Archive for category money
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.
Since I cannot devote as much time to blogging as I would like, I cannot be as complete as I would like in this particular post. (At 60 or more hours a week driving, blogging has got to be a sideline.) The subject, however, needs more research than I can give to it now in order to be done right, and so, dear reader, you will have to consider this post a trial run of the more thorough treatment that, hopefully, will emerge over time.
That subject is : how does the taxi tv work?
By this I mean, what is its goal, and how does it achieve it?
The goal, of course, is to generate revenue for the TLC and (presumably) for owners of cabs. This is done by charging the companies who advertise on the the tube to pay for doing so.
But what do they expect to accomplish by this advertising, you might ask (or I might ask, for “purposes of argument,” shall we say).
The first point to remember is that, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, there are, on average, at least 5 to 6 million cab passengers per week year round in New York City. And all these people are confined to a relatively tiny place, for 5 or 10 minutes, or longer — and in the case of airport trips maybe for 30 or 40 minutes.
This makes of them a captive audience.
If they were at home, they could get up and go the the kitchen to make a sandwich while the “commercials” were on, or call a friend, or use their computers. In other words, they could escape.
On the other hand, when they’re in the back of the cab, they can go nowhere : they are stuck where they are, and can’t move much more than a foot in either direction. They are trapped. They are restrained. There is nowhere they can go.
This is where the advertisers begin to scent blood. The ads they inflict on cab passengers are nowhere so easy to evade as the ads they inflict on people at home or in cars. Such people have begun tuning ads out in greater and greater numbers. At this point there is even software that deletes ads when someone records material on a VCR.
I have been informed by several passengers from the ad industry that the industry is “in crisis.”
What to do?
Well — leaving the taxi tv aside for the moment — one way to turn the tables on the increasingly large part of the public that is sick of ads is to place “advertising media” (fancy words for “boob tubes”) in places where you can’t ignore them.
One such place is a gas station. Now, often, you will pump your gas beneath a tv tube featuring an ad campaign, with some weather thrown in, just to get you to look at the tube in the first place.
Or elevators. Did you ever think you would see tv’s in elevators? Probably not, but now you do, and will, because you’re trapped on the elevator and, therefore, a perfect object for an ad.
As people get better at evading ads at home and in their cars, the ads, refusing to be denied, are shadowing these people all around town. You and I are, in effect, being shadowed. Shadowed by advertisers, and by the ad agencies they hire to make up the ads in the first place.
Perhaps the best venue for persistent advertising is the back of a taxicab, because the average cab ride is longer than the average elevator ride or the average time spent pumping gas.
And so, presto! — the taxi tv!
Loved by few, loathed by many, but esteemed — if only as a last ditch effort by a challenged industry — as the salvation of the day!
You can’t escape it like you do the ads at home : it has you right where it wants you.
And, after you’ve left the cab, its accomplices will stalk you right into the elevator you take and the gas station you fill up at. And — who knows — it might soon be coming to a house of worship in your very own neighborhood, and even — dare we object? — to your library, your beach, your park, your woodlot, your garbage dump, your roof, your lobby, your air shaft. Dare we assume your toilet itself is far behind?
After all, several years ago no one foresaw TV’s in the backs of taxis, or at gas stations, or in elevators …
The legacy Mike Bloomberg seems to be interested in carving out for himself is coming to seem to be one of personal health : he has helped New Yorkers become healthier through his various health initiatives, and it is this that he will be remembered for above all else. — Or, so his thinking goes these days.
There’s a lot to be said on this subject, and no single blog post could hope to say it all.
I would like to focus on one very small, but clear and precise detail in the health orientation of our mayor.
By now (August 2012) when the vast majority of my customers have lost any interest in the taxi TV and have come to consider it, more often than not, a nuisance, and even something great numbers of them are eager to say they “hate” — by now I have been told thousands of times by these passengers that the Taxi TV makes them “sick.”
Somewhere around two thirds of women, and around one third of men, claim to get car sick when it’s on.
What does this mean?
Well, it seems to mean that the mayor’s concern for health is, at best, variable. There are over 5 million cab passengers a week, and, if around half of them are getting sick from the experience, as they say they are, then that means that the mayor’s brainstorm, the Taxi TV, is making somewhere between 2 and 3 million people sick every week.
Or : 130 million people a year.
Or, now that the TV tube has been in place for 4 years : 520 million people to date.
Which is to say, that the mayor can claim to have made half a billion people sick in the last 4 years.
Now there’s a health legacy!
The average passenger has long since realized there’s nothing of value for him or her on the Taxi TV.
Although the assumption at first was that there might be something useful on the tube, that idea went by the boards pretty quickly, as even the most diehard Bloomberg fan had to admit that 50 hearings of the Mary Poppins commercial were — maybe — a bit too much.
So why is the thing back there anyway?
Revenue, of course. The nickel-and-dime billionaire who is our mayor has never hid the fact that the prime consideration in installing the monstrosity was money. Despite some notions being floated that gullible tourists would be seduced into heading for certain restaurants based on cab advertisements spontaneously acted on, (an event I’ve never known to happen in 4 years or so), the fallback position has always been that companies would pay for ad time on the tube, and this would constitute a valuable “revenue stream.”
That the whole ordeal would be a prolonged ugly experience for drivers and passengers alike wasn’t much factored in, apparently.
Some questions one might ask : how much money is involved? and who gets it?
The answer (to both)?
The mayor has made claims of openness and “transparency” in government : the city budget, he has claimed, is available for public viewing on the internet.
The city budget is available — to a degree — on the internet. But, as for information on the amount of revenue brought in by the Taxi TV — there is none. The subject is not covered. As for information on the agencies or entities that get the money : none.
So much for “transparency.”
For some reason, many people like to think cab drivers “make out” really well.
(For some reason, too, they seem to be attached to the phrase “make out,” when it comes to expressing themselves on the topic. Why this should be, I don’t know.)
One easy way of calculating just how well cab drivers — at least in New York — are doing (or “making out,” I suppose) is to take the latest Taxi and Limousine Commission estimate of the average take-home pay for a cab shift, and to divide this by the number of hours in a shift.
Sound easy? Let’s do it.
Average pay for a taxi shift : $130.
Average number of hours in a taxi shift : 12.
Therefore, average pay per hour for a New York City cab driver : $10.83.
And this they call “making out.”
Which dictionary are they using!?
Yesterday I posted an appraisal of the new fare increase — about which I was enthusiastic, citing especially the role of TLC Chairperson David Yassky as something to be happy about. Another day, however, and doubts creep in. Currently held up by a judge’s temporary restraining order is a plan advanced by the State of New York and supported by the mayor and the TLC calling for an additional 2,000 cabs to be put on the streets in future months. The TLC is confident the delay isn’t final, and the cabs will eventually be cleared for service.
My question : if that happens, then what happens to the fare “increase”?
There are already about 14,000 cabs on the road. Adding 2,000 more equates to an increase in the total fleet of about 15%, and, consequently, a like increase to the competition the average driver faces. So, if the average driver stands to see his business fall off by 15% due to increased competition (a likely development), then what happens to the fare increase? It seems to rapidly shrink to 2%, doesn’t it?
Is this just another cosmetic deception, like many others from the Commission?
Well, we shall see what happens — whether the new cab initiative goes through, and what the results will actually turn out to be. Only time will tell. But : at this point, doubts about the fare “increase” are not to be rejected out of hand. Things have not played out thoroughly, the truth will come only when the fare is in place, and the fate of the increased cab plan is known and its effects experienced.
Just when everything seemed so rosy …