Two kinds of city councilors: Those who use services like Uber and those who don't

The City Council agreed today to hold a hearing on how to regulate Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services.

Councilors Bill Linehan - who proposed the hearing - and Steve Murphy said it was time for regulation to protect public safety and out of fairness to existing medallion owners, who are subject to scrutiny by the police hackney division.

Younger councilors who actually use the services agreed considering regulatory issues makes sense, but said they don't want to do anything that would squelch innovation in the city. They were joined by Councilor Sal LaMattina, who said he and many other East Boston residents have become frequent Uber users because medallion cabbies often refuse to go anywhere near their neighborhood.

In addition to public safety, Linehan said he wants to ensure that the new wave of cars are properly insured and that they offer the same levels of service to the disabled as medallion cab companies.

Murphy said that currently, riders have no assurance the drivers they get through their smartphones have undergone any background checks or other safeguards. Not that he would necessarily know from experience, however, because the services rely on "all those apps and iPhones and all that other stuff I frankly don't understand all that well myself."

He noted that the city funded part of the South Boston convention center by issuing new cab medallions and that it was unfair to the holders of them to just let the new services come into town.

"We shouldn't have different standards just because a car is painted a different color," he said.

Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury), however, said he has gotten only "exemplary service" when he's used Uber and Lyft and that the city should be doing whatever it can to encourage innovation.

Councilor Josh Zakim (Fenway, Back Bay, Mission Hill) said he's also a regular Uber user and that while he wants a fair system in Boston, he also wants one that recognizes the sort of innovation the new companies represent. At-large Councilor Michelle Wu also acknowledged being a regular Uber user.

LaMattina said that, in addition to himself and his East Boston constituents, his daughter is a regular user and he feels safe when she does, because everything is recorded.

Councilors Charles Yancey (Dorchester) and Tito Jackson (Roxbury) said that in addition to ride-share issues, the council should also consider whether it still makes sense for the police department - via its hackney division - to still regulate a key component of the city's transportation system. Jackson also says he wants to take a look at the 6% credit-card fee medallion cabbies are forced to pay - and that he wants to ensure that drivers for the new services are treated "humanely and well."

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Comments

uber vs. cab

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How about the city council members try taking a cab and than Uber prior to this meeting so they can see the difference in level of service and know first hand what they are talking about?!

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That would skew the vote

As half the CC members who took taxis would be lost going in circles in Brighton and the other half would be on the sidewalk arguing with the taxi drivers about broken credit card meters.

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Plus they'd have to stop at home

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Because the AC wasn't working and they would need a shower before their meeting

I would challenge them to this - how about they flag down only a cab that is accurately displaying the "available" light on the roof?

Oh wait, we don't have advanced technology like that in the first place.

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so the city already regulates cabs

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and they think that this regulation has resulted in a superior service? The cab business in Boston is sub-par to any other cab service I've used while visiting other cities. Insurance issue is a joke - if you've ever been the victim of a collision with a cab you know what I mean. They generally drive like it's their first day and getting them to pay up after an at-fault accident is nearly impossible.

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Rent Seekers

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And here come the Rent Seekers.

I do find it laughable that they think uber drivers need to pass "background checks". Personally I'd rather ride with a local felon who knows how to get around if it means the guy wasn't just off a boat, talking the entire time in another language on a cell phone, and getting us lost since he has no knowledge of the city. I've never had an issue with an uber driver, but things did get dicey with a cabbie that got me lost in Charlestown after not knowing the pike was shut down for road work while trying to get me to Watertown via Storrow. There was no way I was going to pay the meter for his incompetence, and lack of knowledge. It came close to fisticuffs, and I wasn’t the instigator.

Truth be told the medallion system has led to taxi service that just doesn’t care about customers. Period. Why should they when they hold state run monopolies guaranteed by the system. In this day and age that also means they wield power with the city issuing them, and through regulatory capture they have influence and are insulated from the people that are supposed to be regulating them, and from their customers demands and complaints. It made sense back in the day when we didn't have good information systems and tracking, but the only thing that should be regulated in this day and age is safety.

Uber would have no business if things with Boston taxis were fine and dandy as is. That they’re disrupting into and eating a huge chunk of the taxi customer base is only proof at just how inept and terrible a job the medallion system and hackney division is doing in this city.

If the medallion owners want their customers back, might I suggest offering better service and value?

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If the councilors want to do

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If the councilors want to do anything to improve the cab experience for anyone but the rich medallion owners (I don't think Linhean or Murphy do, though) they could do several things to improve the experience, the first of which would be to change the fee we pay to go to East Boston in a cab vs a personal car. Those of us who don't have cars and use cabs with public transit get screwed by paying 5 dollars to use the tunnel (often both ways) when a person who owns a car pays 3 (unless they are from South Boston then they pay even less because, well, they are special). They could also improve the life of cabbies by finally tackling the many issues brought up by the Globe team last year. Its good that they are talking about taking the cabs oversight away from the hack division at the BPD, but hopefully it will be replaced by something with civilian oversight, people from the community, who will actually DO something about all the complaints and terrible service from Boston cabs. Getting them to use GPS would be a boon, as well as fining them for using cell phones while driving.

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"all those apps and iPhones

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"all those apps and iPhones and all that other stuff I frankly don't understand all that well myself."

Vote Steve Murphy: leadership, hard work, and a complete lack of understanding about the things he's supposed to be regulating.

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The Boston City Council is overstepping.

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Über should not have to provide ANY level of service to handicapped if it doesn't want to. Über is a private company. This is not an issue that should be up for consideration by the City Council. I know Seattle just got a few cents of every Über ride as a concession from Über and the like as part of every ride to help fund the cab companies' ride program for disabled citizens in that city which, by the way, I think is some disgusting dealing by that city's politicians. With that being said, I'm sure Über wouldn't be against providing that type of service if the need arose.

They, in theory already can

They, in theory already can provide the service. It's just that no one with a disabled accessible vehicle has stepped forward, or bought one yet. If Uber maybe gave an incentive for a driver to outfit a van with the very expensive equipment needed for wheelchair access, I'm sure they'd solve this problem instantly.

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Let me edit you post for clarity

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"Screw those stupid people with their stupid disabilities wanting to go stupid places and stuff. Screw them."

Medallion owners owed?

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He noted that the city funded part of the South Boston convention center by issuing new cab medallions and that it was unfair to the holders of them to just let the new services come into town

This is exactly the attitude that squelches innovation. That medallion owners are owed anything because they bought into a system of artificial scarcity is just silly.

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Bill Linehan

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Bill Linehan is about as outdated as taxi regulations. Time for him to go.

- The Original SoBo Yuppie

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Let's not also forget...

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I agree with many of the previous posters. I would tell our City Council that here are the biggest problems with our current taxi system and you BETTER fix those before even thinking about regulating something else ineffectively:

1. As previously mentioned, taxi drivers will often do whatever necessary to claim their credit card machine is broken. For out-of-town (& especially foreign) customers, some cabbies have even gone a step further by demanding the passenger goes to an ATM--while the meter is running--to pay them in cash!

2. Quality of cabs vs. Uber & Lyft cars is night & day. One cares about them, the other doesn't (and it shows). Cabs often don't have working a/c, the shocks on almost all cabs seem blown & the service engine light is almost always on. Doesn't inspire confidence in the regulated taxi system and also leads me to #3 where...

3. How many people know that if you were (god forbid) in a horrible accident while a passenger in a Boston taxi, the insurance the cab company is required to carry--by law--is only $20,000. So if something truly awful happened to you, the most you'll get for your hospital bills is $20,000 because that's all the government requires. Meanwhile, Uber, Lyft..etc. have $1,000,000 per incident insurance (which, ironically, is not required by law).

4. Has anyone ever gotten a follow-up on complaints submitted about cabs to the Hackney division? At last check, it was still run by a crony of the cab industry who apparently worked 4 hour days. Any chance we could actually get an effective enforcement division?

4. One steps 1-4 are complete, (and only then) you're welcome to begin discussing Uber, Lyft..etc. but until then, that's the main point of travel for most of us because of the issues stated above.

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Ixnay to Ubera

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Until an Uber driver left me stranded I would be in their court because the cab industry in Boston needs competition. But an Uber driver showed the $1 we spend on safety checks is a waste and demonstrated the depth of Uber's commitment to good service.

The other night I requested an Uber car. The driver passed my house and stopped 100 feet away. I waved my arms so that he could see where I was. He backed up (probably should have gone around the block). He backed into a car. Left a nice deep dent in the car.

That struck me as unsafe driving and I waved for him to leave.

The next day Uber sends me an email remonstrating me for canceling a ride and suggesting I read their rules concerning canceling a ride. Apparently an unsafe driver is not a reason good enough to cancel.

They initially offered a mealy mouthed apology. After informing them that their driver was unsafe, cost me extra money and time for having to use a cab they declined to respond.

Plus there is no emergency phone number to report an incident like this.

What I see is that while for the moment they offer a somewhat better service for less money, their attitude toward customers who are jammed by their bad drivers is tough luck. The $1 they tack onto the charge is bogus. They are just another arrogant group of managers who are too big for their britches. They need to grow up if they want to run a company and learn how to deal with messes like the one caused by one of their drivers.

Oh, sorry, they only connect drivers to riders. Oh, sorry, it's their company that runs the show. If they can't take responsibility for the people who represent them - even as independent contractors - then they deserve to go under. They have demonstrated that an alternative to medallion cabs is viable. But they are not the one to fulfill that alternative.

I hope Lyft is better. Uber has lost me as a customer.

Huh?

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Let me get this straight:
You witnessed a hit and run, and waved the driver off?
You did not make the minimal effort to contact Uber about the accident? Within a minute the app redirected me to an online form that allows for questions or comments regarding your ride. Sure, it's not a phone number, but it's fairly convenient nonetheless.
You waited for Uber to reach out to you before you took action.
And yes, there is an emergency number for witnessing hit and runs. It's called 911.

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BS

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Yeah, I'm calling BS on this one. I've gone back and forth with Uber customer support multiple times and gotten credits for really the smallest things. Uber taxi once started the meter on me before I got in the car, resulting in my fare being a few dollars more than it normally was. Uber gave me a $5 credit. I've also cancelled Uber black cars after the allotted cancellation time due to the driver not arriving in the the time they quoted and had them reverse the cancellation fee. I HIGHLY doubt they would ignore you if you explained the situation and I'm guessing they'd take the driver off the list if he actually did the things you said he did.

And really, you couldn't want the 100 feet to the car, you had to wave for him to back up to you?

You can also tweet directly

You can also tweet directly to @uber_bos (I think that's their twitter) and get a response within minutes. I had a situation occur about a particular driver, tweeted at them and got compensated for my time instantly.

I didn't whine and let one instance and sever them from future business from me either.

Basically I'm calling bullshit on the story.

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Hey, now!

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Leave the poor man alone! Do you have any idea the stress he's under? He has to have a 2010 or newer high end sedan that he's making the payments on. Then there's his insurance, his gas, his tolls and his maintenance costs. Then we have to consider Uber's end, which just went up to 25% without any input from the drivers and no raise in fares from Uber.

So after all that our intrepid Uber entrepreneur can sleep soundly at night, knowing that they have helped make a company that could give two shits about them richer, while a critical shortage of good drivers in the limousine industry exists. An industry that will pay you more hourly than you eventually make driving Uber, and no out of pocket expenses but a new suit.

What is with the vehemence?

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Panties all bunched up?

What is the with the nasty and churlish tone? Needing to condemn someone today? Loosen your bloomers. You were not there; you do not know the entire situation.

Shilling for Uber? Or just like to find a target you can bullshit on?

The lady doth protest too much, methinks

Sure they can..

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But until Uber showed up, why would they? Why would the spend $1 on advanced tech, cleaner vehicles, etc. Boston has the same amount of medallions today as they had in the 1930's. No need to spend any money, just sit back, take advantage of your drivers/customers, and collect the rewards.

My phone died last weekend

My phone died last weekend and I had to regrettably use a cab. They had this "RideLinQ" app advertised that allows you to enter the ride number on the screen (presumably if it's "working") and it autopays, it uses a set amount for tip though.

Seems pretty neat but no idea if it's universal. Still cost me 60 dollars to get from south station to brighton and I had to listen to the cabbie yelling in French on the phone the entire time. Always good to be reminded how utter garbage cabs are from time to time.

Taxi

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When cab drivers stop asking where I want to, go before I enter the cab ,when I might change my mind. If the fare isn't going to be what they want they take off. Nice leaving a stroke victim stranded. Great impression when it happens to tourist.