NYC taxi medallion holders end hunger strike

Originally published at: NYC taxi medallion holders end hunger strike | Boing Boing



How the hell can a cabbie make back enough money to pay for that??

Though it reminds me of my uncle, who had a salmon fishing license in CA you can get anymore. I think he ended up selling it for $40. He used to be a professional fisherman up in Northern CA.


By 2013, medallions were selling for $1 million. Then Uber came along and Then, the artificial, lender-created bubble burst, the price cratered. Medallions sell for about $200,000 now.

Even $200k is quite inflated, essentially equivalent to the net profit generated by running a medallion cab 24/7/365 for 3-5 years.


It’s not that every taxi driver needs a medallion; it’s that every taxi on the street needs one. And if the thing changed hands once every forty years, that’s a more manageable $25K/year.

(The economics of taxis are well understood. It’s a standard example of how without strong regulation limiting the number of people trying to make a living doing taxi-like things, each individual would quickly find themselves scrambling for work. This was proven correct when technology enabled taxi-like things to happen while legally being :“livery”: (cars for hire sent out from a central location) rather than “taxis” (cars cruising the streets looking for people who want a ride), at which point the street value of the medallions crashed AND being an Uber or Lyft driver became synonymous with working long hours for what, after car maintenance was paid for, is less than minimum wage.)


You just hope like hell that by the time you retire you can sell it on for more than you’ve sunk into it


The single thing I’ll give Uber credit for is breaking the slimy medallion monopolies. Their replacement isn’t much better for drivers and they’ve implemented their own versions of loans meant to create debt peonage, Still, I’m glad they disrupted this crappy system that enriched creeps like Michael Cohen and condemned drivers to a life of indentured servitude.


Former Trump layer Michael Cohen

Yeah, that works, too.


I thought we all agreed that pay-to-play jobs were a scam? I understand needing to limit the workforce via regulation, but why the fuck would “who’s willing to pay, and how much?” be the mechanism? Fuck, a Crazy-taxi like race every 4 years to crown the 13,000 chosen ones would be better that the current bizarre wall-street fever dream. For real though, we somehow manage to hire and employ a roughly correct number of bus drivers without this bullshit…


Yeah, at least in London, the limiting mechanism, “The Knowledge,” results in cabbies that are experts in navigating the city, and drivers with neural networks that are so impressive that they are studied by neurologists.

As with so many revolutions, the result looks like a different bunch of assholes ruling over the peons rather than a better deal for the workers.


They can’t, hence the hunger strike…


The medallions should never have been made to be transferable. They should have been issued to drivers and expire with the driver, just like professional certifications do. The test of “The Knowledge” for cab drivers in London, for example, is not transferable. (But if they had done that, the graft in issuing new ones would probably have been even worse? Dunno.)


i guess why charge for them at all? like was said above, when you need bus drivers, you hire them. the main difference is that taxi companies are private companies.

seems could still let the city do the “hiring” by way of certification and then allow the companies to compete for certified drivers ( by which company pays best, etc. )

i can almost see how you get to medallions from there given all the details to make that work. but it seems solvable without.

Eh, the problem with total non-transferability is you get a black market. People shelled out sums like $250K in San Francisco or a megabuck in NYC because that’s about what they were worth.(Taxis only serve the multiple purposes of reducing traffic, enabling transport, and allowing taxi companies to make a living if the number of taxis is capped. Deregulate, and you get an army of starving drivers competing for a comparatively small number of fares, clogging the streets trying to get to them. However, this means that the permit to be one of those limited number of taxi operators is a valuable thing, and when people can’t trade in a valuable thing legally, they do it illegally.)

In what way is that more likely with non-transferable permits than with transferable ones? I’m sure there are lots of ways non-transferable ones could go really wrong, such as bribes to the government officials in charge of issuing them, but why the black market and how could it work?

All you need for a black market for something like this is a buyer and a seller. For instance, mob goon says to medallion owner, “We want use of your medallion. Here’s $100K, plus if you keep your yap shut, we won’t break your legs.” Goon then turns around and says to cab company, “You can use our medallion, but it’ll cost you $200K, and if you say anything to anyone we break your legs.” As long as the original holder, the goon, and the taxi company keep their mouths shut because broken legs, a transfer has effectively occurred.

This can be obviated by combining (A) a mechanism to transfer the things for valuable consideration of some sort, coupled with (B) vigorously checking that the guys operating the taxis really are the guys the medallions were issued to. A headache, but better than leaving a moral hazard lying around for organized crime to pick up.

In San Francisco, guys leasing out their permits happened as early as 1950: Taxis and San Francisco Labor History :

Permit leasing become an issue as early as 1950, when the union urged an investigation into the practice. The union had fined three of its members for leasing their permits and working, in effect, as employers. The Police Commission investigated a real estate broker and former city permit official who leased permits to a cab company, but found no wrongdoing. Permit leases were about $145 a month and sale prices were about $8,000. The union challenged the practice again in 1959 when permits were sold for $16,000 each, and again in 1962 and 1963.

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I’m glad they get some relief. I heard one of the strikers interviewed the other day. They felt the city was culpable because NYC started periodically auctioning off new medallions starting in the early 2000s to raise revenue. They also neglected to regulate the lending around them. NYTimes did a story in 2019 on it:

Interest-only loans, 50 year terms, balloon rates…

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