Sunday, June 30, 2013

NYC Taxi cabs: Several full circles from the local PTB regarding HailO etc.

Back in the early eighties the New York Times led a crusade to get two way radios out of yellow taxi cabs. Most didn't have them, but some did. The outrage was thus: The good people of Gotham would be looking for taxis and "available" cabs would pass them, by, their roofs ablaze with the message "on radio call."

Now a lot of this problem was originated in the fact that big companies based in NYC  (NYC once had the headquarters of nearly every Fortune 500 company) used to have set ups called "transportation departments" and "garages". Of course these came with some expense, including paying drivers on salary instead of per ride, maintaining the vehicles, etc. Couldn't have that! To be freed from such burdensome expenses, they turned to using yellow cabs with two way radios. Now generally and traditionally yellow cabs do street hails. Now the public street became the corporate garage, no expense.

That's the beauty of the yellow cab. So many people in New York, both residents and visitors do not have cars, and some that do stash them in lots and take them out for weekends and vacations not for ordinary to and fro. The taxi is something like NYC's family car. You raise your hand, a driver brings a car to your feet, you get in as if you owned the car and tell the driver where to take you. People from other places can hardly get used to this.

Anyhow, the bog companies would send their employees on their local missions or home as well in taxis summoned often during the busiest times. This did cause frustration for the rest of the taxi taking public and The New York Times crusaded for a new class of taxi, one that would not be yellow, would not take street hails, would be numbered only by the market and not by any regulation. and they won. The result of course is these armadas of Black taxis meter less, scouring the streets and airports, sitting outside the hottest clubs hooked up by the paid off doorman (the hotels too) to take street hails and charge whatever they could scam out of their passengers. Now it's not unusual that a prospective client calls one of these services and gets frustration because all their drivers are out hustling and not available for their supposed intended purpose, which is to pick up passengers via reservation.

Another more recent uproar was over the taxi drivers' use of cell phones and blue tooth while driving. ow this became a bog problem, more important by far than say, PCBs in public school classrooms, or falsified crime statistics. IMHO the fuss was that passengers did not like hearing these exotic languages being spoken by their slaves, er I mean drivers. Never mind that every office worker calls home and tweets friends much of the doo dah workday. Never mind that the authorities had promised but not delivered,a system to alert drivers to traffic problems and crowded events releasing scores or hundreds of prospective passengers. No, The telephones had to be banned for the drivers. Even Blue Tooth.
Okay, now comes technology.

The HailO driver clicks an icon at the start of his workday stating that he will only mess with his smart phone while legally standing. Safety first, of course. SO the driver gets called by passengers and by the company. He has to press icons for everything and report his takings and so forth, as well as he is asked to report on traffic problems, crowds, unusual events, police check points and so forth. All of course while standing, not moving. Yeah, right.

So for the convenience of companies who are making money, it becomes no big thing for a yellow cab to pass a person by on the street while on an assignment. There is no glaring "on radio call" light to incite those passed up. The off duty light has been abolished too for the same apparent reason. When the driver accepts a HailO or other such company call, he turns off his roof light and to the people on the street his car appears to have a passenger. Clever.

So I am using HailO now, getting used to it. So far for me I don't think it's made a difference money wise. As I learn to use it better and as it grows it will become indispensable to me.