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GPS Log Analysis Uncovers Millions In NYC Taxi Overcharges

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the this-medallion-will-keep-you-safe dept.

The Almighty Buck 232

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission is using GPS data collected in every cab to review millions of trips in New York City over the past 26 months and has discovered a huge number in which out-of-city rates, twice the rate charged for rides in the five boroughs, were improperly charged. The drivers' scheme, the commission says, involved 1.8 million rides and cost passengers an average of $4 to $5 extra per trip when drivers flipped switches on their meters that kicked in the higher rates, costing New York City riders a total of $8.3 million. Cab drivers are supposed to charge the higher rate only when they cross the border between New York City and Nassau or Westchester. 'We have not seen anything quite this pervasive,' said Matthew W. Daus, the taxi and limousine commissioner. 'It's very disturbing.' The taxi industry vigorously challenged the city's findings, saying it was unimaginable that such a pervasive problem could be the result of deliberate fraud. The commission says that 75% out of the city's 48,000 drivers had applied the higher rate at least once. Officials hope to roll out a short-term fix in two or three weeks in which an alert will appear on the backseat monitor when a cabbie activates the out-of-town rate."

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Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (5, Funny)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466878)

Bah forget about bankers we need to bail out the cab driver industry.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31466922)

I for one don't want to ever be tracked by GPS or any other technology for any reason. Maybe shady cab drivers and, more importantly, the big corporations that employ them will be unlikely allies in the politics of never being tracked like cattle. I'm sure they hire lobbyists and legally bribe congresscritters like every other sizable corporation. Guess every cloud DOES have a silver lining.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466952)

I for one don't want to ever be tracked by GPS or any other technology for any reason. Maybe shady cab drivers and, more importantly, the big corporations that employ them will be unlikely allies in the politics of never being tracked like cattle. I'm sure they hire lobbyists and legally bribe congresscritters like every other sizable corporation. Guess every cloud DOES have a silver lining.

The vast majority of taxis in NYC are from small shops or independents. And most taxi drivers could never get hired by larger corporations ... they are simply a unique animal.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467514)

they are simply a unique animal.

Well-said. Especially since most of them are subhuman Arabs or Somalian/Eritrean monkeys. Why we even allow scum like them to live in America is beyond me.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467740)

Once we let you in, the precedent was set.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (4, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466962)

This is a tricky point for me.

As our information collection gets better, hidden income sources get eliminated.
Then the question becomes- does the "honest" rate really need to be raised?

For example- truck drivers used to be expected to make 8 stops and were paid 8x dollars.

Once GPS came in, suddenly they are being expected to make 11 stops (because the gps showed they were sitting around for 20 minutes) and work 100% while on. But the pay is still 8x dollars.

I wonder if there is a correlation between how much the out of town rate was activated and how slow a day the driver was having?

Our drivers in Houston are certainly not retiring wealthy (unlike some of our police sergeants). Cab driving should provide a decent living and with government intervention in rates, that can be tricky at times.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (4, Interesting)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467114)

For example- truck drivers used to be expected to make 8 stops and were paid 8x dollars.

Once GPS came in, suddenly they are being expected to make 11 stops (because the gps showed they were sitting around for 20 minutes) and work 100% while on. But the pay is still 8x dollars.

There's an easy solution to that which involves neither GPS tracking nor micromanagement.

Pay the drivers on a per-delivery basis, allowing for things like distance driven and amount or weight of cargo to be variables that determine this rate. Then the drivers can decide how they wish to use that 20 minutes. If a driver can make 11 deliveries in X time, then he gets paid about 28% more than a driver who makes 8 deliveries in X time. Now they have an incentive to be more productive that doesn't require tagging them like cattle and any expenses associated with that. The recipients of the deliveries have no incentive to help the drivers cheat this system, since that would mean failing to receive their items.

I wonder if there is a correlation between how much the out of town rate was activated and how slow a day the driver was having?

Our drivers in Houston are certainly not retiring wealthy (unlike some of our police sergeants). Cab driving should provide a decent living and with government intervention in rates, that can be tricky at times.

The most robust solution to this is presented in the summary. Have some unambiguous indicator that allows the paying passenger to see whether the out-of-town rate is being applied. It could be as simple as a bright LED with a label saying "When light is on, out-of-town rates are being applied" that is tied to the driver's rate switch. This would guard against both deliberate deception and honest mistakes and would represent full disclosure to the customer.

The idea of using GPS to monitor everyone's whereabouts and track their activities is both unnecessary and needlessly complex. Simpler, more robust solutions can be implemented that come with none of the privacy concerns. Not only is a centralized GPS database a tempting target for attackers who would compromise it, it's also a single point of failure if such a compromise does occur. That's undesirable in a system used to keep people honest. It'd be far more difficult to obtain physical access to every cab in NYC and disable the physical indicator of which rate is being applied.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (4, Insightful)

clintp (5169) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467190)

Pay the drivers on a per-delivery basis, allowing for things like distance driven and amount or weight of cargo to be variables that determine this rate. Then the drivers can decide how they wish to use that 20 minutes. If a driver can make 11 deliveries in X time, then he gets paid about 28% more than a driver who makes 8 deliveries in X time.

With that you get drivers rushing through their deliveries or trying to squeeze in an extra one or two runs per day. That's great and all and everyone wins, right? Until a driver that's taking drugs for alertness has a heart attack or one that doesn't falls asleep at the wheel. Cargo gets manhandled, customers get lousy service from cranky and rushed drivers, and the equipment takes a lot of abuse. The DEA starts sniffing around the employee lockers and trucks, insurance companies, workman's comp. adjusters, and lawsuit happy attorneys circle nearby.

The other suggestions (the LED one) I'm in favor of. Let the customer know he's (possibly) being cheated, and they can work it out from there.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467300)

Pay the drivers on a per-delivery basis, allowing for things like distance driven and amount or weight of cargo to be variables that determine this rate. Then the drivers can decide how they wish to use that 20 minutes. If a driver can make 11 deliveries in X time, then he gets paid about 28% more than a driver who makes 8 deliveries in X time.

With that you get drivers rushing through their deliveries or trying to squeeze in an extra one or two runs per day. That's great and all and everyone wins, right? Until a driver that's taking drugs for alertness has a heart attack or one that doesn't falls asleep at the wheel. Cargo gets manhandled, customers get lousy service from cranky and rushed drivers, and the equipment takes a lot of abuse. The DEA starts sniffing around the employee lockers and trucks, insurance companies, workman's comp. adjusters, and lawsuit happy attorneys circle nearby.

The other suggestions (the LED one) I'm in favor of. Let the customer know he's (possibly) being cheated, and they can work it out from there.

It seems to me you could avoid that by defining a maximum safe/realistic number of deliveries to be made during any one timespan. You could derive such a figure by averaging the number of deliveries made by the top 5-10% highest-performing drivers who have had no at-fault accidents and no customer complaints about quality. Then add a margin to that of around 25% or so and you get your maximum permitted number. This would be easy enough for the company to control since the drivers have no cargo that it did not give them and this is the case whether they are employees or contractors.

I still don't see where this is such a complex problem that GPS tracking is the only possible solution, or even a good solution.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (2, Insightful)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467418)

There's an easy solution to that which involves neither GPS tracking nor micromanagement. Pay the drivers on a per-delivery basis, allowing for things like distance driven and amount or weight of cargo to be variables that determine this rate. Then the drivers can decide how they wish to use that 20 minutes. If a driver can make 11 deliveries in X time, then he gets paid about 28% more than a driver who makes 8 deliveries in X time. Now they have an incentive to be more productive that doesn't require tagging them like cattle and any expenses associated with that. The recipients of the deliveries have no incentive to help the drivers cheat this system, since that would mean failing to receive their items.

Not so easy. You think your solution hasn't been tried before / exist now? All it leads to is drivers taking uppers to stay awake and drive hours past when they should be taking a break, as well as encouraging them to speed.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467454)

There's an easy solution to that which involves neither GPS tracking nor micromanagement. Pay the drivers on a per-delivery basis, allowing for things like distance driven and amount or weight of cargo to be variables that determine this rate. Then the drivers can decide how they wish to use that 20 minutes. If a driver can make 11 deliveries in X time, then he gets paid about 28% more than a driver who makes 8 deliveries in X time. Now they have an incentive to be more productive that doesn't require tagging them like cattle and any expenses associated with that. The recipients of the deliveries have no incentive to help the drivers cheat this system, since that would mean failing to receive their items.

Not so easy. You think your solution hasn't been tried before / exist now? All it leads to is drivers taking uppers to stay awake and drive hours past when they should be taking a break, as well as encouraging them to speed.

It's conducive to the discussion if, before posting, you note that someone else has already raised this very same objection [slashdot.org] (32 minutes before you posted this) and that I have already addressed it [slashdot.org] with a proposed solution. The already-stated objection and my response to it are in the very same thread.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (5, Interesting)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467476)

Yup. That's how taxi works here in Kiev (Ukraine).

When I order a taxi over the phone, I'm immediately told what the price is going to be, so you pay exactly this sum to the driver (+tips).

And now it's the driver's problem to chose the shortest and fastest route. If we get stuck in a jam - I'm not paying more.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467126)

no, it's called effiency. just because drivers don't get to sit around for 20 mins extra per day it doesn't equate to a pay rise. if we didn't constantly get more efficent in this manner inflation would spiral out of control as everything got more expensive everytime you got people to work smarter.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467518)

That doesn't even come close to making sense, yet it superficially sounds good. You must be in management.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467600)

So, the problem is drivers working themselves to death and putting their fellow vehicles at risk, and the solution is perfect enforcement of a "no loafing" policy to work the drivers like dogs...

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (2, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467908)

That is, until the stress associated with being spied on all the time makes the drivers surly and accident prone. You'll notice that executives never get spied on to make sure they're REALLY making business deals while golfing.

Human beings are not 100% efficient. Try to make them so and something will eventually fail spectacularly.

The world is a better place when everyone gets a little slack.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467262)


Once GPS came in, suddenly they are being expected to make 11 stops (because the gps showed they were sitting around for 20 minutes) and work 100% while on. But the pay is still 8x dollars.

What that leads to is drivers that can't afford to stop to take a piss. So what do they do? Piss in a plastic jug and throw it out the window. [roadsideamerica.com] There's more to life than money.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467414)

This is a tricky point for me.

As our information collection gets better, hidden income sources get eliminated.
Then the question becomes- does the "honest" rate really need to be raised?

let me hold your wallet for you while you ponder.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467730)

Cab driving should not be a good job. Unskilled labor anyone could do.

Your post reeks of wealth redistribution

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (1)

bschorr (1316501) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467812)

It even pervades information services. I wonder how many people get busted telling their boss or client they're working on Project A because they were on Twitter or Facebook talking about doing something totally different.

Accountability, for better or worse, is rising to a whole new level due to voluntary and involuntary location and presence services.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (1)

magsol (1406749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467080)

I had always assumed the cab industry in New York was so saturated with competition and so decentralized that price fixing like this wouldn't be possible; everyone would have to charge essentially the same rates or risk being driven (literally and figuratively) out of business.

Apparently, it can happen anywhere.

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467102)

I had always assumed the cab industry in New York was so saturated with competition and so decentralized that price fixing like this wouldn't be possible; everyone would have to charge essentially the same rates or risk being driven (literally and figuratively) out of business.

Only yellow medallion cabs are allowed to pick up passengers; the price is supposed to be the same for any cab, and you don't know the total cost until you reach your destination (unless you're headed to an airport where there's a flat fee).

Re:Because Cab drivers are notoriously ethical (2, Informative)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467250)

That makes no sense. All NYC cabs are yellow and charge the same rates - you don't the choice to either hail an honest one or a dishonest one. It's about the most uncompetitive market there is.

People don't pay admission charge for nothing ... (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467542)

So saturated with competition that people -- mostly investors -- think it's worth it to pay upwards of a quarter million dollars (more than 400k, says Wikipedia!) and go through generally onerous licensing for a medallion? :)

When demand is high, and so are barriers to entry, you can bet those who have made it *over* the barriers aren't as constrained by competition as you'd prefer (as a customer).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxicabs_of_New_York_City#Medallion_taxicabs_and_livery_taxicabs [wikipedia.org]

Think "Casino operator license." The Governor of Louisiana didn't go to jail because limited-entry business licenses are beneficial to society ;) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Edwards [wikipedia.org]

(And it's very kind of the bureaucrats to "turn a blind eye" to the unlicensed drivers who provide taxi service at their own legal risk in areas where the regulated cabs quite rationally won't go.)

Very easy fix (4, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466880)

Require the use of GPS to automatically set the advertised rates at the correct points. Don't let the drivers flick the switch themselves.

Re:Very easy fix (0)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466958)

Exactly.

Let the cabby set the number of passengers, and maybe customer requested wait time, but have the GPS calc the total fare.

This should also be able to eliminate deliberate "tours" where the driver takes a round about route to run up the meter just because the hay-seed passenger was picked up at the airport.

Point to point fares would also be easily calculated and computer adjusted for construction detours, but not allow the round about when there is no reason.

Re:Very easy fix (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467072)

I dunno about all that, by trying to remove all slack in the system you end up sacrificing flexibility and turning the driver into a robot. Construction detours are hardly the only reason to take a different route -- it ultimately comes down a judgment call for things that can't be easily automated. Sure, reducing unnecessary slack to improve efficiency is a good thing, just don't go too far because without enough slack the system will just end up another kind of inefficient.

Plus, drivers who are robots are going to hate their jobs which can result in all kinds of unexpected side effects (increased accident rates, disgruntled drivers looking to exploit the system in other, possibly more costly or more dangerous ways, etc).

Bullshit (except in London) (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467214)

it ultimately comes down a judgment call for things that can't be easily automated

At least 9 out of 10 taxi drivers in NYC do not know enough about the city's streets or the city's traffic patterns to know when it is appropriate to make a judgement call to deviate from the GPS-selected route.

If NYC required taxi drivers to pass a test comparable to "the Knowledge" test required of London taxi drivers (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/businessandpartners/taxisandprivatehire/1412.aspx [tfl.gov.uk] ), that would be a different matter.

Last spring while Cirque du Soleil was doing their "Kooza" thing at Randall's Island in NYC, only 1 out of the 20 taxi drivers that I caught from a Manhattan Hilton had even heard of Randall's Island let alone knew how to get there.

Re:Bullshit (except in London) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467310)

At least 9 out of 10 taxi drivers in NYC do not know enough about the city's streets or the city's traffic patterns to know when it is appropriate to make a judgement call to deviate from the GPS-selected route.

Okay this is baloney. 100% wrong, I know your from out of town but most cab drivers are very skilled at traffic patterns and where things are.

I'll give you the Randall's Island one, fuck I've lived here many years and couldn't get you to Randall's island myself!! There are certain places and named streets that are very difficult even for a life long born New Yorker to remember much less someone freshly off the boat. Hell my ex-girlfriend lived here all her life didn't know what streets the Empire State building was on!!!

Besides these days most have GPS and if you ask for somewhere difficult they will get you there if they have to call there brother in Pakistan to find it (yes this has happened to me!).

Re:Bullshit (except in London) (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467624)

At least 9 out of 10 taxi drivers in NYC do not know enough about the city's streets or the city's traffic patterns to know when it is appropriate to make a judgement call to deviate from the GPS-selected route.

Okay this is baloney. 100% wrong, I know your from out of town but most cab drivers are very skilled at traffic patterns and where things are.

Exactly. From out of town.

Those are the people who get toured around. Locals would tell know when the driver is joy riding them, call them on it, and think nothing of it. Out of town people get shafted because they don't know the city.

Re:Bullshit (except in London) (1)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467882)

In London, TfL does the shafting with the ridiculous pricing scheme for Tube fares, clearly designed to spring tourists for money.

Anyone who's visiting London; if you are going to get more than two single tube journeys in zones 1-2, it's cheaper to buy a day travel card. In fact, it's only slightly more expensive to buy an Oyster and a day travel card, and you can get your deposit on the Oyster refunded when you leave.

Re:Bullshit (except in London) (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467590)

At least 9 out of 10 taxi drivers in NYC do not know enough about the city's streets or the city's traffic patterns to know when it is appropriate to make a judgement call to deviate from the GPS-selected route.

That is one huge unsupported assertion. You can provide a link to something in london that anyone can google, but you can't provide any backing support for such a massively outlandish claim?

Re:Very easy fix (2, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467608)

I'm not saying dictate the route to the cabby.

Just dictate the price from point A to point B removing any incentive to tour you thru some back street route.

I'm not saying the companies can't compete on rates, just have a set rate.

Cabbies make their money on tips and quantity. Get there quicker by better knowledge and you pick up another fare that much quicker.

You never get toured when there is lots of business. Only when business is scarce.

Re:Very easy fix (2, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467636)

That makes more sense. But the rate thing is going to be hard to compete on - most people flag taxis down in the street, or get them out of a taxi queue at a place like the airport. Its much less common to be in a situation where you can shop rates.

Re:Very easy fix (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467176)

Sure you could show, say, the Google Maps route along with the route the cab actually took to the passenger, and maybe require the route to be saved if say, the cab does take a roundabout route and the passenger complains [oops, the computer got wiped?] (as unless the passenger has detailed knowledge of the route, the driver just has to say, well, construction or accident happened so I needed to take this route).

Re:Very easy fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467204)

Having lived in Manhattan most of my life I think I can speak from a little experience here.

I take a cab at least once a day and sometimes two to three times a day. In the last 10 years i can probably name 3 times a cab driver has tried something on me, be it taking a longer slower route, pushing a button on the meter at the wrong time of day, or even sexually harass me. Actually I've been sexually harassed more times than cheated and I'm male believe it or not.

Most cab drivers are hard working, honest if not slightly abused people. Yes there are some shady characters, a few smell real bad and a couple leave you shaking your head after you peal yourself out of the back set but 100 out of one they do there job honestly and professionally.

They're already completely monitored down to the block they are on all day and night by there dispatchers. Hell last month some guy told me how he has to take his wife to work so he told a little white lie to the kid dispatcher about how he was coming back off the Jersey turnpike and would be a little late. Well boy wasn't he embarressed when the 20 year old told him the 56 year old he was lying cause he was in Columbus Circle instead. They're already subjected to so much tracking, Cops ticket them first and only, they can't talk on cell phones now you want to automate them pushing one single button because you feel you can't trust them just that much?

Hell all the cabs now have a computer with screen that shows you exactly what your being charged for with instructions the second you sit in the seat detailing all the fairs. You get cheated I say it's your own fault.

Now we want to talk about a real injustice explain to me why I'm paying the MTA .50cents a ride in taxes to keep them alive. If i wanted to take the bus i would be!!!
http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local-beat/Cab-Ride-Will-Cost-You-50-Cent-More-68537667.html

Re:Very easy fix (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467392)

What's the problem with not allowing them to talk on cell phones? If you're a professional driver ANYWHERE you're generally not allowed to talk on a cell phone because it's fucking reckless.

Re:Very easy fix (4, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467410)

They're already subjected to so much tracking, Cops ticket them first and only, they can't talk on cell phones now you want to automate them pushing one single button because you feel you can't trust them just that much?

I think you fail to appreciate the sequence of events here. There's every reason to trust them, up until you find hard data showing that they have been overcharging. That is what happened. At this point, it's quite reasonable to want some verification. Automation isn't necessary either. All you need is a clear, unambiguous on/off indicator to let the customer know whether the out-of-town rate in question is being applied. Why wouldn't you want that to be done openly?

Hell all the cabs now have a computer with screen that shows you exactly what your being charged for with instructions the second you sit in the seat detailing all the fairs. You get cheated I say it's your own fault.

As long as this system makes it easy to unambiguously determine, at a glance, whether or not the out-of-town rate is being applied, then yeah that's rather silly of the passenger not to take notice. It'd be your standard failure to perform due diligence. If such systems are already in place and are already a standard feature, then the next step would be to determine why so many customers have been unaware of the information they are intended to provide.

Re:Very easy fix (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467260)

Assuming the GPS can be trusted to get a good enough fix all the time. Look up "urban canyons."

Re:Very easy fix (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467420)

It's good enough to create logs on the basis of which the cabbies can be punished but not good enough to set the rate?

Besides, they only need an occasional fix. Dead-reckoning would work when no satellites are visible. The cab only has to know what county it is in.

Re:Very easy fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467690)

Even simpler fix eliminate the higher charge for going into the suburbs. The drivers obviously cannot be trusted to comply the ordinance.

Re:Very easy fix (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467832)

The rate differential makes sense, though, if it can be implemented effectively (which, as the grandparent post points out, is not particularly difficult to do with GPS). It's more expensive to go to the suburbs because of a substantially higher probability that the taxi will be driving back to the city empty, so charging a higher rate is reasonable.

Re:Very easy fix (1)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467718)

What about freeway exchanges (spaghetti junctions) where the roads are above each other. Would GPS be able to accurately tell the difference between the two altitudes?

Taxi! (5, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466890)

Take me to the cleaners, and hurry!

Re:Taxi! (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467170)

It's quite possible that if you live in the sprawl called Southern California, a trip to the cleaners would make you pine for the days when New York cabbies overcharged you with out-of-city rates..

Hell, when I lived in Chicago, I'd often take a limo (no, not the stretch kind) to work, and that was on a fairly ordinary salary. When I moved to LA, I was dumbfounded to learn the extent to which car and car-related expenses eat up your budget. A cab ride to the cleaners? If I could afford the trip, I doubt I could pay the cleaners.

huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31466892)

imagine that!

And how many stores... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31466904)

And how many stores called Bloomingdale's are there in New York?

Re:And how many stores... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466928)

Just one, Mr Coogan, why do you ask?

Re:And how many stores... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467018)

I see there aren't many fans of Clint Eastwood's early movies around here.

that's nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31466936)

if you don't know the city, they'll take you on a grand tour. I don't know how many times if I don't tell them EXACTLY what streets to take, they'll always go on a 30 minute odyssey to go 20 blocks.

But it's not just New York, they are just as worthless in London for pretty much the same thing.

Re:that's nothing (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467178)

athens taxi drivers have them all beat. i got taken for a 60 euro ride when i was young and a little naive. admittedly i was sitting back taking in the sights not thinking, and suddenly i saw the meter flick over to 40 euro when i knew from the map i looked at it should have been 30 MAX.

when we arrived I had to pay, he had my bag with most of my money and my passport in the trunk, and would have simply driven off on me if i didn't fork out.

on the way the back it only cost 18 euro's because i told him no more then 20 up front, and made sure i had my bag this time.

Re:that's nothing (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467234)

they'll always go on a 30 minute odyssey to go 20 blocks.

Yes, London traffic is like that too.

Re:that's nothing (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467318)

Taxi drivers everywhere are like this...
I picked up a taxi outside an airport in germany, showed him the address i wanted to go to and he said no problem.
He drives to the town i was heading for, and gets lost... So he stops at a gas station and gets out the car to ask for directions - with the meter running!

Since when (1)

camcorder (759720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466942)

Since when GPS measures traffic jam? I'd happily pay 5 bucks more if I won't wait in the traffic for half an hour more. That's the whole point for getting a taxi any ways (ie. being at where you want to be faster).

Re:Since when (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467038)

The GPS wasn't measuring traffic, just their trips and the rates charged. It showed they were within the 5 Boroughs but were charging the 'out of town' rates. Nothing to do with traffic, everything to do with greed.

Re:Since when (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467148)

Ignoring the other reply, aren't cab rides charged by time AND distance? So a half hour wait in traffic would be a lot more than $5?

I saw on a TV show the other day the cab driver saying something like "the meter doesn't stop until you get out". Yeah that was fictional, but I thought something this basic would reflect real cabs.

Lots of "unimaginable" things turn out to be true (1)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466948)

The holocaust. Lehman Brothers goes bankrupt. The US government selling arms to Iran to fund an illegal war in central america. Flu strains from 3 different species combine overnight to form the new H1N1. Man walks on the moon and returns to earth safely.

This, on the other hand, is easily imaginable.

Anyone here NOT ripped off once or twice by a taxi driver?

Re:Lots of "unimaginable" things turn out to be tr (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466994)

I've actually had taxi drivers either undercharge me in the end or give me the ride completely gratis, no cajoling or begging on my part.

Re:Lots of "unimaginable" things turn out to be tr (1)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467322)

So you've never been overcharged?

logic fail (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466968)

Bhairavi Desai, head of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said the charges of rampant thievery defied logic. The new GPS technology and meters installed in every cab are the problem, not the solution, she said.

In other words, the problem isn't defrauding customers, it's getting caught.

"This is a workforce that's known for returning diamonds and tens of thousands of dollars passengers leave behind," Desai said. "To be told the same workforce is ripping off passengers for four dollars and change each ride just doesn't match."

"we have you on tape shoplifting a candy bar at the store but you've been trustworthy before so it doesn't match up."

There. Fixed it. (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467024)

"we have you on tape shoplifting a candy bar at the store but [remove]you've[/remove] [replacement]someone else with the same job as you has[/replacement] been trustworthy before so it doesn't match up."

Re:There. Fixed it. (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467152)

Maybe so however, Desai was speaking of cabbies as an entity more than a collection of individuals. The argument that the cabbies as an entity couldn't possibly have been responsible for quite a bit of fraud because the cabbies as an entity were known to be trustworthy in prior cases to a degree still fails.

Re:logic fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467138)

"This is a workforce that's known for returning diamonds and tens of thousands of dollars passengers leave behind"

Because if you don't steal the tens of thousands, you can get away with stealing the 8m.

Shorter Taxi Workers response (1)

Jay L (74152) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467194)

If this were a widespread scam, you'd have caught us at it by now.

Re:logic fail (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467256)

I hate to reply to myself but I thought I should point out a bit of psychology:

"This is a workforce that's known for returning diamonds and tens of thousands of dollars passengers leave behind," Desai said. "To be told the same workforce is ripping off passengers for four dollars and change each ride just doesn't match."

Well I suppose that's about like the difference between stealing a pen from the bank and robbing the bank. The pen is easy for people to steal as it is easier to rationalize guilt away (it's a 10 sent pen and they've got millions of them) while it's hard to justify bank robbery (that's peoples' paycheck etc.) Then there's the odds of getting caught and the payoff: ripping someone off for a few bucks on a long cabride probably won't get you caught (well it didn't after all... until the ps that is) while stealing a 5k piece of jewelry will probably be noticed by whomever you've just effectively robbed.

Re:logic fail (1)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467898)

Also, realistically, the bank doesn't care about the pen. I wonder if it's the same here? By the time you've got to New York from London (for example), the last thing your wallet is worrying about is an extra $4 on a cab fare.

Re:logic fail (3, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467334)

It's easy to get away with stealing 4-5 dollars, and if you do it often enough you make a tidy profit...
If someone loses diamonds or thousands of dollars they're going to come looking for it, and your chances of getting away with it are pretty slim.

cool (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466970)

Good, keep those tourist dollars flowing into the city economy.

Perhaps related to medallion cost? (0, Flamebait)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 4 years ago | (#31466974)

$766,000 to buy a cab driver Medallion.

http://www.yellowcabnyc.com/uncategorized/driver-competition-hot-medallions-hit-766000 [yellowcabnyc.com]

The government controls how many Medallions are in circulation, they put in an artificial ceiling. I predict the same thing happening when the government start managing health care.

Re:Perhaps related to medallion cost? (5, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467120)

The government controls how many Medallions are in circulation, they put in an artificial ceiling. I predict the same thing happening when the government start managing health care.

You mean reasonably priced services easily available to everyone?

Re:Perhaps related to medallion cost? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467316)

You forgot the 'Magic Obama' part of the equation that lets you have more services for more people at a lower cost.

Re:Perhaps related to medallion cost? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467630)

Private healthcare has a 45% average overhead. Medicare has 3%. Funny how the equation works without magic - national healthcare doesn't need to advertise itself...

Re:Perhaps related to medallion cost? (1)

jedrek (79264) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467268)

The only effect that delimiting the number of medallions in play would have is a decimation of the livelihood of taxi drivers. Prices are fixed, so nothing would be gained from increasing competition. There would just be a lot more drivers trying to service the same number of riders.

Re:Perhaps related to medallion cost? (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467986)

And we call that an increase in *supply*

You know what happens to prices when supply goes up, right?

taxi drivers, bankers, gov't., all thieves/liars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467014)

spotlighting each other's foibles more&less as needed. except for the taxi drivers, they never get to target anyone, except the customers.

talk about stuff that matters, has anyone noticed how the manuf(r)actured 'weather' is treating us lately? no? probably doesn't matter?

as always, consult with/trust in your creators when attempting to distinguish the poop from the bologna.

Just $4-5 overcharge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467042)

Obviously not good, but I don't think Taxi drivers are earning 6 figure incomes and certainly not getting rich. I mean, compared to what health care insurers do, credit cards company tactics, wallstreet bonus and the recession, I hope going after the little guys gets the least priority.

Thats new york for you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467060)

Every time I've worked with someone on the east coast (New York, Boston) it's been a recipe for being ripped off.

Those people seriously believe that it's foolish NOT to take advantage of someone whenever possible, I think it's a part of new york culture.

Re:Thats new york for you! (0, Troll)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467122)

I don't think you've spent much time here if you actually think that. First of all, I would say less than 5% of cabbies are native-born New Yorkers based on my experiences living here since the mid-90s. In fact, I'd say the significant majority are recent immigrants with modest English language skills. I don't think they have suddenly absorbed their ethical code from New York City.

Unfortunately, there are a non-negligible percentage of people in the world that are dishonest. They will take advantage of somebody if they think they can to make a few bucks. This will happen in any city on the planet. The fact that it's only happened to me a few times here in New York actually shows that it's more uncommon than common. The vast majority of these instances from the data in this story seem to be perpetrated by a minority of cab drivers - the significant number of cabbies who did this once or twice probably did it by accident. The small number who did it hundreds of times are complete scumbags, sure.

Such is the way of the world. It really has zip-all to do with New York or the East Coast.

Re:Thats new york for you! (1)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467876)

Actually, its Eastern European culture. Due to the large number of immigrants, it has rubbed off on New York and other big cities around the world as well. Doing business with anyone from Russia or former Soviet Bloc nations is a GUARANTEED way to get ripped off.

I'm shocked! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467066)

Taxi Driver rips off consumer, news at 11

Sweet (1)

FShort (91112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467128)

That means I have a refund coming to me, right?

BB at its max (1)

Jorl17 (1716772) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467134)

As much as I found this info extremely useful and disturbing, I also find it utterly disgusting that "Big Brother" is becoming more and more of a reality...

What's next?, laying cameras in to see if they have their seat-belts on? Damn happy I don't live there...

Who is surprised? (2, Insightful)

idiot900 (166952) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467172)

I live in NYC and I am not surprised in the least by this. It's amazing that it's only 75%.

The taxi drivers expended a lot of social capital vigorously opposing and even striking over the GPS units, when everyone (taxi drivers included) knew that the GPS units would help keep the drivers honest. Now that fraud has been exposed, it will be even more difficult for the drivers to gain public support the next time they are angry about something.

Re:Who is surprised? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467202)

The taxi drivers expended a lot of social capital vigorously opposing and even striking over the GPS units, when everyone (taxi drivers included) knew that the GPS units would help keep the drivers honest. Now that fraud has been exposed, it will be even more difficult for the drivers to gain public support the next time they are angry about something.

Eh, the taxi drivers are in general have the T&LC's boot on their neck. Cab driving is too lucrative, and they're too disorganized, to ever successfully throw their weight around I think.

Re:Who is surprised? (2, Interesting)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467506)

Its a no skill job. you sit, you drive, you talk. Hard to throw your weight around when we are one good innovation away from removing the need for a human to do it. Someday in the not too distant future we are going to wake up and hail a Johnny Cab, (Total Recall). Ive been thinking about this for a while, how far are we realistically away from driveless cars on (mostly)* unmodified roads? How hard is it to automate driving a car on a known circuit (city grid). *Allowing for sensor installations and machine instruction signage, failsafes, etc.

Good, the plan is working (3, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467238)

And in return, don't expect cabbies to care when IBM outsources every IT job to India, or MS relocates to China.

Re:Who is surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467460)

I'm not surprised. Last year when I flew from Brazil to NYC, the amount I had to pay from the JFK to North Bergen was way up.

I knew I shouldn't tip that driver.

Maybe it's not the taxi drivers (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467174)

This is a centrally managed computer system; maybe somebody in the central office has figured out a way to illegally tack on and collect out-of-town taxi charges indirectly.

Or maybe the computer system is recording the charges incorrectly due to a bug.

Who's to watch the watchers...

---

Scientific, evidence based IP law. Now there's a thought.

Re:Maybe it's not the taxi drivers (3, Informative)

dudeman2 (88399) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467554)

Not true. In NYC, Taximeters are installed in individual cabs and are controlled by the driver. All the GPS/credit card/entertainment systems with two way radio communication were installed very recently. Before now it would have been impossible to prove fraud other than by hand matching receipts and rates charged to driver logbook to/from/time entries.

Hand washing (1)

moteyalpha (1228680) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467296)

New Yorkers are not typically suckers. My guess:
1. Double the fare and I will charge it to the company and get reimbursed for double tip
2. Double the fare on the company if you know where I can get a date
3. Profit!
I have seen it played many ways. This is more likely a pattern that was just hidden.
What I want to see is if (gps(politician) == gps(lobbyist)){moneyChangesHands(howMuch);} .

Re:Hand washing (1)

TheMidget (512188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467446)

New Yorkers are not typically suckers.

Or more likely: tourists visting New York are suckers. And they are plentiful and easily recognizable as such.

Re:Hand washing (2, Insightful)

dudeman2 (88399) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467604)

New Yorkers are not suckers, and those of us who have lived here a while know roughly how much a cab ride from Point A to Point B will cost. But the taximeter labels on fare schedules ("fare 1" versus "fare 4") are subtle and easily missed. I'm sure the hacks knew to cheat people who are either (a) tourists, (b) people in a REAL hurry (c) drunks. Plenty of those to go around.

Price regulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467304)

Interstingly enough this is exactly what you would expect if somebody tries to regulate the prices - or create a 'market'. Let the taxi drivers set their prices and just check that they follow the prices they advertise.

... and this is news how? (1)

Miser (36591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467342)

Businesses (and in this case people) rip people off. It happens all the time.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Nominclature - charge residents less. (1)

cadience (770683) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467412)

If I saw a "out of town" rate display, without reading the article, I wouldn't have known what it meant - because I would be an out of town tourist. An interesting twist: actually charge out of town riders more for riding a taxi and residents less. This would encourage residents to rely even more on publicly available transit.

Won't someone PLEASE think of the cabbies! (3, Insightful)

VTEX (916800) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467488)

Almost every cab driver in New York acts unethically. As someone who lives in the city and takes cabs regularly, I can attest that 95% of them attempt to scam you in some manner. Sometimes they will take a longer route, sometimes they will add extra bogus fees, sometimes they will "forget" to turn on the meter. They will try and friend you to get extra tips. Very often, they will try and complain that the credit card machine costs them money (despite the fact that the TLC increased fares specifically for them). 20% of the time those credit card machines are "broken".

They almost always conveniently forget the flat fare rate from JFK to Manhattan. One time, I was in a cab and someone cut the guy off - so the cabbie sped up and started yelling at him - needless to say I was not amused. After telling a cab driver once we were making 3 stops, he refused to take us any further than the first stop - he was "on break".

This is an industry with a history of mob control and immoral behavior. If it takes GPS to help put an end to these things - I'm all for it.

Explains a lot (1)

jonnat (1168035) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467810)

That certainly explains why NY cab drivers threatened to go on strike when the City mandated GPS devices in each car.

1.8 million incidents out of 360 million trips (4, Insightful)

j1m+5n0w (749199) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467874)

The 1.8 million fares represent a tiny fraction of a total 360 million trips over the 26-month period in question.

Taxi drivers are people. People make mistakes. One mistake per two hundred trips does not seem unreasonable, especially considering that the frequency of incidents per driver probably follows a power-law distribution and the median number of mistakes per driver is likely much lower. Another way of looking at it is that 25% of drivers didn't make a single mistake in more than two years of driving.

Which isn't to say that these were all honest mistakes. However, I don't see this as the massive systematic fraud the article seems to be suggestion. A 0.5% chance of being overcharged just doesn't seem like something to get excited about (even if I lived in New York, which I don't).

Spot Checks, offenders have medallions revoked. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31467932)

There are Taxi Authorities in NYC right? Occasional spot checks, if they commit fraud and get caught doing it, they lose their medallion. Sometimes the cabdriver isn't the owner of the medallion but if so that Cab Driver owes the owner big time. NYC Taxi Medallions don't come cheap between half and 2/3 of a million if I remember correctly.

0.6% of trips are overcharged. So what? (2, Insightful)

Que_Ball (44131) | more than 4 years ago | (#31467934)

So there are 13,257 medallions in new york.

Lets estimate each cab makes an average of 30 trips per day. So every day there are about 397710 cab trips made or 145 million trips a year.

They are saying that 1.8 million trips were overcharged over a period of 2 years. So over 2 years there were about 290 million trips of which 1.8 million were overcharged.

So approximately 0.6% of the trips made were overcharged by about $5.

Doesn't sound like it's so bad to me. Half a percent is a legitimate rate of errors for any human endeavour. So the previous trip was out of the city area and the rate wasn't switched back for the next rider would be a good example of how that would happen.

The story seems a little sensational to me. I'm sure there are a few legitimate abusers but the numbers don't seem to imply a widespread problem to me.

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