Archive for the ‘Taxi’ Category

Service of Double Check/Confirm or You Could Be in For a Nasty Surprise

Thursday, December 8th, 2022

Confirm or forever hold your peace—this seems to be a crucial strategy these days, another time sponge just when folks are busier than ever.

I went to Williams Sonoma last week to buy something that on the website appeared to be available instore. I know, I should have called. They didn’t have it. (And the store couldn’t be more inconvenient for me to reach. I have only myself to blame.)

I share Nancie Steinberg’s frustrations which were the inspiration for this post. She wrote about two exasperating experiences that happened recently, both involving websites with out-of-date information.

Her examples:

Restaurants post their menus online but when you arrive you too frequently learn that the prices and options listed are different. (And the prices are never less.)

“On a recent trip to Michigan,” she added, “I was referred to a taxi shuttle that was cheaper than a standard cab. It turns out that the shuttle hadn’t updated its website!! The price was not as much of a bargain as that posted on the website.”

I plan to meet friends over the weekend at a restaurant that opens at Noon according to the website but elsewhere on the web I saw 2:00 p.m. –so I called. It’s noon. Do I feel secure about the information?

Have you been snookered by an out-of-date website? How much time do you spend to confirm information?

Online menu

Service of When You Weren’t Looking

Monday, June 7th, 2021

New plaza where Vanderbilt Avenue used to be.

If you plan to revisit the Big Apple for the first time since last year you may notice that your favorite watering holes or gift stores are gone. But you’ll see lots that’s new such as a range of creative to clumsy semi-permanent street and sidewalk restaurants and florist satellites. All through the pandemic florists started selling coffee and snacks eaten at  tables and chairs in front.

Last week I was surprised by a plaza where a street used to be on Vanderbilt Avenue off 42nd outside Grand Central Terminal [photos above and below]. Cars lose with this transformation: They can no longer turn right, uptown, on Vanderbilt. But it looks nice.

Speaking of change, there’s a distinct lack of bright yellow accents on the city landscape–hardly any cabs anymore. I’ve noticed it on my walks as well as from my apartment windows where I see several blocks south on First Avenue. Turns out my observations are accurate. In “Where Did All The Yellow Cabs Go?” on curbed.com Jack Denton wrote “Two-thirds of our yellow street-hail cabs are gone.”

He reported “Before the pandemic, some 10,500 yellow cabs — about 80 percent of the total number of taxi medallions issued by the city — were in the streets each day. During the peak of lockdown, in April 2020, that number was 982.”  The number continues to be around 3,500 as it has been since last summer.

Denton quoted Steve Gounaris who owns a fleet of 180 who said: “‘How are you going to make a car payment, medallion payment, insurance, workers’ comp, labor — when you’re putting them out there for less than what it costs you?'” To avoid considerable fees for maintaining a license, “$9,600 in car insurance, $2,500 workman’s compensation insurance, $400 commercial motor-vehicle tax,” fleet owners “Put their medallions ‘in storage'” by giving them back to the Taxi & Limousine Commission.

When you’ve returned to a town or city you’ve been forced to ignore for a year, or in reconnoitering your neighborhood, what changes–good and bad–have taken place?

Plaza outside Grand Central Terminal.

 

Service of Congestion Pricing that is Giving Yellow Taxis the Flu

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

I tucked this horrible decision on the part of New York Governor Cuomo into an early December post, “Service of I Love New York… But Don’t Push It.”

It’s too important a move–a giant $2.50 surcharge on every ride in yellow taxis in Midtown Manhattan–big enough to fell an essential NYC industry.

A judge postponed the measure from January 1, which was the deadline when I originally wrote about the debilitating tax. It started last weekend. I’m appalled. As a result, I forecast the end of an industry that served me, my parents and grandparents so well. According to Google, it was the first Yellow Cabs that in mid-1880 knocked “less predictable” competitors out of the ring in the big apple.

Yellow cab owners have invested so much in their businesses, and NYC’s citizens whose cabs touch a toe below 96th Street and are slapped with the surcharge, don’t deserve this. Tossing a tax on the vulnerable to solve your financial difficulties in an allied but otherwise unrelated sector isn’t the way to go.

I’d written on December 6, 2018:

The January 1, 2019 $2.50 congestion pricing fee will help destroy the already limping yellow cab industry and hurt citizens of modest or microscopic means who rely on traditional cabs. Many can’t manage busses or subways, can’t afford limos or don’t have smartphones to hire car services like Uber or Lyft. The fee impacts “any yellow cab, e-hail or other for-hire vehicle trips that start, pass through or end in a designated ‘congestion zone’ below 96th Street in Manhattan,” Vincent Barone wrote in amny.com.

What’s the destination of the some $400 million the tax man anticipates collecting? According to Barone, it will help the Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA]  which is “financially strapped.”

Services like Lyft and Uber are charged a $2.75 fee but because they can fiddle with their basic price which yellow taxis can’t, they could make rides cheaper than traditional cabs—another stab to the financial heart of their competitor.

Barone reported: “‘The fact that it will cost $5.80 to step into a taxi cab now is going to be devastating for the taxi industry,’ TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said after a City Council oversight hearing on the surcharges, referencing the existing fees on taxi trips. ‘The other sectors … have more flexibility. They have to add $2.75 on but they’re not bound to a metered fare, so they can reduce the price of the trip so that the passenger doesn’t feel the effect of the $2.75.’”

I took [too] many yellow cabs last weekend between my current and future apartment filled with TJ Maxx bags holding my plants, food and other items movers don’t carry. My suitcase was embarrassingly heavy. Each driver was helpful, grateful and cheerful. Only one pointed out that drivers don’t benefit from a penny of the surcharge yet their volume will be impacted. “People don’t take us for short trips like they did before–look at the meter: $9 for a few blocks.”

Do you think that there is a chance for a rollback to a more reasonable surcharge such as 50 cents instead of $2.50? What impactful action might we take to put the brakes on this poorly conceived method of paying for the city’s subway system? Why does this city care more about bicyclists than about pedestrians or taxi drivers?

Service of I Love New York… But Don’t Push It

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

I was born and grew up in NYC and consider it a beloved relative that makes me glow with pride sometimes and bristle other times. On my walk to work my eye caught a menorah installed right next to a Christmas wreath [photo above] illustrating the comfortable diversity I admire. I turned around to see a homeless person huddled in the cold on a nearby bench, [photo right, below], striking my heart, but in the opposite way.

The New Year will bring with it two ham-fisted decisions that impact transportation and will punch the Big Apple in the gut. Worse: Nobody seems to be directing the big picture.

Congestion Pricing Will Give Yellow Taxis the Flu

The January 1, 2019 $2.50 congestion pricing fee will help destroy the already limping yellow cab industry and hurt citizens of modest or microscopic means who rely on traditional cabs. Many can’t manage busses or subways, can’t afford limos or don’t have smartphones to hire car services like Uber or Lyft. The fee impacts “any yellow cab, e-hail or other for-hire vehicle trips that start, pass through or end in a designated ‘congestion zone’ below 96th Street in Manhattan,” Vincent Barone wrote in amny.com.

What’s the destination of the some $400 million the tax man anticipates collecting? According to Barone, it will help the Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA]  which is “financially strapped.”

Services like Lyft and Uber are charged a $2.75 fee but because they can fiddle with their basic price which yellow taxis can’t, they could make rides cheaper than traditional cabs—another stab to the financial heart of their competitor.

Barone reported: “‘The fact that it will cost $5.80 to step into a taxi cab now is going to be devastating for the taxi industry,’ TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said after a City Council oversight hearing on the surcharges, referencing the existing fees on taxi trips. ‘The other sectors … have more flexibility. They have to add $2.75 on but they’re not bound to a metered fare, so they can reduce the price of the trip so that the passenger doesn’t feel the effect of the $2.75.’”

Pay More Get Less on Trains & Busses

And what about the Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA] that, in addition to benefiting from the congestion pricing taxi fee is fighting to get a 4 percent increase in subway and bus fares next year? Here are highlights of its cost-cutting proposal, according to 710 WOR radio new: “Among the plans is to change the temperature on subway trains, providing riders with less heat in the winter and less air conditioner in the summer. The proposal would also result in fewer trains and buses on some lines that could lead to overcrowding.  Trains would also be cleaned less frequently.” Good plan: Charge more, give less.

What and/or who is to blame for the MTA’s financial woes? Fare beaters according to Andy Byford the president of NYC Transit.

Who’s Running the Place?

William Neuman in a New York Times article may have hit on a reason for the shambles hitting transportation and, I suspect, other sectors in the city. He reported that New York Mayor de Blasio “rarely meets with many of his commissioners, according to the schedules, at times making it difficult for department heads to advance new ideas at City Hall, or to inform the mayor about problems at their agencies.”

Worse, his City Hall attendance record shocked me. Neuman reported that he averaged 19 days a month in the office in 2014; 17 days a month the next year falling to 14 in 2016 and last year, 9—only 5 in July! It’s up to 10 on average this year. Further, wrote Neuman, he “was at City Hall just four of the first 39 Fridays this year, according to the schedules.” [Remember when Mayor Bloomberg was creamed for being out of town once, for a major snowstorm?]

Will congestion pricing to hit cabs positively impact the city’s severe traffic challenges? Is the potential increase in public transit fares along with a decrease in comfort for riders badly timed? Do these moves tell citizens “If you can’t afford the city and can’t handle a nasty subway ride, get out” even louder than ever before? Would strong leadership avert or lessen the transportation tangle? Do you live in a town or city that works seamlessly?

Service of So Many Vehicles and No Way to Get Anywhere

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

The first time I felt stranded in a city swarming with cars was in Teheran long ago. The feeling of frustration, helplessness and dread is always the same. I think: “How will I get where I need to be on time or at all?” We were miles from our hotel, there were no taxis, we spoke not a word of Farsi and had no clue about public transportation.

The next time this happened was in Paris years later and years ago. The trick then was to know the number of a responsible car service. This didn’t always work either even when the concierge of a well regarded hotel placed the call. At least Paris has a superb metro system though it’s not fun taking public transportation very late at night when you’re dressed up and in uncomfortable shoes.

Back in NYC last week we waited 45 minutes for the cross-town bus at 49th and First Avenue, a jaunt from a subway. It never came. Everyone at the stop when we arrived eventually gave up. Meanwhile countless busses raced along First Avenue.

We left frantic calls on our friend’s mobile phone to make alternate plans. He held the tickets to Radio City Music Hall‘s Christmas Show and was waiting for us outside. My phone went dead. It needed a charge. We walked to Second Avenue hoping for better luck and mercifully someone hopped out of a cab which we dashed into. The driver charged my phone; we were able to connect with our friend but gosh–the stress to get there dampened our enthusiasm.

Lucky the show was spectacular as that’s what we remember when we think of that evening.

“There are rideshare options in your city!” some readers are yelling at their computer screens. My response: “I don’t have access to apps to hire Uber, Lyft, Gett or Juno car services. Does everyone?” Why don’t I? I need to set aside 3 hours to wait my turn at the Apple Store to acquire a new password/Apple ID in order to download apps. Something happened with my old one. The daunting potential time waste has put me off.

The city is strangled by traffic. In addition to the annual influx of holiday shoppers and tourists eager to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, the stroke in midtown traffic caused by security around the President-elect’s Fifth Avenue midtown office/home will ensure that for blocks we continue to suffer for four years. In addition, the Governor has promised to complete the first stretch of the Second Avenue subway [photo left] by year’s end. To satisfy his ego, he has workers at it 24/7 and the avenue shrinks to one lane around 72nd Street. This subway has been in the works for 70 years at least when the first bond issues were floated. So what’s a few more days?

A sidebar: To feed a MetroCard for access to busses in NYC a person needs access to the subway which is usually up or down flights of stairs. Doesn’t that eliminate people for whom stairs are an issue? Grand Central Station no longer sells the cards on the main floor. Maybe you can buy or feed a card in a convenient spot somewhere else in the city but I don’t know where.

So how should people plan on getting around in cities?

Service of Strangers Knowing More About You Than Your Family Does

Monday, June 15th, 2015

I wake up to Len Berman and Todd Schnitt in the Morning on WOR 710 Radio, a welcome addition to the NYC media scene since January. Last Thursday Schnitt, [on the right in the photo with Berman, at right], said he’d deleted the Uber app from his Android phone because he didn’t want to give the company access to his address book nor did he want the company to know his location even if he hadn’t opened the app. He said the latter intrusion will happen in July. Schnitt said he takes yellow cabs to work every morning at 4a.m.–the show runs from 6 am to 10–and plans to look for a different car booking company, like Lyft.

I asked a friend (in her 20s) what she thought about all this surveillance, shadowing and privacy invasion. She said, “I always just think/sort of joke around that my iPhone knows more about me than I do. The other day my phone told me how long it would be for me to get to Columbia [University] from midtown — I never put that in as a home address or anything. The phone just sort of figured out on its own that I was there a lot. Creepy. 

“As for Uber,” the recent Columbia Journalism grad student continued, “there was that ‘God view’ feature which gave away a users’ location. Not sure if that is still in use. It makes sense to a certain extent so the driver can find you but access beyond that they shouldn’t have—such as your contacts’ info!”

According to Insurance Journal, “The car booking company now more clearly tells its customers it can pretty much track everything they do while using the Uber app, after facing criticism over privacy, especially its use of a tool called God View enabling the company to know where its riders were at any given moment.” Eric Newcomer, who wrote “Uber Discloses Expanded Customer Data Tracking,” continued: “the firm said Uber needed to make sure it was clearer and more transparent, rather than significantly altering its existing policies.” The [law] firm referred to is Hogan Lovells.

“The new privacy policy is clear,” wrote Newcomer. “…The company can read text messages you send to drivers, follow your location as you ride in an Uber and store your address book on its servers. Customers can find the policy on the app and the company’s website.”

Newcomer reinforced what talk show host Schnitt said. He wrote: “With the new update, which takes effect July 15, Uber can ask permission to track a rider’s location even when the application isn’t open.” And “Uber retains permission to hand over data to third parties. If a rider is using Uber for business, the startup can turn over data to the rider’s employer.”

Remember the prehistoric slogan about customers always being right? At Uber the drivers rate customers. If you keep a driver waiting, if you aren’t as polite or friendly as a driver expects a passenger to be, you’ll get a bad grade. Why does this matter? If you are looking for transportation at rush hour or after an event, you very well might be left waiting on the curb.

Sidebar: Why did Uber hire the law firm in the first place? According to Newcomer: “Uber hired Hogan Lovells after the company faced criticism for prying into journalists’ private lives.”

Uber, available around the world, has caught on like wildfire [though it’s encountering legal glitches in France, Germany and South Korea according to techcrunch.com]. In February alone, according to fusion.net, the company attracted $2.8 billion in venture capital.

Is the public so in love with clever technology that it accepts every–and anything–from a company that’s expert at it? Have you used the service? Will you continue to after July 15?

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