By Don McCurdy

What department is that?

Reading an article from the New York Post about complaints against cab drivers being on the rise I could help but wonder exactly which department handles cab driver's complaints against passengers.

Having driven a cab for eight years and managed a taxicab company for thirteen I know full well that there are passengers that are problems waiting to happen. Who handles these complaints? Well, mostly the drivers.

Nobody really gives a damn if the drivers are verbally abused, treated rudely, lied to, conned, or mistreated in a variety of ways. Tough luck, get a real job is what they're told.

Every now and then some brilliant politician, like say City Councillor Michael Ross of Boston, gets the idea that a "taxicab bill of rights" would be a good thing. I have to laugh. For every taxi trip from hell story a passenger can tell you a seasoned cab driver can tell you ten dozen.

Hey Michael Ross, what's your plan for a passenger's bill of behavior? Don't have one? Why am I not surprised? Here you have the occupation that is constantly attacked, robbed, assaulted and murdered more than any other and the good councillor's solution is to pile on more abuse. I don't mind meaningful regulation, but it's a two way street. How about a reasonable set of protections for the driver in your "taxicab bill of rights" there Mikey? Or is it that the driver doesn't have any rights

Gee, is that all you have?

I have to wonder what people think. Reading a recent story of a taxicab driver from Savannah getting robbed of $600 the question occurs to me, what is a taxicab driver doing driving around with $600? Every training class I've ever been in or taught says to only carry enough money to make change. Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming the victim for getting robbed, that's not his fault. Getting robbed of more than $50 is his fault.

Is $600 a single night's proceeds? I think not. Do you think that a robber that gets $600 robbing a cab driver is ever going to stop robbing cab drivers? Who's training these people? The thing that made the whole story even more interesting is the fact that the local television station was kind enough to advertise the fact that you can get $600 robbing a cab driver. But, hey, the public has a right to know. Bet there's a surge in taxi trips in Savannah.

We'll all go out of business!

Of all of the arguments against various regulations I consistently get a chuckle out of the "we'll all go broke" argument. A recent discussion of installing taxi meters in cabs in Telford, Shropshire, England is another of those cases. It seems the local drivers think that having to install a meter in their cabs will bankrupt the taxi companies.

Let's see, you buy a car, paint it, insure it, install a radio or dispatch system but a taximeter will bankrupt you? I marvel at the ability of the regulators to keep a straight face when presented with this argument. Unless you're an out and out thief how does installing a meter bankrupt you? How about a recommendation for a modest fare increase to cover the cost? At least that would have some merit. Is that in the "taxicab bill of rights"?

Well, it's official. The Binghamton University police won't be enforcing the $50 vomit fee imposed by local cabbies. Investigator Matt Rossie said the fee was entirely a civil matter. Well, it is up to the point where the cab driver will have to beat the daylights out of a passenger for not paying the vomitting fee.

I believe Brooks Langford, the old salt that trained me, had the answer. He took the drunk and the cab to the quarter car wash and hosed off both. Not only did the drunk pay the fare, he also paid for the car wash. Of course you could do that with a Checker Marathon, it might not be so easy with a Crown Vic.

I can't help wondering if the fine city leaders in Boston and Cleveland are progressive enough to initiate a fee for excessively soiling a cab in their "taxicab bill of rights". Perhaps a half dozen cab drivers vomiting on their carpet in the city council chambers would bring the issue to the fore.

Say what?

The Springfield, Massachusetts Taxi Commission passed a proposal for an ordinance to force livery companies to adhere to the same regulations as taxicab companies. The ordinance was worked on by the commission and the 300 member New England Livery Association. 300 members? I didn't realize that there were 300 people outside of New York City that even knew what a livery company is.

Excuse me, would you mind using the back door?

Recently, the esteemed United States Congress passed an appropriations bill that had an amendment that required DC taxicabs to install taxi meters. The amendment was introduced by Senator Carl Levine and allows for the mayor of DC to override it by executive order.

It's good to see our nation's leaders dealing with such weighty issues. The issue has only been argued since Abraham Lincoln tried to figure out the zone rate to the White House from Penn Station in Washington D.C. In the interest of free enterprise President Bush has threatened to veto the bill. Ok, I made that part up.

Are you putting me on?

Recently, the esteemed city fathers of Dover, New Jersey restricted the local taxicab companies to 12 vehicles each with a cap of 60 total vehicles. The companies complained, of course. Some had as many as 24 vehicles with 90 licensed cabs in total.

Since most of the company's passengers are radio calls some of the taxi companies have converted to limousine companies, which are regulated by the state. Good job boys, but you failed to notice the absolute glut of drug stores. Perhaps, closing a third of the local drug stores would straighten out that industry also.




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