DO NOT RESUCITATE
It's true, we can't deny mortality - even in the Big Apple. Some tough familial decisions need to be made on the yellow cabs of New York City. Not quite in a coma, but definitely standing idle in Heaven's waiting rooms across the city - with hospice mechanics standing by with morphine drips before that final grudging turn of the key to a dead battery signals the need to heed their living will instructions provided by the City of New York: DO NOT RESUSCITATE.
In case you haven't paid much attention to media reports on the yellow cab industry, the venerable and much loved yellow taxi of NYC, is dying. It's dying because of greed, politics, and flippant corporate arrogance. And at the root of this poison ivy list, lies the responsible party: Uber. Let me cut through the chase, and point out some bits that many don't understand - that is, what is the difference between an Uber car, and an NYC Taxi. The short answer is none. Besides the color - their functions are the same. They give you a ride. To hail a yellow cab, you raise your hand on the street. To hail an Uber car, you push a button on your phone. One is called a taxi. The other "ride sharing". But no matter how you toss the dice, the function and the intent is the same. Each provides a ride to a stranger from one place to another for money. Period, end of story. But there is a fine line and divide between the two - and it has to do with one being bogged down by regulation and high money stakes, while the other, pretty much devoid of regulation or big money - for both drivers and the parent company - in terms of investment.
Let us suppose, you want to own your very own yellow cab in NYC. It's a bit tricky here - it's not like you just go out, buy an old beat up police car and hit the street with a few licensing fees. You will need the following:
1.) $1,000,000 for a medallion (although less now, because of Uber), which is the cheap piece of tin unceremoniously riveted to a yellow cab's hood...it's license really - for the privilege of providing rides to people throughout the city and beyond.
2.) A vehicle, chosen from a small list of "approved" vehicles - although, as of September 1, 2015 - that little list will include only one vehicle - an ugly piece of crap called a Nissan NV-200 van, the likes of which are quite similar to the repair van Jaws busted up in the Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me.
3.) Acceptance that you're going to have to follow a list of rules and regulations that has become so bureaucratically exhaustive and unrealistic, that it can make an owl's eye balls spin. Car has to be new. Has to be yellow. Partition. Meters. Meter calibrations. Taxi TV. GPS. EZ-Pass. Credit Card Readers. Decals to the nearest inch. This. That, and a kitchen sink.
4.) A means in which to find suckers in this day and age that are willing to pay you roughly $150 to $200 per shift to use your cab when you're not in it, if at all.
5.) Be prepared to sell that car in no more than 3 years, and go through it all again - AND....if at the whim of the city they decide to approve a different vehicle, well.....buy partitions, rooflights etc. that will fit whatever vehicle is so chosen. Don't forget the stringent inspection process every three months.
For Uber. You must:
1.) Invest no real money at all. A medallion?! Ain't nobody got time for that! Or a partition. Or Taxi TV. Or GPS. Decals. Credit card readers. ETC.
2.) Have a car no more than 5 years old. The list is long in terms of choice. Want to drive a gas guzzling emission spitting Suburban or Escalade to combat the environmentally responsible Hybrids forced upon the yellow taxi industry? That will be fine. How about a 4 year old Impala ex cruiser with a zillion miles on it. That is fine. Just put NYC TLC plates on it. So, all that robbing of Peter to pay Paul by former Mayor Bloomberg - in an effort to have cleaner air, was all for naught. There are over 30,000 Uber cars that are flowing through the streets with no standardized efforts to make them environmentally responsible, while Nissan vans will be sitting still with no drivers to drive them.
3.) Want to drive? No problem. Get a NYC "For Hire Vehicle" license - no need for a traditional hack license. That means....No Taxi School. No studying. No Wheelchair training. No test.
4.) Have a phone (which you can also use for GPS - while a yellow driver can not). In fact, apps were disproved by the TLC that provided yellow cabs with the means to accept app hails. One of them was Zab Cab. It's dangerous for a yellow cab driver to utilize his/her phone. It's completely safe for an Uber driver. Whatever.
Many little goofball studies have been done by well intentioned individuals plying their way to the top of the youtube money train, to see who is cheaper, faster, etc. Sometimes one wins over the other, but in the end - it's really pretty much the same. Many factors play in that. Traffic patterns. A driver's knowledge (remember....yellow can't use navigation such as google maps). In fact, Uber's pricing, is based on the yellow cab industries' metering standards. And it's not like Uber drivers are from another planet and know the streets better - many are former yellow taxi drivers.
The term "iconic" is a term so often used to describe the NYC Taxi, that one just cannot help but wonder, if the wanton beat down yellow cabs are now getting, is all by design. I don't blame a driver who does this full time to jump ship really. One could buy their own car with a monthly payment, that would equal 2 or 3 days of a daily yellow lease. So, it makes sense for some perhaps. But something stinks - and it isn't the back seat. I don't depend on this job for my means of paying bills. But many do. Uber isn't creating new jobs really - just attracting ones from yellow cabs, green Boro taxi's, and black livery cabs. So for people who complain as well about yellow drivers being inconsiderate, or not picking them up, or not taking them to Brooklyn....well guess what - it's the same people driving you via Uber, vs. yellow.
Like it or not, the NYC Taxi is a cast character in New York. It is part of the landscape that rolls. It's that temporary reprieve from hectic energy - that still shares the grit and grunge of the streets you seek reprieve from, reminding you always where it is you are. It is one of the most single definitive trademarks of the city. Go to any souvenier shop in NYC and what do you find? Countless items with NYC Taxi's on them. Coffee cups, shirts, towels, pens, pencils, stationary, post cards, water bottles etc. It is one's way of showing where they were. Replace this with a picture of a black Suburban on these items....well, people might think you visited the front gates of the White House or a Presidential Motorcade.
When a movie production company is filming a NYC themed movie in Toronto, what is the best way to make an audience feel that it is in NYC?
a.) Have a couple of black cars on the street.
b.) Have one single yellow NYC Taxi roll by.
Answer: Used to be b. Pretty soon, just a.
And to make the point even more clear - here are some items whose flavor would totally change if one was to replace the word Taxi, with Uber. Things like Taxi Cab Confessions.....it wouldn't be the same if it was called Ride Sharing Confessions. The classic TV show 'Taxi' - wouldn't be much fun if it was called Uber. The show would have to take place in the living room of an Uber driver because Uber doesn't have garages.
Sigh. Uber Driver?
I like this movie. It's true you know - like Queen Latifah, there are people that really have always wanted to drive a yellow NYC Taxi. I'm one of them - ever since I was a kid.
While I imagine not a lot of people buy this calendar for eye candy - it's purpose is to be playful. If you think a picture of a naked man in the back of a yellow taxi is gross, well, put him in a black car, and we now have a craigslist personals ad.
The classic Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly movie, On the Town, wouldn't quite be the same - say nothing about the Broadway Musical:
Honestly, the list could go on forever:
I have to wonder, is there anyone at the Taxi and Limousine Commission that feels even the slightest pulse of pride or passion for their yellow/green four wheeled brethren? Has there been one single attorney there, that has said ' hey wait a minute...these Uber cars fit the definition of a jitney/taxi, and we have rules in place for that'? Has it bothered anyone at all, anywhere in the maze of government, that no one is fighting for the very people who they regulate - whether it is a medallion owner or driver? Is there one person, who has looked at the enormous amounts of data that the TLC collects - from how many miles a car travels in a shift, to how many farts were laid in a shift - and concluded 'Hey, these poor drivers are sometimes making less than what a homeless person makes begging for change'. Is there even a janitor there, who has thought - "If an Uber car isn't a taxi, then why does the taxi commission regulate them....or as is the case of reality, regulate them softly with their song?' And if there are twice as many 'rideshare' vehicles as their are taxi's, shouldn't there be a NYC Ridesharing Commission? I don't get it at all. Well, scratch that - I do get it. It's New York. The history of medallions, and color yellow, and all these rules are steeped in history. It is no surprise that anything that promises money - could circumvent this history with nary a breath blown.
So, in the words of Frank Sinatra, it's up to you New York - what's it going to be?
This section of the site is not specific to my taxi travels. They are not really rants either. It is more of a space for me to simply raise awareness to topics that either inspire or frustrate me as an individual.