Friday, August 24, 2012

NYC and TLC Making Mess of Taxi and Transit Systems

On top of a trial court decision yesterday that claims that the payroll tax used to fund the MTA is invalid, the Taxi and Limousine and New York City are doing their best to screw up the transportation system in the region.

The TLC has been updating the look for the ubiquitous yellow cabs. They've already signed off on a new design that isn't fully ADA compliant - because not every new cab will be required to be accessible.

Now, the TLC has decided to streamline the logos and information provided on the side of the cabs by stripping away all extraneous information.
T is for taxi, and that's good enough for the TLC. The look of the New York City taxi cab is changing again, and no we aren't talking about the Taxi of Tomorrow. Five years after the Taxi & Limousine Commission turned to Smart Design to create a new logo and graphics for NYC cabs they've gone and streamlined their work. We hope you don't like checking the current price of a taxi ride on the door of a cab!

Yup, going forward the fare panel on the side of taxis are no more. After all, we now have Taxi TVs to tell us that information (sigh). Also going away are the last vestiges of the checkered cabs as those black and white checks on the back are going away. Oh, and the word taxi. Yup, now cab doors will simply say NYC T (with the T in a black circle), not NYC Taxi.

"We have no doubt that a yellow car with a roof light with a big T will be understood as a New York City taxicab," TLC chair David Yassky explains. "Even the greenest of greenhorns will know that it’s a taxicab."
The cabs will now have a logo "T" and the cab identifier, but no other information.

They used to have Taxi written out, along with rate information.

Okay, they're trying to play around with branding, and a logo can be branded, but the word taxi can't. If that's part of the plan, then I get that.

But why drop the rate information? At a time when Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been pushing restaurants to include calorie counts on menus, he's allowing a policy that takes relevant information to commuters off the outside of cabs? How is that customer friendly? It's an asinine consideration, and the design team that came up with the plan spent just how much to revise the logos and information? It was a waste of money.

Meanwhile, back to the payroll tax. Ben Kabab highlights the multitude of problems with the ruling invalidating the tax. It is a huge hit to the MTA, which is funded in part from the tax. If it's upheld by the Appellate Division or State Court of Appeals, then the MTA would see a permanent loss of more than a billion dollars annually. That's money that can't be made up without slugging commuters or spreading out the costs to all taxpayers in the form of a new tax.

At the same time, a separate ruling invalidated the Mayor's plan to bring cab service to the outer boroughs. In that instance, the Mayor sought to make the changes in the state legislature rather than go through the City Council. The big problem is once again money. The Mayor bet a billion dollars on revenue raised from the sale of new medallions, and the court decision throws the city budget out of whack.

Taxi medallion owners have an inordinate amount of power to block any changes to the medallion system. They're vested in maximizing the costs of medallions, where the sale of an existing medallion can reach a million dollars or more. Allowing more medallions would dilute the value of existing medallions. The problem is that the medallion owners have the city council in its collective pocket and they've thwarted prior efforts to expand cab service to the outer boroughs where transit service is more spotty. The Mayor sought to change the status quo by going to the legislature, but this is a home rule issue. So, the Mayor has to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to expand service and close the budget hole of his own creation.

While he's at it, he better get on the TLC to make ADA compliance required across all cabs, not just a small fraction. And he could further assist in the transit policy by allowing disabled persons to use ADA-compliant cabs instead of Access-a-Ride buses that are costing the MTA far more than it ever imagined ($500+ million annually and growing). Since most cab rides are for far less than the cost per passenger for Access-a-Ride, a solution can be found here if the mayor, TLC and MTA can hash out an agreement.

But that means getting the medallion owners to back the changes.

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