New York State should postpone its January 1 surcharges on taxi rides until the startup of congestion pricing.
The surcharges on fare trips south of 96th Street by taxis and app-based services like Uber and Lyft are intended to bring in $400 million a year for the MTA. Delaying and/or reducing the surcharges until the rollout of full congestion pricing could cost the authority a half-a-billion dollars, maybe more.
Like everyone who fights for affordable and reliable mass transit — the lifeblood of our city and region — I want to help the MTA become solvent.
But I am convinced that the new surcharge will deal a brutal blow to the people who drive and own yellow cabs. And I’m worried that the unfairness of a “congestion surcharge” that balances the MTA’s budget on the backs of taxi drivers will be so palpable that it will tarnish congestion pricing’s “brand.” This, I fear, could jeopardize the push to solidify public support for congestion pricing — support that is needed in order to pass it in the state legislature after the New Year.
Throughout my years advocating and modeling congestion pricing, I’ve insisted that all for-hire vehicles — yellows, Ubers, Lyfts, etc. — be surcharged in tandem with private cars and trucks. With for-hire-vehicles now accounting for close to half of all vehicle miles traveled in the Manhattan Central Business District (roughly 22 percent by yellows, 25 percent for the app-based vehicles), charging them for occupying the district’s scarce street space has never been more essential.
But that is just as true for private vehicles — serving less of a public purpose than the for-hire vehicles —that make up the other half of CBD traffic. And I have been steadfast in insisting that neither toll element be done without the other. In particular, yellow cabs must not be surcharged for servicing fares in the Manhattan taxi zone unless and until cars and trucks pay to enter the CBD.
A central premise of congestion pricing was that all of its elements would kick in at the same time. With congestion pricing synchronized — autos and trucks paying to enter the central charging zone; taxis and Ubers paying for time traveling in or occupying the zone — the for-hire drivers can win back through faster travel the fares they stand to lose from surcharges boosting the price of a ride.
But that arrangement breaks down if the taxi congestion surcharges are implemented alone. Without cordon pricing, demand for Ubers and yellows — especially yellows — will diminish.
The threat is most dire for the yellows. The state-mandated surcharges are 100 percent loaded on the up-front “drop” part of the fare that will hit taxi users like a punch to the jaw. The surcharges also guarantee Uber Pool or Via customers a 70% lower surcharge than a yellow (75 cents vs. $2.50) simply for requesting a pooled ride, even if no other passenger shows up.
And if that gaping loophole isn’t invitation enough to game the system, there’s always the monopolists’ time-honored tactic of lowering the price to kill the competition — a luxury that yellow drivers and owners can’t afford.
The congestion surcharges won’t shrink the various for-hire vehicle services equally. Rather, almost the entire shrinkage will be borne by the immigrant-dominated yellows as the combination of the price impact and cutthroat competition decimates what’s left of the taxi industry.
What is to be done? Here are six steps toward a fair and economically sustainable congestion surcharge:
Get Albany to defer large-scale congestion surcharges on yellow cab rides until congestion pricing’s cordon charges take effect.
Also cut the Uber/Lyft surcharges while requiring those services to implement universal digital connectivity no later than April 1, 2019.
With universal connectivity in effect (the yellows already have it), toss out the app-based vehicles’ lump-sum congestion surcharge, and base it instead on time with a passenger in the zone — a charge that corresponds closely to congestion causation.
Expand the app-based surcharges to include a supplemental charge for “trawling” — Uber and Lyft drivers sitting in the zone (and snarling traffic) while waiting to be pinged.
Replace the 75-cent surcharge for pooled rides with a surcharge that reflects their lesser congestion impact without giving away revenue and unfairly undercutting yellow rides.
Introduce a time-in-the-zone-based surcharge for yellows; but no trawling charge, insofar as the yellows are limited in number and their business model requires them to cruise for street hails.
Yes, these steps will cost the MTA revenue. But the upside of congestion pricing’s revenue promise is orders of magnitude greater.
At the TLC hearing last week on the surcharges, anguished drivers labeled the taxi surcharges “congestion pricing.” On Wednesday at City Hall, they will unveil a “Stop the Suicide Surcharge” banner, a slogan that reflects the eight taxi driver and owner suicides over the past year. Whether or not that’s fair — and I think in many ways it is — the label may stick, especially if more drivers take their own lives as conditions deteriorate.
All of us in the long campaign for congestion pricing have been committed to making congestion pricing fair — not just to be on the winning side, but to be on the right side. Let’s keep it that way.
Taxi driver dies after setting himself on fire to protest carpool app
A South Korean taxi driver set himself on fire and died Monday to protest a carpooling service proposed by a company that operates the country’s most popular chat app.
The 57-year-old driver doused himself in a flammable liquid and then lit his clothing while sitting in a taxi near parliament, police and the fire department said.
Unionized taxi drivers have held rallies in the capital, Seoul, to protest the carpooling app proposed by Kakao Mobility, which they say threatens their jobs.
Kakao Mobility, the transportation service arm of top mobile messenger operator Kakao Corp., said Friday it was testing the carpooling app despite opposition from taxi drivers who want the government to refuse permission for the service.
“We are still in the middle of a tug-of-war against the government to stop the carpool service,” said an official at the Korea National Joint Conference of Taxi Association.
A spokeswoman for Kakao Mobility said the company extended its sympathies to the family of the taxi driver.
“We feel sorry and sad and express our condolences,” the spokeswoman said. She declined further comment.
The transport ministry was not immediately available for comment.
NY: Uber, Lyft drivers secure $17.22 minimum wage in new TLC rules
Tens of thousands of drivers with Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services in the city are set to receive a hefty pay raise.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission’s Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted to approve the Driver Income and Transparency Rules, which guarantee a minimum hourly wage of $17.22 (after expenses) to more than 80,000 drivers who work for larger app-based companies such as Uber, Lyft, Via and Juno. A higher minimum wage also was set for drivers with wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
The new rules mean 96 percent of ride-hail drivers in the city will get an additional $10,000 in income per year, according to the TLC.
“New York City is the first city globally to recognize that the tens of thousands of men and women who are responsible for providing increasingly popular rides that begin with the touch of a screen deserve to make a livable wage and protection against companies from unilaterally reducing it,” TLC chair Meera Joshi said following the vote. “Convenience costs, and going forward, that cost will no longer be borne by the driver.”
Drivers will be paid based on a per-minute, per-mile minimum trip formula once the rules go into effect, which is expected to happen by mid-January 2019.
Ride-hail companies will be responsible for ensuring drivers are paid appropriately based on the new rules. The TLC also will be making a wage calculator available on its website so that drivers can determine how much their employer should be paying them.
Uber and Lyft on Tuesday warned that the new rules stifle competition in the industry and would result in higher fares for customers while decreasing availability.
“Uber supports efforts to ensure that full-time drivers in NYC — whether driving with taxi, limo or Uber — are able to make a living wage, without harming outer borough riders who have been ignored by yellow taxis and underserved by mass transit,” Uber’s director of public affairs Jason Post said. “The TLC’s implementation of the City Council’s legislation to increase driver earnings will lead to higher than necessary fare increases for riders while missing an opportunity to deal with congestion in Manhattan’s central business district.”
The TLC also did not consider that some companies issue driver incentives and bonuses to ensure reliability and accessibility in areas outside of Manhattan when it came up with the new wage formula, according to Post.
Describing the rules as a “step backward for New Yorkers,” Lyft took issue with a loophole in the wage calculator that it said allows companies to petition for their own, lower utilization rate within the formula. The company also argued against an “eleventh-hour” rule addition that sets a different minimum pay rate for trips that take drivers outside of the five boroughs.
“Lyft believes all drivers should earn a livable wage and we are committed to helping drivers reach their goals,” a spokesman for Lyft said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the TLC’s proposed pay rules will undermine competition by allowing certain companies to pay drivers lower wages, and disincentive drivers from giving rides to and from areas outside Manhattan.”
While ride-hail companies oppose the regulations, the Independent Drivers Guild, representing over 70,000 for-hire vehicle drivers in the city, lauded the decision.
“All workers deserve the protection of a fair, livable wage and we are proud to be setting the new bar for contractor workers’ rights in America,” said Jim Conigliaro Jr., founder of the Independent Drivers Guild.
Via also welcomed the new wage rules on Tuesday.
“As the industry leader in driver earnings in New York City, we are looking forward to working with the TLC on implementing this rule,” the company said in an emailed statement.
Joshi, meanwhile, said that she believes New Yorkers would be willing to pay more and wait a little longer if it meant their drivers are being paid a fair wage.
New York City taxi and rideshare drivers to receive a living wage
We’ve talked before about how hard it is for folks driving for Lyft and Uber to break even. Things aren’t so hot for cab drivers, either: as ridesharing becomes more prevalent by the day, those who own their own taxi or drive for someone else are finding it harder to make a living. The drop in revenue going into the pockets of New York City Taxi medallion owners has been so extreme that drivers have been forced to work 100-hour weeks just to stay out of the red. Others, feeling that their lives were ruined by mounting debt, out of desperation committed suicide. Today, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission decided that they’d do something about it.
Today, New York’s City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission approved measures to enact minimum pay requirements for app-based for-hire vehicles (FHV) like Uber, Lyft, and Juno. The new pay structure is set to take effect early in the new year.
The $26.51 per hour gross pay floor (estimated to amount to $17.22 per hour, less expenses) comes after “growing evidence of declining driver pay” was confirmed by a labor study, commissioned by the TLC, which concluded that 85 percent of drivers in NYC were earning less than the local minimum wage of $15 an hour. The new requirements will increase the average driver’s take-home pay by an estimated $9,600 per year.
Advocacy groups like the Independent Driver’s Guild and Amalgamated Transit Union have celebrated the change. “All workers deserve the protection of a fair, livable wage and we are proud to be setting the new bar for contractor workers’ rights in America,” Conigliaro, Jr., founder of IDG, wrote in a press statement.
So of course, rideshare companies are throwing a fit.
According to Gizmodo, Uber thinks it’s fantastic that their drivers will finally be able to make a living wage, but insinuated that the extra cash required to ensure that their employees can afford to eat AND pay the rent would come out of the pockets of those using the rideshare service. Lyft? They’re thrilled that folks can afford to maybe set their kids up at a decent daycare while simultaneously paying all of their bills. But they warn that “the TLC’s proposed pay rules will undermine competition by allowing certain companies to pay drivers lower wages, and disincentive drivers from giving rides to and from areas outside Manhattan.”
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