Hey, there! Log in / Register

Boston cab owners say city and state are driving them to ruin; sue over non-regulation of Uber and its ilk

Heavily regulated Boston cab owners last week filed a federal lawsuit against city and state regulators they charge have put them at a competitive disadvantage by letting Uber, Lyft and similar concerns steal their business.

In their lawsuit, filed in US District Court, the Boston Taxi Owners Association and two individual medallion owners charge the city is ruining their investments in expensive medallions by letting ride-share or "transportation network companies" pick up passengers for hire without any similar investment.

Medallion owners have to comply with expensive safety, licensing and insurance regulations, while any jamoke with a car - even one with a potential criminal background - can pick up fares through these competitors, the suit says, charging this violates the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

And don't even get the cab owners started on a regulation proposed by outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick, which they say would deprive them of their rights under the due-process clause by essentially eliminating a cap on medallions, thereby "irrationally destroying" the value of those medallions.

The current version of Rule 403 [the city rule regulating medallion cabs] is the product of decades of revisions, designed to protect consumers, ensure public safety, safeguard competition and provide non-discriminatory taxi services to all areas of the city and to the elderly and disabled. The plaintiffs and all medallion owners operating in Boston have invested significant capital and resources to develop systems of infrastructure that meet Rule 403's broad ranging requirements. ...

[T]he City requires taxi owners to pay large sums for the "exclusive" license to engage in the business of For-Hire Transportation. For decades, taxi owners accepted these burdens and expenses as part of a quid pro quo with the city for the exclusive rights granted. The City promised, in return, that taxi owners, and the taxi affiliations and drivers who operate taxis, would have the exclusive right to provide For-Hire Transportation to individual passengers. In reliance on the City's decades-long promise of exclusivity, taxi owners have invested hundreds of millions of dollars.

Neighborhoods: 
Free tagging: 
AttachmentSize
PDF icon Complete complaint by medallion owners848.23 KB
Ad:

Comments

"the city is ruining their investments in expensive medallions"

Medallions shouldn't be an investment; the licensing board should limit medallions to one per individual. The fact that the city lets a small number of people buy up all of the medallions and lease them out to drivers, squeezing them for every penny, is the reason the cab industry is so terrible in Boston.

up
Voting closed 0

IMAGE(<a href="http://www.adamsmith.org/wp-content/uploads/worlds-smallest-violin.jpg)">http://www.adamsmith.org/wp-content/uploads/worlds-smallest-violin.jpg[/...

up
Voting closed 0

But I'm pretty sure this was already decided back in 1837...
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_River_Bridge_v._Warren_Bridge

I'm not going to touch the medallion owners claims' about the services they actually provide. They know we're not fooled, right?

up
Voting closed 0

Seems on point for sure. Apparently they're trying to get the city and state to enforce their monopoly, which the state has decided isn't feasible or desirable and is proposing a different regime for regulating a different type of service.

There's nothing AFAIK preventing taxi companies from adopting a better technology for dispatching taxis and providing a more transparent and reliable to their customers.

Uber is exploiting an economic and legal loophole by going around the requirement for medallions, which have inflated values because of the monopoly aspects of the system, and transferring capital costs to their "contract" drivers. Eventually, though, I expect that Uber and its ilk will need need to assume those costs and accept regulation to be viable over the long term. And Uber's current model won't survive driverless cars for the same service, which, in some form, is likely the future of on-demand intra-city transportation.

up
Voting closed 0

Why are people willing to pay more to receive the same service? Maybe its because YOU SUCK!

I haven't been in a medallion cab in over 3 years (In the US), and i don't think i ever will again.

You want to see their heads explode? Ban cab drivers from using cell phone while passengers are on-board.

up
Voting closed 0

Cab drivers (in Boston at least) are banned from using the cell while they have passengers. The drives just ignore that rule, as well as many other rules. The last two cab rides the drivers, both who refused to use GPS, missed our street while yapping on the phone.

up
Voting closed 0

After I ate it on my bike yesterday morning due to ice I tried to get an Uber and not wanting to pay the surcharge for an uberx, regretfully decided to ubertaxi it.

The Metrocab driver, although courteous, was actually on FACETIME with someone while driving, but kept the phone with video down on the dash low enough so you couldn't see it with the divider in the way.

I really don't think I've ever been in a cab where someone hasn't been on the phone having a paused conversation with someone in another language. Is this a cultural thing or just taxi culture? Multiple ethnicities each time.

up
Voting closed 0

was once in a cab where the white driver was on the phone, arguing with his bookie. Cabbie settled debts by rolling the debts over into another bet and making arrangements for a payment. This guy was using a hands-free setup, but still drove like a distracted maniac.

This was a cab ride he'd taken for work; his passengers were all terrified.

up
Voting closed 0

if these phone calls are strictly personal (e.g., speaking to family members/friends back at home), or if they are for some other reason related to another job/side business (legal or otherwise) they have.

up
Voting closed 0

I speak French and although my dialect is quebecois, from what I've heard from a few Haitian drivers, it's mostly personal stuff with family that are in their native countries. I can't imagine how expensive those calls are, especially since most of them just use the call as background noise and barely talk about anything of importance as far as I know.

up
Voting closed 0

Same here. People telling their kids to do their homework and eat dinner. About what you'd expect of someone working nights, which is when I usually take cabs.

up
Voting closed 0

Calls to Haiti happen to be on the expensive side -- 24 cents/minute on my cheap calling card.

But this stuff is rather arbitrary. The Dominican Republic on the other side of the island is just 8c. And calls to much farther away, like China, can be as low as 2c.

up
Voting closed 0

I paid a cab fare and gave them no tip when the driver has used their cell phone while driving.

This driver missed a turn because he was yammering instead of paying attention to either me or his GPS. He was not happy to have a passenger who would not passively let him drive inattentively, missing turns and increasing the fare above what it needed to be.

up
Voting closed 0

I refuse to take cabs... the T's late night service has been good to me for when I would have normally taken a cab.

Last time I took a cab (years ago).. I did the same thing. I direct how I want the cabbie to go, and will not tip for cell phone usage. I also remind them that it is illegal to do so in a cab.. most don't like that too much and usually gets a snarly look. Fuck them, get off the phone and drive.

up
Voting closed 0

You can buy a cell phone blocker for $20 online. Turning it on for a few seconds should be enough to get your cab driver off the blower.

No, it's not legal, but surely it's less-illegal than driving like a manic yapping into a phone.

up
Voting closed 0

Listen all this negitivity about Cab drivers is all coming from Uber there employees and families. We all know that. Cab Drivers are hard workers love their customers and abided by the Law unlike Uber who wants to get rich quick screw every city and.State by not paying a dime while he is sitting in a cushy office thinking of ways to hurt good hard working people. Cab drivers have Hackney Lincens by Law Uber not. They have commercial Insurance to cover passengers Uber drivers do not. Uber should not be on the Rd at all in Mass until they have everything in order like every other Company. What's good for one should be good.for all. And remember this The Police State wide also tell Women to call a reputable Company which Uber is not. Call a Cab Company with the name on it make sure the number of the cab is Visible which most our their Hackney License is in full view plus their all registered with the Police so if anything should happen the cops are right there. UBER IS NOT. CAB DRIVERS Follow the rules pay there dues and why Uber does not and Massachusettes allows it is beyond a lot of people. I do not care how popular they claim THE. LAW IS THE LAW. NO WONDER UBER BEING SUED WITH THE STATE THEY SHSSOULD TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN IN THE TAXI BUSINESS FOR YEARS IF THEY LOSE THIER JOBS WHICH THERE ABOUT TO THEY SHOULD BE SUED AND STOP SAYING CABBIES NEED TO DO BETTER THERE DOING A FANTASTIC JOB THAT JUST UBERS CRAP TALK NOT CUSTOMERS. THE CUSTOMERS I TALK TO DO NOT TRUST UBER SND THEY ARE NOT CHEAPER THEN CABS. .

up
Voting closed 0

Can someone explain why these drivers don't just stop driving cabs and instead work for themselves under Lyft or Uber or Sidecar? As far as I can tell the drivers are under no obligation to actually drive a licensed cab. If the money is better and the regulations are less shouldn't it be a no brainer? And if the cab industry starts to lose drivers they are going to slowly start to devalue the medallions making deregulation of the cabs even easier. So

up
Voting closed 0

Most cab drivers don't own the cab , they rent it and the medallion from the medallion owners. I don't think many cab drivers own a new/nice enough car (if any), which would qualify for lyft/uber (you cant drive just any old car).

up
Voting closed 0

and unfortunately a lot of cabbies can't afford their own cars. Many of them (as others can attest) just arrived in this country and its the first job they can get. Also, you have to have credit, which a majority of cabbies don't have.

up
Voting closed 0

According to a couple drivers I've had, Uber will finance a new Toyota for you if you have bad credit (at a fairly absurd rate) to work for them full time, there's always a possibility.

Sidecar will let you drive anything from what I've seen. I've been in a Ferrari coupe through them, a 2000 Mercedes, a V6 mustang (driver was rejected from Lyft and got an offer to work for Sidecar when they came around) and some shitbox ricer Civic.

up
Voting closed 0

And those are shady, subprime loans. What could possibly go wrong? http://valleywag.gawker.com/uber-and-its-shady-partners-are-pushing-driv...

Uber is objectively a better service than any taxicab, but the company itself is so gross and shady that I deleted the app and now use Sidecar exclusively. But I don't think I'll ever take a Boston cab again.

up
Voting closed 0

you throw 600k away on a medallion three years ago that's worth about half that now? Then again, medallion prices are so high because the state knows that taxi drivers are just the most honest people on Earth when declaring all of the cash they made.

That being said, yes, when Lyft and UberX come along and without any of the regulatory constraints placed on cabbies, they have a right to be upset. However, being the only game in town and the fact that they knew it and the service level showed it, the cabbies also have no one but themselves to blame also.

up
Voting closed 0

If the medallion holders are truly looking at this like an investment as they claim in their suit, then they should have factored in into their analysis and adequate risk premium when they decided the make the initial purchase of the medallion. As with any investment, there should be no guarantee that they will make money, and the public should not be stuck with a crappy cab system just to insure that the medallion owners receive the return on investment that they expected. Investing in a government controlled system is an inherently risky proposition, and the public should not feel sorry that these businessmen (because this is what they are, not mom and pop cab drivers) may lose money.

up
Voting closed 0

Absolutely! The government should not be maintaining the investment of a few at the expense of the many.

The limited competition leads to a terrible experience in a cab compared to a typical Uber ride. I know there have been incidents with Uber drivers, but I feel much safer knowing their name and license plate and having a record of the route.

up
Voting closed 0

you throw 600k away on a medallion three years ago that's worth about half that now?

If I buy land in Union Square to capitalize on the Green Line Extension and it never happens for whatever reason, should the government owe me money? No, because the government's not responsible for maintaining your investment. At no point was it guaranteed when they bought their medallions that they would be a profitable investment or maintain their value forever.

up
Voting closed 0

That the city and the cab owners actually think that they're providing a great service by "regulating" the cab industry.

up
Voting closed 0

Al Capone thought "he was only giving the people what they want" too

up
Voting closed 0

the city and the cab owners actually think that they're providing a great service by "regulating" the cab industry.

What on Earth makes you think they believe any such thing?

up
Voting closed 0

This seems like a mix of legit complaints and nonsense.

Most of the cab drivers I know don't own a medallion-- they rent a cab by the shift or, occasionally, by the week. Owners or renters, the drivers who get a hackney license and stay registered do have a valid reason to be upset about Uber and Lyft. Despite the griping about cab drivers on UHub and elsewhere-- and god knows, I've had some problems myself-- most of them are absolutely fine. Given how many people drive cab in the area and what even the best of them have to put up with, there will be some bad experiences. Most cab drivers get us from A to B with no problem, in a vehicle that has to be inspected more often than a private car.
I'd rather be in an cab with a posted medallion number and a traceable driver in case of a problem. Uber & Lyft aren't as answerable.

On the other hand, you roll your dice and sometimes you lose. If someone bought a medallion-- or a condo, or stocks-- and didn't realize there is no Grand Promise that he/she won't lose money on it, well, that's on them. Something could be worked out that most medallion owners won't like but would be an acceptable cap, maybe implemented over time. Maybe start with a low cap and increase it over 15 years to today's market value-- that way, though they won't make money on it, eventually they will break even on purchase price at the same time they, presumably, generate income from the medallion.

up
Voting closed 0

Uber keeps very specific records of rides. The information is stored instantly and automatically via their software. It includes the pickup & destination locations, driver, car, passenger, date, and time of ride given. If you get a medallion cab you're on your own to get the cab #, driver and license information, etc... Most people aren't anticipating a problem when they get in a cab and don't bother to get that information. I'm not arguing that to be good practice, it's just reality. This makes tracking down specific cabs and drivers a very difficult and often futile task with medallion cabs. That's just reality. If the ride took place in an Uber this can be tracked very quickly, easily, and with a high rate of success. Uber is absolutely more "answerable" than medallion cab. I've never recovered anything lost in a medallion cab. I left a pair of gloves in an Uber and was able to recover them so easily I couldn't believe it.
I'm not familiar with Lyft so I can't speak for it.

up
Voting closed 0

"I'd rather be in an cab with a posted medallion number and a traceable driver in case of a problem. Uber & Lyft aren't as answerable."

Uber provides you the name, license plate, and cell phone number of every driver and will answer any claim filed almost immediately. Have you ever tried to file a claim with one of the cab companies before? Even if you manage to scribble down all the information on the cab and driver before you get out of the car, you're still probably going to be out of luck.

up
Voting closed 0

I had a run in in my personal vehicle with a Cambridge Ambassador cab recently. Called into dispatch to complain and was told "we don't own the cab , the driver is an independent contractor and we have no say about it, call the Cambridge cops".

Probably the only time in my life I was actually glad these assholes are going the way of the dodo.

up
Voting closed 0

Give the medallion number-- posted on the back of the front seat-- and the cops found the cab?

As I recall, she did that directly; didn't have to call Uber to notify the cops.

up
Voting closed 0

The app gives you the driver's name, phone number, and license plate number before you get in the car.

up
Voting closed 0

and say the cab industry is killing itself.

Here's a fun story from my weekend:

Saturday, a group of friends and I went to Downeast Cider, which is tucked under the Tobin in Charlestown. There were enough of us to need 2 cars, and 1 person pulled up Uber, while another called a cab (an inadvertent experiment, our friend really just swears by taxis). The Uber was there in under 2 minutes, the cab took almost 10.

On the way back, same deal-Uber and a cab. Our taxi that was 10-15 minutes away hadn't shown up after 20, then it was "2 miles away" when we called. 15 minutes later, still nothing.

up
Voting closed 0

I'd say not having to take cabs has made my urban stress levels decrease significantly. I haven't had to deal with my street hails being upstreamed by bimbos in ages.

up
Voting closed 0

Didn't they make upstreaming bimbos illegal after someone did it on an escalator on the T?

up
Voting closed 0

what is a "upstreaming bimbos"

I know what each is but never together. explain!

up
Voting closed 0

You stand on the sidewalk with your arm out like a putz to hail a cab and then several minutes later some woman with sunglasses and heels walks out of Le Boutique Francais, notices you, stands several yards in front of you and puts her arm out and the cab naturally comes to her first, expletives ensue, but you lose in the end.

up
Voting closed 0

That cab driver didn't like you anyway

up
Voting closed 0

ruining their investments in expensive medallions

Yeah, at least with the Mafia, when you pay protection money to keep competitors out of your business, you get what you paid for.

up
Voting closed 0

What better technologies and software are available for the traditional Taxicab dispatchers?... instead of the out of date stuff their vendors offer them.

up
Voting closed 0

If you're not in a high traffic area you have to call some old miserable hag who sounds like she smoke 10 packs of reds a day. Then you sit there with your thumb up your ass blindly waiting for a cab which might not show up.

up
Voting closed 0

Good question.

up
Voting closed 0

They're welcome to build their own app or make their own website, or at least improve their dispatch systems (maybe with GPS?). Nothing Uber is doing is groundbreaking or proprietary (as evidenced by the many other startups doing the same thing)

up
Voting closed 0

Hey Adam, what would you think about using the term "ride-hail" over "ride-share", as per the AP style-guide? It's much more accurate regarding Uber/Lyft/etc.

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/25405/the-ap-bans-the-term-ride...

up
Voting closed 0

A couple days ago. My problem with "ride-hail" is that while, in some ways it's more accurate, since, yes, Uber is anything but sharing, in one way it isn't - you can hail a ride with a medallion cab, too. Probably more important, though, is who calls it that? Anybody besides AP? Maybe I should put "ride sharing" in quotation marks like I do with "affordable" housing?

up
Voting closed 0

The point is that calling it ride sharing it taking the PR line and running with it.

The same is true of zipcar which is simply a decentralized car rental system, not car sharing.

As for " who calls it that" - well, the PR team did a very, very good job.

But if you, and others, adopt the AP standard, I think the "who calls it that" can morph to " most people" very quickly. People tend to call things based off what they see, and people see news article and Uhub posts.

up
Voting closed 0

Of note, Sidecar in particular actually is "ride sharing." You can get a specific type of ride and the driver will pick up other people on the way if need be.

up
Voting closed 0

"Medallion owners have to comply with expensive safety, licensing and insurance regulations, while any jamoke with a car - even one with a potential criminal background "

First - Uber drivers go through a thorough background check. You may not know this, but there is no way to predict what someone will do in the future, so even people with clean records can commit a crime after being hired. This is true in ANY industry.

Secondly - how extensive are background checks on taxi drivers, a majaority who have been in the US a short time, Do you think their background checks include any, let alone extensive investigations from the home country, most of which are in the stone ages with record keeping?

up
Voting closed 0

for a major nonprofit provider of community and child services. We hired a lot of college kids (paid and volunteer) who attended local universities, and their CORI/SORI always came back clean because they'd put their local address on the form.

Lord knew what they were up to in the past, but they'd been in MA for 3-9 months and hadn't committed any crimes, so they were good to go.

Occasionally, we'd get someone who passed their CORI/SORI randomly flagged by HR for an additional background check, but there was no rhyme or reason to who got flagged as far as I could tell, and I submitted hundreds of them. And for the international students? The "additional background check" was US-only.

Background checks aren't foolproof by any means.

up
Voting closed 0

I don't know what the cost of a new medallion from the city would be. What? Like $50 for processing the paperwork?

As I understand it, the quoted cost associated with medallions is from owner to owner because they are transferable and rare. So, company owners can charge outrageous "rents" to drivers and thus garner outrageous resale value for the medallions that garner these rents.

So, if my understanding is correct, the *city* isn't charging hundreds of thousands of dollars per medallion, the owners are...to each other.

Finally, when someone comes along and disrupts an industry, usually the earliest and most mobile companies will copy the disruptor's success. If I were a cab company and here comes Uber/Lyft/ridesharing with no overhead and limited capital needs, then I'd sell my medallions while they're still worth something to a sucker competitor and tell my drivers to find their own cars or they're fired. Use some of the money from the medallions to get my own rideshare app setup and then bank on people using me instead of Uber due to better customer service and as a local company.

Or...I could try to get the laws to bend to my will and keep Uber out...but for how long and to what end?

up
Voting closed 0

The cab companies don't employ drivers; they rent out cabs. They can't fire a driver, just refuse to rent to them. They definitely have no leverage to insist that drivers provide their own cars, and, as pointed out somewhere previously, many cab drivers don't do Uber/Lyft because they don't own cars.

up
Voting closed 0