This Prius taxi may be off the streets for a few days in early September. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak).
Get ready for some crowded subway cars when September 5th and 6th roll around. Just two days after vacation season and Labor Day weekend draw to close, the Taxi Workers Alliance union members plan to strike over Taxi and Limousine Commission plans to install GPS technology in the city’s 13,000 taxis.
Bobby Cuza, NY1 transit guru and local TV heartthrob, has more:
The Taxi Workers Alliance says that at 5 a.m. on Wednesday, September 5th its members will go on a 48-hour strike…At issue is a new GPS system, a satellite-tracking technology the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission is requiring in all 13,000 of the city’s yellow cabs. It’s just one in a package of technology improvements that also includes a credit card reader and a video screen in every backseat.
The TLC says GPS will allow riders to track their trip on an electronic map, and make it easier to recover lost property. But the Taxi Workers Alliance calls it an invasion of privacy, arguing drivers’ movements could be tracked even while off-duty – and that any technological snafu will cost them.
As I see it, there are two separate issues of varying importance here. Let’s deal with what I consider to be the lesser of the two problems. Taxi drivers are concerned that the GPS system will enable the Taxi and Limousine Commission to track their every move as they drive around the city.
I don’t see this is a legitimate concern. For a while, the city has been able to employ various tracking methods for drivers: E-ZPass records could chart speeds, traffic cameras could watch for transgressions. But it doesn’t happen. In short, no city agency has the money or manpower to monitor every GPS record, and when we’re talking about 13,000 cabs running around the city, the monitoring issue is compounded. GPS systems would allow riders to get fair treatment; taxi drivers wouldn’t and shouldn’t have to worry about Big Brother.
The second issue is neatly summarized by Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai. “The technology, if it shuts down, the meter shuts down,” Desai said to Cuza. “If the meter shuts down, the drivers cannot pick up a fare.”
This is a legitimate concern and one the city and T&LC should address. Taxi drivers, who barely eke out a living as it is, shouldn’t have to bare the brunt of the costs if the city-mandated technology fails. Here, I side with the taxi drivers.
Meanwhile, how will this affect those of us who avoid taxis and take the subway? Well, for two days at a time when the city’s population is swelling with vacationers returning home and college students checking in for the year, 13,000 taxis will be off the roads. Expect crowded trains and grumpy people who usually think they’re too good for the subway stooping to the level of a common straphanger. Oh, joy. I can’t wait.