New York taxi strike ‘nothing to talk about’ – Bloomberg

A taxi strike in New York City yesterday was having “limited impact, if any at all,” according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, while strike organizers declared the protest over new GPS tracking and credit card technology in cabs a success.

Bloomberg said in a press conference broadcast over the Web that there were 14 per cent fewer cabs than usual at Kennedy International Airport during the morning hours.

The strike, planned for yesterday and today, would not lead to talks with taxi drivers over the new technology, Bloomberg added. “There’s nothing to talk about,” he said.

Noting that there is “no really easy way to measure” how many cabs were on the streets out of the 13,000 that are licensed, Bloomberg added, “We don’t see people being hassled or stranded at airports. It’s nowhere remotely close to that.”

However, at a separate morning press conference, strike organizers with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance claimed that 80 per cent of cabbies stayed away from work, according to The New York Times and other news media.

The organization objects to a city requirement that cabs install by February new GPS tracking and credit card technology, as well as systems for providing weather, news reports and advertising.

Alliance leaders and cab drivers have called GPS an invasion of privacy that would allow employers to see where they park their cabs when off duty. They also object to paying five per cent credit card fees.

Bloomberg did not address the privacy concerns, but said the Taxi and Limousine Commission would receive only the same data about a cab’s location that it already received via paper, including where a customer was picked up and dropped off.

He said enabling credit card transactions would lead to more customers hailing and using cabs instead of arranging limousine rides ahead of time, and would increase collections because customers tended to round off fare payments.

Bloomberg said he would not talk to the alliance or taxi drivers because the city arranged for two cab fare increases to help drivers in 2004 and 2005, contingent upon their installing the technology.

“We made a deal, and we’ll stick to our side of it,” he said. “Most owners and drivers think it’s a good deal and will make cab driving a good experience.”

Bloomberg said a contingency plan for flat fares may have helped limit the impact of the strike. It calls for a zone-based fare structure, with non-striking drivers allowed to charge each passenger a fare of US$10 per trip in a single zone and $4 more for each zone they entered or passed through. The contingency plan will remain in effect today.

Related content:

GPS could spell Big Apple taxi strike

Opinion: The hazards of GPS tracking

Privacy group says U.S. laws needed to rein in surveillance

Tech to solve TTC trip planning puzzle

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