NEW YORK CITY — Following weeks of debate and speculation, New York City’s taxi drivers hit the streets early this morning in a strike against the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s (TLC) plan to place GPS tracking systems and credit card machines in their 13,000 cabs. The TLC passed a law last year that mandates the systems be installed starting in October.
Members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (TWA) are planning on striking for 48 hours. The city and the TLC say the technology, which costs about $1,300 each, will help passengers figure out where they are and make it easier for credit card payments, but drivers are worried it will be used to monitor their whereabouts.
“I’ve decided to stay home because I basically don’t support the whole GPS system. I mean, it invades our privacy rights,” said taxi driver Elizabeth Grullon. “You know, it's big brother watching us, and also, for the passengers in a sense. If you use a credit card, their transaction is a record as to where they were picked up and where they were dropped off. So it infringes on everybody’s privacy rights.”
“I work for a big company. I have a steady car, and [my boss] threatened to take away my steady car if I didn’t work today,” said another. “But I agree with the people that are on strike.”
City Councilman David Weprin, chairman of the city's finance committee, said today that he backs the TWA's strike. He said that the GPS machines have shown to be defective, and that if the machine shuts down, the entire meter shuts down — causing drivers to lose fares.
Weprin also spoke out against the 5% surcharge drivers will have to pick up when passengers use the credit card service
As part of the contingency plan, the city is encouraging group rides to and from LaGuardia and JFK airports, where people may be most affected by the strike. The city has also implemented new flat fares to those locations.
The city is not allowing livery cabs to pick up street hails, but that is subject to change depending on the size of the strike.
At Pennsylvania Station, the strike appeared to be having an effect. Lines for taxis gathered sporadically around Seventh Avenue. Several regular commuters said the wait was twice as long as usual.
Source: NY1 News and New York Times
UPDATE: The Philadelphia Parking Authority, which has regulated city cabs since 2005, has authorized operators of 2,000 limousines to pick up passengers at taxi stands at such high-traffic spots as Philadelphia International Airport, 30th Street Station, and the Convention Center in advance of a strike.
Linda J. Miller, Parking Authority spokeswoman, said the executive order allowing the city's 161 limousine companies to fill the vacuum left by striking taxi drivers was also used to cope with a one-day strike in May 2006 that left about 100 cabs operating.
Miller said that the limousines would respond to anyone hailing them on the street but that there would be no central dispatching, as with taxis. Anyone calling for a ride would have to pick a limousine company from the phone book.