Saturday, June 28, 2008

Boston taxi drivers do not deserve the rate hike – they are dangerous!

Boston taxi drivers are some of the poorest drivers in the United States. Every time I ride in a Boston taxi (no matter what company), I feel unsafe and only take a taxi under circumstances of severe peer pressure. Currently, Boston cab drivers are calling for rate hikes in order to cover the rising price of gas. Given the sub-standard service of the Boston city cab drivers, a rate hike should only be allowed with additional training and license requirements.

The taxi system is an integral part of the Boston transportation network. As is common in most urban settings, traffic in Boston is slow and congested. Public transportation and taxi cabs provide an important service to locals and tourists alike: the means to get around the city. However, the taxi system is under attack in Boston and all other urban areas with the recent surge in gas prices.

Gas prices have reached unprecedented levels in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Denver (for example). Across the U.S., taxi fares are rising, and Boston fare hikes are lagging already set in place movements in New York and Denver. It does make sense that the taxis should pass some of the added costs, the +47cents/gallon rise in Massachusetts’ gas prices in just three months, to the consumer. However, before the Boston government allows the rate increase, it should consider the quality of the taxi service in Boston.

I have ridden in taxis in all three cities, Boston, Denver, and New York, and in my opinion, Boston drivers are the worst. Every time I ride in a Boston taxi, one of the following occurs: the car is experiencing some technical difficulty, the taxi driver is screaming on his telephone headset, the taxi driver fails to turn on the meter, the taxi driver takes a ridiculously long route, or the taxi driver blatantly fails to signal when turning or changing lanes. Given the quality of the service, the current rate, $2.75 initial plus $0.30 per 1/8th mile is too high, and the proposed rate hike to $3.25 initial plus $0.45 per 1/8th mile is highway robbery. The Boston taxi system, as it is, is a social cost to the city: there are too many bad drivers on the road.

As the Department of Labor states, “Drivers must be alert to conditions on the road, especially in heavy and congested traffic or in bad weather. They must take precautions to prevent accidents and avoid sudden stops, turns, and other driving maneuvers that would jar passengers.” According to the Massachusetts Department of Motor Vehicles , Boston taxi drivers are not required to fulfill any requirements that indicate their capacity to be alert, especially in heavy and congested traffic or in bad weather, except to get a class D license like the rest of us.

I propose that a new license system be enacted with the rate hike. Boston taxi drivers should be required to fulfill extra training and certifications that prove their ability to handle urban driving conditions. The city will be safer and the social cost will diminish. Further, the new law would set a precedent for other cities across America.


  1. "I have a Ph.D. in Economics and work as an Economist in the financial services industry in Boston, MA."

    Dear Doctor of Economics. Don't you think that these bad and lazy cab drivers should work for free?

  2. To me, the cost of getting into that cab is two things: (1) the cab fare + (2) the risk of injury stemming from poor driving standards. So even if the taxi fare were free, I personally would not ride in the taxi unless forced (by a husband who does not walk anywhere, and apparently does not fear for his life like I do) or if taxi drivers were subject to higher driving standards than the regular driver.

    Further, if the price were free, there would be an inherent issue of too much demand with falling (very quickly) supply. If the taxi companies did not charge, then there would be no taxi service in Boston, and even if there were, the lines (demand) would be very long. I am willing to pay a higher price, but the risk of injury must fall, and that requires that higher standards be set.

  3. Nontruths said... "I am willing to pay a higher price, but the risk of injury must fall, and that requires that higher standards be set."

    You cannot have higher standards without higher pay. Cab drivers in Boston are mostly poor immigrants who are struggling to survive.

    They pay high lease and gas price, work 60 hours weeks without any benefits, sick days or vacations.

    How can you expect higher quality of service from over-exploited sharecroppers or to get more skilled people to replace them?

    First you need to raise their pay, limit the number of hours they work and provide some benefits/rights.

  4. “You cannot have higher standards without higher pay.”

    Actually, I do suggest that pay increase with higher standards. I am certainly not suggesting that benefits be cut and workers be overworked. It is simple, though. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, taxi drivers are subject to much stress driving in the traffic of an urban environment – I just want to know that each driver is qualified for urban driving.

    Raise pay, limit hours, and provide benefits/rights….that sounds like a union. What I am suggesting is lowering the social cost of bad drivers - perhaps fewer accidents.

    Thanks for reading.