Having failed to deregulate New York City’s highly restrictive taxicab market, it looks like City Council and Bloomberg are opting for the populist reaction to NYC cabdrivers’ frequent refusal to take you anywhere outside Manhattan and, if you’re lucky, northwest Brooklyn: fines. Quoteth the Wall Street Journal:
The bill passed Wednesday increases the fine for a cabbie’s first offense from $350 to $500. If he gets caught again within the next two years, he’ll have to pay $1,000—double the current fine. The bill also adds a $1,000 fine for the third offense, on top of the license revocation already required.
Unfortunately for New York, I think it’s gonna take a lot more than a few hundred more dollars in fines to have any effect on this problem. And if it does somehow work, then I fear that it will actually be counterproductive and encourage cab drivers to discriminate. They won’t even bother pulling over for people think aren’t traveling within Manhattan for fear of either having to take them or be fined – in other words, it will become even harder for people of color, who are less likely to live in Manhattan, to hail cabs.
And then there’s this gem from the hack union, which reminds me of David Yassky’s “the city should be circumspect about substituting its judgment for the judgment of business people” comment:
Bhairavi Desai, the director of the Taxi Workers Alliance, a drivers’ group, said she was disappointed in the vote.
Drivers sometimes refuse to take people to faraway places because they’ll get stuck in traffic before they can get another fare, she said. She said the city should find an “economic solution” to the problem.
“Otherwise, you’re just scapegoating people,” Ms. Desai said.
It’s interesting that she even admits that there is even a problem – I guess cabbies’ disregard for the anywhere-in-the-five-boroughs rule has gotten so bad that even she can’t pretend it doesn’t happen. And though by “economic solution” I’m sure she means raising cab fares, I can think of at least one “economic solution” that she probably wouldn’t be too pleased with.