City to look at taxi surcharge at peak times to improve service

Seems nobody's happy with the current cab situation in Boston, not riders, not drivers and owners and not large institutions that employ the sort of people who would be likely to need a cab.

The mayor's office today released a lengthy report on the state of cabs in Boston that features a number of findings and recommendations. Among them:

  • Consider a nighttime surcharge to attract more drivers and ease waiting times as entertainment venues empty out
  • Really crack down on out-of-town cabbies leeching business from Boston cabbies - and look at creating a commisison that would oversee the new breed of livery services, such as Uber and that thing with the pink mustaches.
  • Make it easier for riders to figure out how much rides will actually cost - especially if the airport is involved in the trip;
  • Create new, larger and better marked cab stands and allow for temporary cab stands at large venues, such as Fenway Park.

A cabbie working fulltime can expect to earn around $60,000 a year. Each day, Boston cabs provide 40,000 trips.

Currently, the report says, "When a customer requests a trip via the telephone or a smartphone application through a radio association, only 78% of the requests are completed, and only 87% of the served trips are picked up within 20 minutes of the call, based on data from one dispatching system representing 25% of the fleet."

Even worse is reponse in some of the city's poorer neighborhoods - barely half the calls for cabs in Mattapan resulted in a cab showing up, according to that data. And while technosavvy 20somethings can turn to smartphone-enabled services such as Uber, some communities, such as the elderly, cannot.

City cab regulators could stand some improvement:

On the Hackney Unit website, it states that staff will respond to customer complaints within 10 business days. Some customers have reported that it often takes up to a month to be contacted. Also, the window of time to discuss a complaint – sometimes a specific two hour period on a specific day -- can be unreasonable.

The airport is a taxi chokepoint:

Massport staff reported that at peak times, there can be 100 or more customers waiting for a taxi at each terminal. They report that the worst time is Friday nights, when it’s raining, and on college graduation weekends when multiple loading – and the use of livery vehicles – is required. Massport staff reports that multiple loading periods can sometime last for hours (the most recent data from June 2013 shows that an average day has about two hours of multiple loading).

The airport is also a source of confusion:

Hackney Unit staff – and drivers and customers alike-- are lacking clarity on the circumstances under which the $2.75 fee may be charged on a trip from Boston to Logan Airport. Indeed, this lack of clarity has resulted in complaints. Rule 403 states that the $2.75 fee can be charged on trips to the airport, and that it cannot be charged for trips from Boston to East Boston. Clarity is needed however on what exactly is considered the airport and what is in "East Boston." For example, are the Hilton Airport, the Hyatt Hotel, and the new rental car facility considered “airport” or “East Boston” locations?

Institutions in the Longwood Medical Area also express frustration with taxi service.

Neighborhoods: 

Free tagging: 

AttachmentSize
PDF icon Taxi report (2.9M PDF)2.88 MB
Ad:

Comments

How about getting rid of the

By on

How about getting rid of the arbitrary cap on the number of medallions? Naw... too many lost opportunities for corruption and graft that way.

up
Voting closed 0

Better yet

Get rid of the medallion system altogether and regionalize the entire mess. Have a qualifying vehicle? Have a license? Meet inspection requirements? Hit the road!

If there aren't enough cabs, why in the hell would you want to crack down on out of city cars? Welcome them, and crack down on bullshit "credit card is broken" nonsense and other organized crime that goes on instead!

up
Voting closed 0

Concur

By on

These suggestions are band-aids on a gangrenous limb. End the ludicrous medallion system.

up
Voting closed 0

All the Uber/Lyft shills are

By on

All the Uber/Lyft shills are out in force. What a bunch of sheep ! As if Uber wouldn't get rid of you instantly if you had an accident or low rating.

up
Voting closed 0

A surcharge for night rides?

The people running the cab game now have proven themselves incapable of doing it properly. Yeah, let's throw more money at them, because that works so well when we do it with governments. What (expletive) chance is there of the Boston cab industry not continuing its dysfunction after raising the fares?

As for a cabbie making $60,000 a year, that's funny, the Globe told me that they're poor and virtually work as indentured servants. Who's lying to me?

up
Voting closed 0

Medallions

By on

Why are medallions held perpetually in private hands? Does this give us better taxi service? Perhaps it's time to overhaul the regulatory regime.

up
Voting closed 0

Where the report didn't go

By on

As you say, nobody is happy with the cab situation in the city. So the first question that should have been addressed by this report is: Why do we have the current system, anyway? What's the justification for this kind of "central planning" of taxicab service?

That's missing. The report assumes that the status quo is acceptable and should be maintained, with some tweaks. It's conceivable that there is an argument for maintaining the cap on medallions along with price controls, but that argument should be made explicitly. The report hints at an "equitable access" argument for regulation, but also states that the current system fails at providing equitable access. So much for that.

In my opinion, we should look at ending the medallion cap. This kind of regulation is leftover from a different era, and mostly serves the special interests of medallion owners instead of the general public. It creates a cartel which works against the public interest, and should be broken up.

Instead of a medallion system, taxicab drivers must complete a training course for which they receive a non-transferable certification. It can even be recurring (say, annually). Bad behavior results in loss of certification. Instead of price controls, taxicab companies will be permitted to compete on price and service, but they must frame their prices according to a simple, standardized method that all customers can understand in a glance. It will be printed in a standardized format on the side of the cab.

If there are problems with the system, they should be solved in the simplest, most targeted way. Broad, sweeping measures like medallion caps and price controls only cause more unintended consequences.

up
Voting closed 0

I disagree concerning getting

By on

I disagree concerning getting rid of price controls; the average taxi passenger hails a cab and takes the first one that responds to the hail. There's not much opportunity to check the rates and shop around. Even at a cab stand, where at least there are several cabs lined, up, passengers just take the first one in line (especially at places with an organized queue, like Logan). Uniform prices are key to a working cab system.

And note that even though cabs could compete on amenities, as airlines did when their ticket prices were controlled, they generally don't because people just want the first available cab, since that gets them to their destination soonest. The cabs will have to find ways to control their costs.

Plus your idea of understanding costs at a glance is DOA. Who the hell knows in advance how many sevenths of a mile it is from point A to point B, and has memorized the list of non-flat rate towns? And that's how it is now. Add in any variations that might occur if cabs can set any price they like, and it becomes impossible. The only way that this could be pulled off would be for all cabs to switch to flat rates for all destinations, or to compute the guaranteed fare before setting out so that the passenger could decide whether to accept the offer or not. It just doesn't seem practical.

Getting rid of medallion caps, and licensing drivers on demand is better. Though I foresee problems since the cabs, presumably, will have to meet certain requirements that ordinary cars don't. (For metering and signage, if nothing else) If the drivers can't afford their own personal cabs, cab cartels will form. It won't be as strong a cartel without the medallions, but they'll still be able to exert pressure.

up
Voting closed 0

Point A to Point B

By on

Who the hell knows in advance how many sevenths of a mile it is from point A to point B, and has memorized the list of non-flat rate towns?

Google Maps knows. And for non-flat rate towns we have this new technology called a "piece of paper with a list on it" for those who can't be bothered to memorize such things.

I've used this website for ages to look up what the fare would be:
http://boston.taxiwiz.com/?lang=en

up
Voting closed 0

I know it's hard to believe

By on

I know it's hard to believe but not everyone has a smart phone with them and it shouldn't be a requirement for using the taxi system

up
Voting closed 0

Price controls imply medallion caps

By on

the average taxi passenger hails a cab and takes the first one that responds to the hail. There's not much opportunity to check the rates and shop around.

Under the current system, where there is a limited number of taxicabs, and you're glad just to get one. That wouldn't be the case.

Even at a cab stand, where at least there are several cabs lined, up, passengers just take the first one in line (especially at places with an organized queue, like Logan).

This is a bit of a better rationale but there's still ways around it without imposing price controls. For instance, organized queuing places could choose to offer customers a certain price upper-bound by excluding cab companies which do not fall under a certain stated price level. Or they could change the way customers interface with cabs; the current system is designed around the scarcity of cabs, not abundance.

Who the hell knows in advance how many sevenths of a mile it is from point A to point B

Putting aside apps and such: You don't need to know the distance. All you need to do is compare two numbers: the initial charge and the rate per unit of travel (say, 1/7th mile). Standardize those and you can compare easily, just like you can compare the price of flour at the store without memorizing exactly how much you need to bake a cake.

memorized the list of non-flat rate towns

Flat-rate towns are an artifact of the current system of price and hailing controls, since cabs must deadhead back, they are allowed to charge more for those destinations. Having said that, there will probably still be a need for surcharge outside of a certain range. I'll think about this more but it can probably be dealt with by printing a list of city/town names on the side of the cab.

Getting rid of medallion caps, and licensing drivers on demand is better.

Getting rid of medallion caps goes hand-in-hand with getting rid of price controls. The whole reason for the medallion cap in the first place is the existence of price controls. If you want to get rid of the cap, then you need to do what I've been doing and think about how to make a system without price controls work.

One idea for a transitory system is to do what's been starting to happen naturally. Keep the old system for now, but allow a new breed of primarily smartphone-driven app-based services to arise and compete. Price competition wouldn't be an issue since comparison is all taken care of by the app (or over the phone, for the old-fashioned). This is more of a reservation-based livery system, but technology is making it almost as convenient as street-hailing anyhow.

Eventually, moving to a fully competitive, non-cartelized system will be fait accompli.

up
Voting closed 0

Stockholm, Sweden

By on

http://www.visitstockholm.com/en/Travel/In-Stockho...

There are many taxi companies to choose from in Stockholm. Approved taxis with metered fares always bear yellow number plates. Credit cards are readily accepted.

Sweden does not regulate prices; they may vary greatly.

*** It is the customer’s responsibility to check prices beforehand. Check the price on the yellow label (pictured above), which is usually on the rear door window, before entering the vehicle. The highest unit price of most taxis is between SEK 290 - 390. ***

The price on the yellow label is based on a 10 km, 15-minute journey. The price indicated on the taximeter is in Swedish kronor. For trips to and from Stockholm Arlanda Airport the major taxi companies have fixed prices of between SEK 450-500. Always ask the driver beforehand. In addition to the major taxi companies there are several independent firms; caution is adviced.

You can easily get hold of a taxi by calling a taxi company, hailing one on the street or by taking a one from a rank, e.g. at NK on Hamngatan. There is a manned taxi centre at Central Station that can help you with finding the right service, e.g. if you need child seats in the vehicle.

up
Voting closed 0

Will respond to customer complaints within 10 business days

Thats rich, I'm stilling waiting on a call back from the Hackney Unit for a reported incident back in March.

My friend hailed a cab to head from Kenmore to Brighton and tried to open the door after the car stopped. Locked. So the window rolls down and this conversation starts with my roommate. "Where you going?.", "Brighton Center please.", "You have cash? Card read is broken." -"No but you're a Boston cab, you're not supposed to be operating with a card..." This the point where he slams down on the gas and peels out, running over my friends shoe in the process. Thankfully her toes were ok but a call to the Hackney Unit that night, complete with incident description and medallion number, has yet to be returned.

But yeah lets work on actually getting the Hackney Unit working and getting the cabs to adhere to things like driving properly to the law and accepting credit cards before we let them raise rates again.

up
Voting closed 0

Well, I'm sure if the driver

Well, I'm sure if the driver had been talking on the phone or texting, you would have gotten a quick response from the hackney unit.

up
Voting closed 0

Hm. Service sucks and there

Hm. Service sucks and there are a lot of complaints. Let's raise prices! I can't think of a single downside to this plan.

up
Voting closed 0

Insurance

How about also upping the insurance requirement from a trivial $20,000 to a solid $1,500,000+ with a third-party state-regulated insurance company.

up
Voting closed 0

Weird that Uber works so well

Weird that Uber works so well in Boston; it really does not in NYC. Unless they've worked out the kinks, I have heard about people paying twice as much for a car through Uber than they would have paid if they called a car service directly. Maybe the difference is NYC is that (at least in the outer boroughs) they're competing with livery (black) cars and not yellow cabs?

up
Voting closed 0

It probably has something to

It probably has something to do with the fact that in most of Manhattan, at least, yellow cabs are a reasonable service. You walk to the curb, flag one, and pay a reasonable fare. Unless it's rush hour, it's rarely a problem to find a cab in large parts of the city. Obviously this doesn't apply if you're going to/from "certain" neighborhoods, but it's still light-years beyond the sucktacular taxi system we have in Boston.

up
Voting closed 0

It's a problem to find a cab

It's a problem to find a cab anywhere outside of an avenue in Midtown. Car services are the dominant car-for-hire system in the outer boroughs or when you're off the grid.

up
Voting closed 0

I'd expand that to most of

By on

I'd expand that to most of Manhattan below 125th Street. There's plenty of cruising cabs on the Upper East and West Sides, etc.

up
Voting closed 0

There should either be one

By on

There should either be one metro Boston taxi authority, that covers cabs from Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville, etc,

OR allow cabs from another city to pick up a fare on their way back. Cambridge taxi drives someone to Kenmore Square - if someone is trying to hail a cab on Mass Ave in the direction that leads to Cambridge, there's no reason why that taxi shouldn't be allowed to stop. Conversely, that'll keep a Boston cab from driving into Cambridge and rendering it unavailable for 10-30 minutes. Keep out of town cabs out of cab stands, and punish the ones that troll other cities looking for fares all night, but be reasonable.

up
Voting closed 0

Never understood the

Never understood the prohibition on out-of-town cabs picking people up in Boston. It's not as if there's a surplus of Boston cabs just hanging around...

up
Voting closed 0

East Boston

Getting a cab home is a nightmare for me unless I offer to pay the full toll, and even then it usually takes a few tries if it's late enough.

Idea 1: Give each resident x amount of vouchers per year that cabbies can give to roll takers when bringing residents home (my understanding is that the heavy tolls for cabs are aimed at airport traffic). When you run out, you're on the hook for tolls

Idea 2: Flat $2.75 fee each way. I'd gladly pay half toll every time to make it less of a hassle.

Or combine the 2.

up
Voting closed 0

Same in Chelsea

By on

I've given up on taking cabs home to Chelsea.

Why?

Because like the article stated, I often get charged a "airport fee" because the driver often claims that "well the bridge is owned by MassPort (the tobin) so I have to charge you that", which is utter bull.

Tired of having a 10 dollar cab ride over the bridge be close to 25 with tip because all the add on fees.

And I won't even begin with the "Oh you're going to Chelsea? Sorry I can't take you there" crap I get.

up
Voting closed 0

Next time, retort with the

By on

Next time, retort with the fact that the Tobin isn't even owned by MassPort!

[though it was several years back]

up
Voting closed 0

Understand the concern but confused

By on

I have lived in the city of Boston for the better part of 15 yrs and went to college here. In addition to not driving, and being a raging alcoholic, I take cabs when it is past the T / am too loaded down with bags / purchases or whatnot and I never had much of an issue except for maybe Faneuil hall or if it is pouring out.

I've actually spent time talking to the guys, and for every one who is rude, or has a 'broken' credit card reader (I have never been in one that had a broken reader) there are 4-5 guys who are working 60 hours, working a couple jobs, dealing with drunk college kids, asshole guys from the financial district downtown, stupid ass hippies from Somerville who think a dollar is a decent tip from Allston village to Ball Square, etc.

Most people don't want to go to Mattapan, do you think a guy in a car carrying cash wants to show up at 1 AM there? Come on.

From what I understand, the medallion system 'can't' go away as such because they are considering an asset (it would be like if someone suddenly told you the $100,000 liberal arts degree you had was worthless....oh wait) but seriously, I think you can 'redistribute' them, or do a certification / license or whatnot. I recall in Boston, you basically (as a cabbie) pay for the car, and pay for the radio, and you do a split with the company that holds the medallion. That is probably what the asshat in this tread mocked as servitude.

Try working 40-60 hrs per week for 60K, with the risk of getting stabbed, stiffed, vomited on, etc. Oh hey, why not just drive a hubway bike, that's better!

Wait...sometimes it snows....

up
Voting closed 0

Oh yeah, I'm a complete asshat

Go read a (expletive) newspaper. The Globe did a piece earlier this year outlining the plight of Boston cab drivers and the flawed economic system under which they must ply their trade. Most cabbies have my pity because of this.

up
Voting closed 0

Some asset.

By on

While it's true that medallions have both a value at the time of their creation, as well as a speculation-driven contemporary value, that's irrelevant in terms of efforts to reorganize the cab trade that would abolish them. They aren't legal tender, and just like any asset, can vary in value according to supply and demand. Many would love to be able to redeem some of their stocks and bonds (to say nothing of mortgage-backed equities) at face value, but it just don't work that way.

up
Voting closed 0

You've made some legitimate points, Freddy, but

By on

unfortunately, the behavior of a good many cabbies here in Boston is really inexcusable. Nobody's disputing that driving a cab is one of the most, if not the most rotten, thankless jobs there is, pretty much up there with driving a tow truck or a garbage truck, not to mention one of the most dangerous jobs, as well.

That doesn't justify the fact that cabbies here in Boston are often badly-trained or untrained, and the inadequate screening practices that are used in hiring cab drivers, either, however.

up
Voting closed 0

40,000 cab, ??? Hubway trips per day

Wow, 40,000 cab trips per day. That's a huge opportunity for HubWay to steal business from cabs! Perhaps the bicycle helmet vending machines can offer rain ponchos for sale too. HubWay needs to take space from cab stands for more stations and put cabs on the endangered species list!

up
Voting closed 0

Bikes

By on

I'd like to see you hop on a bike from Logan, when it's snowing, you have one piece of luggage, one carry on bag, and your house is in Roxbury.

up
Voting closed 0

Don't fret kiddos

Uber Boston now has over 500 cars working for it and over 40,000 users in the greater Boston area alone. My advice to Uber users, use that rating system! It helps weed out the bad drivers and assures the good one keep getting work. As far as the cabs go, my pity for them is about zero at this point. Their lackadaisical attitudes towards service to their customers is the reason Uber and the other services are exploding in growth. Except Lyft. Stay away from Lyft!

As far as their cracking down on out of town cabs picking up fares in Boston or Cambridge, when you have a line ten people deep at a hotel, say the Charles after the Head of the Charles, try telling an exasperated doorman not to put people in a Brookline cab when it's the only one around.

up
Voting closed 0

License and insurance

They are not licensed commercial drivers, the cars are not limos and not subject to the regulations for limos, and they aren't required to carry any commercial level of insurance.

Uber on the other hand uses livery vehicles and commercial drivers - and they carry more insurance than cabs.

up
Voting closed 0

Lyft is a scam

mainly because they tell their drivers they are covered under their blanket insurance policy of one million in liability insurance. So I have to have the same liability insurance on each of my two vehicles , while Lyft says their blanket policy covers all of their drivers.

Now if you happen to be a Lyft driver and you get in an accident with a passenger in the back, the first thing Lyft will do is try and pin it on the driver. This allows Lyft to keep their insurance rate low. Of course when the drivers insurance company processes your claim, once they find out you were driving people around for pay without the proper commercial insurance, they tell the driver to shit in his or her hat. Add to that any injury to the passenger and they try to make a claim on their injury, once again the driver will be personally responsible.

Add to that the sleazy way Lyft says they have no set rates,so that they can skirt taxi and livery regulations and you have a very ethically questionable operation that I advise people to stay away from. Uber has their own version of Lyft now called UberX where the vehicles do have the proper insurance that I advise people to use.

up
Voting closed 0

Question for you: my husband

Question for you: my husband and I live in Malden and have been devoted Uber users for some time, after some bad experiences with Malden cabs. My hubs has used UberX a couple of times, and we cannot figure out how they make enough money! Both times were friendly drivers with nice, clean cars, and they charged around $15 to get to Harvard Square (Malden cabs have charged us around $35 to go the same distance). So what's the deal? How can UberX be so good AND so cheap? We're not complaining, obviously, but we would hate to see it fail because drivers aren't making enough. Any thoughts?

up
Voting closed 0

It's the commission structure, I believe

Uber only takes between 8-10% of each fare, allowing the driver to keep most of the money. I believe if the driver has enough positive feedback, it translates into a better volume of work.

up
Voting closed 0

Uber rating system....

I've never had the opportunity to give an Uber driver anything lower than a perfect score. Every driver I've ever used has been courteous, on time, had a spotless vehicle, acted and appeared professional 100% of the time. Either I'm easily pleased, been very lucky, or am so used to having a shitty experience with taxis that it makes it easy to give these guys perfect ratings.

up
Voting closed 0

Simple answer

All drivers (and passengers) in the Commonwealth are required to use seatbelts.

BUT ... there is an exception for taxi, bus, and livery drivers, as well as drivers of emergency vehicles.

up
Voting closed 0

Shambles

By on

If Boston is or wants to be a "world class city" (the favorite phrase of pols everywhere...) then we have some serious work to do. Right now this is not a world-class transportation service and new and innovative operators should be welcomed not banned! What does it say about our city that a big % of people in Mattapan can't even get a freaking cab to their door? Let alone get good, reasonably priced service when they DO show up? I'm with you well-spoken commentators here, get rid of the ridiculous medallion system and INNOVATE. I use a cab as a 100% last resort in Boston right now. I do not feel at all the same way in other cities. It's BOSTON and it's something that should be fixed for the good of the city because right now it's a big negative mark on the reputation of this great place.

up
Voting closed 0

try getting one when you are in a wheelchair

By on

As much as it sucks for me as an able bodied person to try to get a cab in the city it sucks even more for a friend of mine who is in a wheelchair. It can take forever although I have found that Boston is better than most other cities. We are more likely to get a cab able to take a wheelchair in Boston than we are anywhere else.

up
Voting closed 0

Here are some other problems with Boston cabbies:

By on

A) Many of them are extremely rude and discourteous.

B) A lot of them do take you out of your way, in order to get more money from you.

C) A good number of cabbies drive much too fast.

(I've personally experienced all three of the above, btw.)

D) Boston cabbies aren't properly trained in ethics, courtesy, or in any self-discipline.

E) Many of these cabbies also have criminal records, and a lot of rough and tough guys are hired to drive Boston cabs.

up
Voting closed 0