An integral part of New York City business and life is the taxi transportation system. Monday morning starting at 5:00am EST on October 22nd the taxi transportation system will face a partial shut down over GPS equipment and credit card machines that are to eventually be installed into all NYC taxis.
The GPS tracking system will allow passengers to see a live map with their location. The mapping system will help taxi passengers find close restaurants, movies, shopping and concert venues. The GPS system also provides the potential for giving 24/7 tracking on all taxis. City officials claim the GPS services are strictly for passenger use and will not be used for taxi surveillance.
In addition to the GPS installation to taxis the new touchscreen devices being added to New York City’s taxis will also sport a credit card billing and swiping setup. This will allow taxi passengers to pay for their fare with a simple swipe of their credit card. The NYC taxi commissioner has tried to encourage acceptance of the new credit card system stating that when passengers can use their credit card they often tip better than if they had to pay with cash.
An organization called the Taxi Workers Alliance has come out against the new proposals and mandates to add the new technologies to cabs. The Taxi Workers Alliance was founded by Bhairavi Desai and has adamantly opposed both the GPS technologies and the credit card terminals. Ms. Desai states, “A passenger may swipe their credit card and jump out of the cab, which is understandable, but then three minutes later the message comes on the screen that the credit card was declines. Who’s going to compensate the drivers?” Another problem taxi drivers have with the new credit card system is that every transaction imposes a minimum 5% fee on the total cab fare and tips. Cabbies are upset about the charges because they aren’t required to pay any of these fees when the customer pays cash.
The Taxi Workers Alliance is also concerned about future use of the GPS tracking system to invade the privacy of taxi drivers. Ms. Desai said, “The city is more invested in the technology than they are in the hard working men and women who make this industry run.” Thousands of taxi drivers have expressed serious concern over being monitored through GPS tracking and the credit card transaction systems which impose a 5% surcharge.
Every taxi has to go through a yearly checkup and it is at this time the new systems are to added to all taxis. Most taxi drivers hope that striking will remove the forced installation of the new tracking and billing system.
Disruptions due to striking are a very real problem for New York. The Taxi Workers Alliance boasts a membership of about one-fifth or about 8,800 of the 44,000 taxi drivers in New York. The members of the TWA have been encouraged to strike for a 24 hour period by providing no service to anyone in New York.
New York is trying to fight the attempt at disrupting commuters by enacting an emergency contingency plan with the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission. The plan will charge taxi passengers a flat $10 rate and $5 for each new zone the taxi ride takes the passenger through. The plan requests that all taxis that are operational to pick up multiple passengers to ease the overflow of distraught passengers.
This isn’t the first time the Taxi Workers Alliance has enacted a strike due to the GPS and credit card billing. On September 5th, 2007 the TWA pulled off a strike attempting to block the mandatory system installations.
If you use a taxi every day and think the taxi strike is the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do we want to hear from you. Should Taxi’s be forced to use GPS Tracking? Would you be happier to pay a taxi with a credit card even though they will be forced to pay a 5% surcharge? If you are a taxi driver and want to speak your mind or you are regularly a taxi passenger and want to speak your mind we want to hear from you.