The spirit of compromise slowly asserted itself at the last Town Hall Meeting under Deputy Director Christiane Hayashi's patient guidance.
The meetings, which had begun with hostility, emotional outbursts, arguments, personal attacks and polarized positions, gradually became a forum where different ideas could be discussed in a reasonable manner. The results are a few proposals that most everyone can live with ... maybe.
The subjects for discussion were whether or how we should put more taxis on the street and electronic waybills.
A Few More Taxis
The original proposal sent down by the MTA Board called for 108 taxis of various kinds. By the time Wednesdays meeting started, the Deputy Director had whittled the number down to:
- 25 Single Operator Permits.
- 2 Electric Vehicle (EV) permits.
- 25 Medallions to the top of the Waiting List.
The EV Permits will be for full time taxis and will go into effect once a few battery switching stations are put in.
The plan for 25 Peak Time permits was dismissed at the last meeting because nobody in the cab community wanted them.
The MTA and Hayahsi also decided not to sell 25 medallions directly at this time because their budget for the year of $10 million has already been met.
Single Operator Permits
Although many drivers remain against these permits (and some are against adding any taxis at all), I think the majority at the meetings favored them. There were two main arguments against the permits.
- That they give unfair competition to people on regular shifts by cherry picking the best hours. People who take this view think that more full time medallions should be given to the list instead.
- That the plan is financially risky and would be hard to regulate.
In addition, medallion holder Christopher Fulkerson expressed concern that leasing the vehicles from the MTA might be the first step toward the MTA taking over the business and leasing all the medallions.
Although the plan is not yet fully worked out, the main features of the Single Operator Permit will be:
- The permits will be leased from the MTA over a 3 year period.
- The permits will be awarded on the basis of A-Card seniority. This will include drivers both on and off the Waiting List. This is to reward them for their years of service.
- There will also probably be a skills test involved.
- The vehicles will be operated a maximum of 60 hours per week.
- For drivers over sixty - two drivers could share the vehicle.
- Although they would not be used exclusively for dispatched calls, servicing such calls would be very important and, possibly, be given priority.
- The amount of the lease would be reduced or eliminated if the operator took X number of dispatched calls.
- The vehicles would be not be allowed to stay at the airport.
- Whether or not the cabs would have a special color or numbering system.
- Which dispatching services they should be connected with.
- Whether they should have fixed hours of operation or ...
- Have a flexible schedule left to the discretion of the driver.
- How to enforce the sixty hour limit?
I should point out that driver and TAC member John Han deserves credit for bringing the idea of the Single Operator Permit to the attention of Christiane Hayashi.
Adding 25 More Cabs
Although Hayashi didn't mention it, one reason for putting 25 more cabs on the street is to palliate the public under the guise of Supervisor Scott Weiner and MTA Director Malcom Heinicke.
The Deputy Director chose to push for more cabs to the Waiting List (as opposed to MTA sales) in order to help get the List moving again and help medallion holders near the top of it. The number "25" would match the average of medallions that have been put out by the City for the last 30 years. Hayashi noted that there have been no new medallions added since 2008.
Of course, there was division among the drivers - pretty much on the basis of whether or not they were on the list.
Drivers like myself feel that the public has to be shown that we are willing to accommodate them partway.
However, like many of the other drivers, I also dislike the idea of putting cabs on the street simply because there is political pressure to do so. Director Hayashi says that she is looking for an outside group of experts to study the cab situation here and have them work with the drivers to develop a more scientific manner to decide if taxis should be put on the street or not.
In short, she wants to hold real PC and N hearings instead of the farces that were held in the past.
Many drivers don't want to see any medallions added until limos and illegal cabs are taken off the street.
One new note in the meeting was a general call for citywide dispatch or Open Taxi Access. This was particularly noticeable among drivers who work for companies with poor dispatching services.
These drivers think that more cabs shouldn't be added until OTA is given the chance to improve service to the neighborhoods.
Finally, there are drivers like Christopher Fulkerson who don't think any taxis should be added for any reason at all.
Next: Electronic Waybills