, an example of the sort of snooping and surveillance that is justified as fighting crime or countering terrorism being used to protect an elected official from criticism.
How delightful! Freedom speech rescinded, because it makes Mike Bloomberg look bad!
He doesn’t want to be criticized! How like Muammar Gaddafi!
Where the carte blanche so willingly granted to snoops has gone in New York City is in the predictable direction : it has made it far easier to deny people elementary rights, and that is exactly what has happened here, if my perpetually reinforced suspicions are correct. The man in charge doesn’t want to be criticized, or even mentioned in unflattering terms, so, in order to keep that from happening, an electric trick takes place whenever that does take place : the meter, without which a driver can’t get paid – at least in the case of credit cards – cuts out, and the speaker is penalized immediately for his unacceptable speech by being denied payment for services rendered. Instantaneous punishment! What a dream for the dictatorial! The Soviet Union never had instruments like this. But, God, how they would have loved to have them!
But, to repeat : if you put the technology in their hands, they will eventually use it, and for the most self-serving of purposes.
I reported in an earlier post (“NYC Cab Drivers Make $10.83 An Hour”) on the amount of money taxi drivers actually make. This post was published during the days of the old fare (a new one went into effect on September 6, 2012.)
The new fare, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, will result in the average fare going up by 17%.
So, assuming a like increase in wages, we can calculate that, as of October 8, 2012, taxi drivers will be making :
$10.83 (old wage) + .17 (latest increase = $1.84) = $12.67 an hour.
(How to characterize this wage — good, bad, or indifferent — I leave to the reader’s judgment. The wage estimate, however, should be considered as close to accurate as is possible.)
It should be remembered, however, that, as cab drivers are deemed “independent contractors,” they are charged almost twice as much in Social Security taxes as are regular employed workers. That fact makes the hourly wage lower than it seems, since a larger portion goes for taxes than in other cases. By my rough estimate, the wage should be adjusted about 5% downward, in order to accommodate the the larger tax burden.
So, let’s say drivers make the equivalent of $12.67 per hour less 5%, which is (.05 x $12.67) $.63); therefore, drivers make the equivalent of what a regular worker making $12.04 per hour makes.
I have mentioned the fare increase in several posts.
Now, after having worked with it for a few shifts, I can render at least a partial verdict.
It is a vast improvement.
To start with, let me reiterate what I have said in another post : last year I made an average daily wage that equaled my average daily wage in 1984.
I don’t know if anyone else in America can boast of such a humiliating statistic as that.
Nevertheless, it’s true.
The reasons for such a financial disaster were several : an arbitrary increase in the number of cabs on the road in order to get a one-shot budget boost from the sale of medallions, leading to excess supply; complications of the credit card reader — such as slow start up, passenger confusion with a bad program, and swiping issues; a predatory driver fee of 5% per card transaction; and the Taxi TV, which transformed drivers into babysitters for an annoying media stunt.
With the new increase, I can report, my wages might just reach an acceptable level for a normal person in the modern world.
This is not to say that I will become rich, simply that I will be in a good mood at least occasionally.
But there is more.
I have praised the new TLC chairperson, Mr. David Yassky, in a past post, because of, among other things, his advocacy of this fare increase. He knew it was necessary and helped enact it.
What surprised me these last few days is something else : he has calibrated the fares so that they are in multiples of 50 cents, always. Which is to say, there are fares of exact dollar amounts ($5, $10, $12, for example), or an exact amount plus 50 cents ($2.50, $6.50, $8.50, etc.). There are no more fares of $8.70, or $8.30, or $9.90, and so forth.
It is perhaps inconceivable to the non-driver why this is so important (though, after a while paying the new fares, the average customer might catch on.)
What it amounts to is this : every taxi transaction is enormously simpler and easier to negotiate : easier to figure a tip, easier to understand, easier to count out, round off, and, in short, to pay, than at any time in the past 10 or more years.
Why should this matter?
Because it makes life easier, generally, for everyone : the passenger doesn’t have to think as much or take as long to pay; the driver doesn’t have to go through mathematical horror at the end of each shift as he figures out his debits and credits; the dispatcher or pay master doesn’t have to be swamped in confusion; and pedestrians and other motorists and their passengers don’t have to wait extra seconds and minutes of utterly wasted time as an interminable taxi transaction takes place in their vicinity.
Not bad for one simple little adjustment to how fares are calculated.
I perceived in David Yassky, when I first became aware of his way of doing things, a particular fit for public service. He seems to notice what needs to be fixed, and goes about fixing it. I had given up even thinking about the hopeless complexity of taxi pricing, and the delays and frustrations it causes everyone, because I had never expected anyone to ever do anything about it.
Now, lo and behold, someone seems to have noticed the problem, and even done something about it!
Public service ought rightly to consist of doing the greatest good for the greatest number, and not the finagling of private advantages for one’s friends and their friends — which is what it seems to have become in recent years in New York City.
It appears now that we have someone on our hands who is genuinely fit to be a public servant — at a time when public service seemed to have breathed its last.
Hopefully this man will again run for office in the future, so that I will have the opportunity to vote for him.
From my experience, I would suggest you vote for him as well.
The city has chosen the paradigm for a new taxi, to be adopted universally throughout New York City, beginning in October 2013.
You can see the bad news more fully at http://www.taxioftomorrow.com/web/index.php.
In as few words as possible, I can simply say that technology has triumphed over common sense.
Every conceivable bell, buzzer, whistle and gizmo that could possibly be added has been added. Every possible form of communication between passenger and driver has been diminished.
Now, after close to 30 years of driving, I don’t want to sound as if I think I know something, but I’d like to say something about passengers and drivers.
The best insurance a passenger has that he or she will be well served by a cabdriver is the quality of the passenger’s own ability to communicate.
A communicative person is aware of the proper time-tested and effective ways of getting what he or she wants and need out of life. This is not some idea I just concocted. It is, in fact, the considered opinion of professional managers and leaders.
Time and again I have experienced the contribution a good passenger makes to the speed, efficiency and safety of a particular trip. All it takes is :
a pleasant introduction (for instance, “how are you doing today?”) — thereby putting the driver at ease that he is not “under the gun”;
clear requests and directions;
a cooperative attitude when difficulties (bad traffic, for example) arise;
and maybe even a companionable conversation.
By now I am not surprised by the results these inputs have on my performance, but for years I was amazed at how quickly I could get people places when they bothered to establish and maintain a proper mood.
It seemed sometimes as if routes I scarcely knew I knew opened up , and that traffic — almost miraculously — disappeared.
But : the Taxi of Tomorrow will have none of this.
There is a solid, permanently closed glass wall between customer and driver, making communication harder rather than easier.
Result : less communication rather than more, and — as a predictable result — worse service, and all brought to you by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the presumed ensurer of good service.
Nowadays there is increasing concern over the prevalence of autism among children. I would suggest that autism among adults is a clear menace as well.
There is even an increasing threat of autism in government agencies, even more pernicious than the other two, because choices made by government influence the actions, expectations and habits of millions of people, especially the young.
Now, with the Taxi Of Tomorrow, the autism problem is coming to a government agency near you!