Saturday, June 15, 2013

"Anyone who puts down more than half a million in the October taxi medallion auction is nuts." (New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission) and why the Bloomberg taxi plan is plain stupid and bad for the City.update

Update Tuesday June 18, 2013.
New York Taxi medallion prices, Future of New York Taxi medallion prices.

I've been thinking about this ever since that guy who might be who he said he is got out of my taxi. I am addressing myself to anyone considering the October New York Taxi auction, especially if you do not have some actual knowledge and experience with New York or with our taxi system.

Mike Bloomberg is a very powerful man, and in some ways he could be more powerful as a former mayor than as a mayor because he will have much more time to pursue his hunches, his feelings, his notions, his pet hates.

Mister Bloomberg gets upset when someone bests him in a fight or even challenges him. Various medallion owner groups have fought him on certain of his pet notions and have won some and lost some.  You must be aware that he threw a tantrum and threatened the biggest medallion owner to his face that he will "fucking destroy your industry." Not good for the future of New York Taxi medallions.

In addition the movers and shakers hate the medallion system. For one thing they never understood it and watched with jealous rage as some few mere taxi drivers worked their asses off and took all the chances and dares and became multi millionaires. They do not think that's right. Read the pages of The New York Times, Crain's and the others. Check out what the think tanks all say. They say "destroy the taxi industry." 

Now they would like you to put your money into this system one more time before they rip you off. Be careful. Think long and hard and remember, the people who are pushing this thing do not care about you.

I'm one cabbie who would not know Beyonce if she came into my taxi and said "hello I'm Beyonce." I just do not watch TV or go to movies. I don't read Page Six.

I definitely would not know if someone were to tell me that he is one of the eight unsalaried Commissioners of the TLC whether he was making stuff up or not but for what it is worth a couple of nights ago this guy got into my taxi and told me that's who or what he is. Okay, I was impressed. He thanked me for my offer of a marshmallow but declined to take it.

Then the guy goes off on the Bloomberg taxi plan. This is what he said: "Anyone who puts down more than half a million in the October taxi medallion auction is nuts."

I asked him why. He said that from now on the city will be selling taxi medallions every year forever. He said that the projected city budget shortfalls are as far as the horizon and that now everyone in City Hall is singing and dancing because they think that "they can just print out taxi medallions the way the Fed prints money if you get my meaning."

So, now this guy could be full of it or he could be the real deal talking out of his real mouth and not his ass. I would guess he is telling the truth in any case as it is certainly much easier politically to just sell more medallions than to raise rich people's taxes.

I also had wondered about the impact of two thousand new yellow taxis on traffic, air quality and the local economy as in New York time is notoriously money and traffic jams are costly messes.  Now the brilliant and clever thing Bloomberg did was he "gave the people what they want" at no apparent cost to them or the city budget, in fact bringing on a "windfall" he supposes. There surely was no need for environmental impact studies, feasibility studies, public legislative hearings. Hell who needs that stuff when you have a sure fire winning demagogue scam?  I found this helpful item from an old NPR "All Things Considered" show I heard long ago. Considering all things might in fact be wise:

CORNISH: We've been reporting on the conflicted 21st century relationship between cities and cars. This week, a city that's trying to add more cars of a certain sort. New York City wants to add more of its famous Yellow Taxi Cabs to the streets, special ones that are wheelchair accessible. And the sale of new taxi licenses could raise a billion dollars for the city. But city streets are like an ecosystem - add something and the effects ripple out, shifting traffic patterns for everyone.
Robert Smith, of NPR's Planet Money Team, hits the street to learn how a little change can have a big economic impact.

ROBERT SMITH, BYLINE: I'm on streets of midtown Manhattan. And for anyone who wants a taxicab, this is the nightmare scenario. It's raining.

TAYLOR COPELAND YORK: Yeah, it's freezing and I'm drenching wet.


SMITH: And it's the middle of rush hour. You are never going to get a taxi cab.

YORK: Ugh, I've had three say no.

SMITH: What's your name?

YORK: Taylor Copeland York.

SMITH: Well, Taylor, there is an actual plan to put 2,000 more taxi cabs...

YORK: Oh, that'll be nice.

SMITH: ...on the streets of the city.

YORK: I say yes, because I really want a taxi cab right now. And I think it'd be a lot easier if people didn't have to fight over them all the time.

SMITH: That is totally understandable. But I have to tell you that right now, in New York City, there is a debate about whether more taxi cabs will actually make things better in the city. And, you know, a few days ago, I was looking at this situation from a completely different point of view. I was high above the streets of New York.

Well, maybe not that high. It's an office in a skyscraper and it belongs to a sort of traffic guru.

CHARLES KOMANOFF: I'm Charles Komanoff.

SMITH: He's a transportation consultant. He uses computer models to analyze traffic patterns, the same patterns he sees when he rides his bike to work.

KOMANOFF: Everyday for almost 40 years.

SMITH: And the same patterns you can see when we both lean out his window


SMITH: Komanoff says look down. The number of taxi cabs in New York City is capped at around 13,000. And yet, they dominate the streets.

KOMANOFF: You know, I think a good, you know, 40 percent of the vehicles in motion or trying to be in motion, that we're seeing out the window are Yellow Cabs.

SMITH: Now imagine what happens when they multiply. OK, we don't have to just imagine it. Komanoff turns on his computer and he opens a program filled with rows of number.

KOMANOFF: Welcome to the Balanced Transportation Analyzer.


KOMANOFF: Yeah, the BTA.

SMITH: In here is every lane of every road in the heart of Manhattan, you know, the cars, the buses, the trucks. And this computer model tells us something unexpected. More taxis can actually make a city less efficient. Up here in his office, Komanoff starts to click on parts of his model to explain the traffic problem.

And I'm going to head back out into the streets of Manhattan to show you what he's talking about. I'm now walking up to the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. And you can see the problem with Manhattan right here because everyday 800,000 - 800,000 cars come into Manhattan over just a few bridges and tunnels like this one. And that just means that in the morning and afternoon the traffic is terrible. Here, I'm literally walking faster than this guy is driving - Frank Gingerelli.

FRANK GINGERELLI: It took me one hour from 57th Street to here.

SMITH: But here's the thing that Komanoff says about all those cars. You see, they slow down traffic in the morning and in the evening.

KOMANOFF: But they're not tooling around the heart of midtown. They have a destination to get to. They find a way and a place to park their car and they're done.

SMITH: So with cars we have a lot of cars, but on the streets for a short period of time, relatively.

KOMANOFF: Yes. Yes, exactly.

SMITH: If the city adds 2,000 more taxis, that seems like a drop in the bucket, right? Except for one thing - cabs don't park. Cabs are on the street 24 hours a day.

KOMANOFF: Every additional Yellow Cab is tantamount in its impact on traffic to having 40 additional private cars drive in from the boroughs or the suburbs to the heart of the city.

SMITH: A cab is always taking up vital road space. And this is where Komanoff can really fire up the old computer model and show us what happens when you have more cabs.

KOMANOFF: So, shall we give it a go?

SMITH: Yeah, let's do it.


SMITH: Once he puts in all the numbers - more cabs, where they are driving, their routes, et cetera, he has good news and bad news. The good news first: 2,000 extra cabs will mean that people like Taylor, stuck in rain trying to hail a cab will find that cab one minute faster. You will save 60 seconds waiting on the curb. But there is also the bad news

KOMANOFF: Travel speeds within the Manhattan CBD, the heart of the city, will go down by an average of 12 percent.

SMITH: So there will be more cabs. You can hail a cab easier, you assume. But all the cabs are going to be moving 12 percent slower.

KOMANOFF: And not just the cabs moving 12 percent slower. All the buses, all the trucks and all the private cars.

SMITH: Based on the average cab ride, that minute you saved at the curb will disappear. You'll be sitting in traffic longer. And Komanoff, with his computer program, can put a price tag on that. All that lost time, the deliveries delayed, the work you could be doing at the office, if everyone is moving 12 percent slower it could cost, he calculates, $500 million a year in lost time.
And this is the lesson that moves beyond taxis in New York. Nothing is free when it comes to city traffic. Even the tiniest changes ripple out, you just have to calculate them.

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