The Boston City Council agreed today to see if there's anything in the city's taxi regulations they can change that would put the shrinking number of medallion owners on a more equal footing with Uber and Lyft drivers and let them continue driving the streets.
Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester) requested a hearing on the issue today. Baker cited the plight of individual medallion owners - rather the large fleet owners who had once managed to corner hundreds of medallions before Uber and Lyft move into Boston.
Baker, who said he has had grown men sit in his office and cry, said he would look at whether there are any provisions in the taxi, or "hackney," regulations that could be loosened, because ride-share drivers, who are regulated by the state rather than the city, do not have as many regulatory burdens.
Baker said the BPD hackney unit now has "hundreds of medallions literally just sitting on a shelf now," because there's just no market for the badges now that their prices have crashed from $300,000 to $600,000 before ride sharing to maybe $35,000 today.
Councilor Ed Flynn (South Boston, South End, Chinatown, Downtown) agreed it's a shame what's happened to tax drivers, who he said supported the city when the city was in horrible shape 40 or 50 years ago and that it's time for the city to help them.
"During difficult times in our city, taxi drivers were always there for us," he said. "Now that city is booming, it seems there's no place left for our taxi drivers."
Councilor Andrea Campbell (Dorchester) agreed the council should look at how to help "hardworking dedicated residents and folks who are just looking to get ahead."
She added that "this issue frankly is about justice," because so many cab drivers are people of color and immigrants and because the city failed to help them when the ride-share companies first burst on the scene.
"It is really heart wrenching to hear some of their stories," she said. "They bet their lives on this income to get their child through college, to buy a home."
The next step is for a council committee to call a public hearing on the issue, to let city officials, residents and drivers discuss what could be done.