Taxi Strike Over Technology?

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Let's face it, technology has taken over our lives. Don't pretend that you don't know what I'm talking about. Take that cell phone away from your ear and walk through the streets of New York and you'll see hundreds of people constantly checking their Blackberries or talking on their phones through cyborg-like Bluetooth earpieces, or sitting glued to their laptops at internet cafes.

Sure, all of this technology has brought some efficiency to our busy, cluttered lives. But the question is, at what expense? Have we become slaves to our own technology? Can you break yourself away from your cell phone or Blackberry for a day? Even if you aren't a Luddite, it seems like a valid concern.

The debate over intrusive technology recently came to the forefront in New York City when a group of taxi drivers expressed concerns about the global positioning system (GPS) units that they are being forced to install in their cabs. Sure, the GPS will help them to find their destinations more quickly (not exactly to their advantage when the meter is running). The problem is that the GPS will also tell their bosses and the city's Taxi and Limosene Commission exactly where they are at all times. Some drivers see this as unnecessarily intrusive and unfair and, for independent drivers, really expensive.

Still, other taxi driver disagree. A representative of a rival group of drivers recently said "Our member drivers that have installed GPS get better tips, drive longer rides, and get places more efficiently. It is unfortunate that some believe that providing better service to the public is a disadvantage..." Good point, too. What does all of this mean? Well, for one, it looks like the anti-GPS drivers may strike on September 5th, to express their displeasure. That's right, worldchanging technology that is meant to make the city's taxi system more efficient and friendly may actually cause it to grind to a halt!

Unfortunately, It's unlikely that the great debate over technology will be settled through this taxi fight but, on the positive side, the city's streets will be a lot more bicycle-friendly for one day. Just don't bike while your on your cell phone! More about this complex story here.

Tell us what you think: Are the GPS units a good addition to the city's taxi fleet or an unnecessary intrusion into the lives of taxi drivers?


I think a strike will only harm the two groups who have no power to effect any realistic change in taxi operations in NYC: the drivers and their passengers. Drivers have to put up with 12 hour shifts, "renting" their cabs from medallion owners, passengers who at best tip a couple of bucks, at worst rob them or worse. Passengers have to put up with a system where most taxis stay in Manhattan and drivers hate to drive to any of the other boroughs, filthy cars, distracted drivers, and a mostly cash-based system.

The NYC-TLC needs to be reformed and the medallion monopoly needs to be broken up, but this strike won't help to start that effort and will just lead to poor relations between cabbies and their customers.

Posted by: epc on August 28, 2007 6:13 PM

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