State Approves Plan to Place Cameras in Philly Taxis

A state review body on Thursday approved a city plan to install cameras in every single taxi cab operating in Philadelphia.

The plan, proposed by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, would affect 5,000 workers, medallion owners, and dispatchers. The system would let drivers hit a “panic” button to transmit live video to dispatchers and the PPA — a safety measure intended to deter a wave of violence against drivers.

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Actually, Philly Cabs Are Great

Photograph by Jeff Fusco

Photograph by Jeff Fusco

Early one morning in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a few months ago, I hopped in a cab and asked the driver to take me to Logan Airport, eight miles away. He asked me how to get there. That was the first bad sign. The second bad sign was that he abruptly changed his mind about needing my help and decided to chart the course himself. Thirty minutes later, we were still in the car, making a beeline for Rhode Island. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Not long before, another out-to-lunch driver had piloted the trip to Logan at a pace so slow, I actually had to check to see if he was awake.

The point of all this is not that Boston-area cabdrivers are horrific. It’s my anecdotal “Exhibit A” in the case of Simon van Zuylen-Wood v. All the Delusional Philadelphians Who Don’t Appreciate Their Fantastic Taxis. Bitching about cabs in Philly is roughly on par with Yay, the Shore and Boo, Phillies when it comes to broad, unspecific elevator-ride utterances nobody will ever disagree with.

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Pennsylvania Considers Cease-and-Desist Order for Uber

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We don’t hear from Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission all that often these days, since they ceded control of Philadelphia’s taxicabs to the Philadelphia Parking Authority 10 years ago. But now, the state agency, which tends to spend most of its time regulating the telecommunication and energy industries in Pennsylvania, has popped up with complaints about Uber, the San Francisco-based car service company that has built a fiercely loyal following in the Philadelphia region. Read more »

Germantown Cab Company Shut Down by PPA

Philadelphia Business Journal  and NBC 10 report that the Philadelphia Parking Authority has shut down Germantown Cab Company, taking 150 taxis off the streets for allegedly failing to turn over proper documentation and background checks on the company’s drivers.

“We want every member of the riding public to be able to enter a cab and feel confident that they are stepping into a safe cab,” said PPA Attorney Michael Casey.

Michael Henry, an attorney for Germantown Cab, claims the PPA didn’t give the company a fair chance before shutting them down however.

The PPA regulates cabs in Philadelphia. City Hall has been taking a look at how to improve taxi quality—both car and driver—in recent weeks, but the conversation had been centered on expanding competition rather than cracking down. 

Is There a Solution to the Philly Taxi Problem?

Two things that were apparent during a Tuesday committee hearing at City Hall: First, there’s just not a lot of love for the Philly taxi system— even among the people who work and earn their livings from it.

Second: Fixing the problems might be a long way off.

Other cities provide better, cheaper, greener cabs with better-paid drivers, said Councilman David Oh, who chaired Tuesday’s meeting. “Somewhere in this mix there’s a better formula for us,” he said.

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Does Philadelphia Really Need More Taxis? How About Better Taxis?

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Shutterstock.com

The last time I was in a Philly cab, the car itself was roughly in the same shape as the Millenium Falcon during its more fraught moments in The Empire Strikes Back. My driver willed the vehicle up a small incline on the edge of Center City, the engine audibly struggling, only to generate a magnificent SCRAAAAAAAAAAAP-ing sound as he applied the brakes to stop at my destination.

The time before that? The driver griped relentlessly at me for using a credit card — I had no cash on me. I ended up climbing over a big pile of curbside snow to run to an ATM and get the cash he wanted.

More taxis? Maybe Philadelphia doesn’t need more taxis. It needs better taxis, and nicer taxi drivers.

Be that as it may, City Council later this month is going to start talks on how to create a “world-class” taxi service. And that discussion seems like it will be more focused on how many cabs the city provides, rather than how good they are.

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