N.Y. taxis to get touch screens
NEW YORK ” The Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a plan Thursday to install touch-screen monitors in all 13,000 city cabs that will allow riders to pay by credit card, check on news stories, map out where the cab is going and find information about eateries and bars.
The vote to require the new technology came over the objections of some drivers, who said it would be costly and would allow officials to check up on them.
“There’s no need to rush this foolishness, this folly,” said Bill Lindauer, a leader of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a drivers’ advocacy group that says it has more than 7,000 members. “This is a grandiose, totalitarian technology trampling on drivers’ and passengers’ privacy rights.”
Ed Ott, executive director of the city’s Central Labor Council, asked the commission to delay implementing the plan. “Any intrusive, burdensome use of technology needs to conform to the standards and expectations of a privacy-minded work force and society,” he said.
But taxi officials support the monitors, saying they could boost ridership by eliminating the need for cash while also giving drivers information about traffic and lost items.
The commission originally called for the technology while approving a 26 percent fare increase in 2004. Four systems have been under consideration, with taxi owners facing a maximum three-year cost of $7,400 for equipment and fees.
Taxi medallion owners will have a deadline of Aug. 1 to select one of the four systems, the commission decided Thursday. Starting on Oct. 1, as taxis come up for inspection, they will be required to have the technology.
“Starting Oct. 1 the passengers will get what they deserve, which is technology starting to go into every cab,” TLC Commissioner Matthew Daus said after the unanimous vote. “Congratulations to the riding public and to the members of the industry that appreciate it.”
The four systems available are manufactured by Englewood, N.J.-based TaxiTech, and Queens-based companies Digital Dispatch Systems Inc., VeriFone Transportation Systems Inc. and Creative Mobile Technologies LLC.
Several drivers spoke out against the plan during the meeting and shouted “sham, sham” after the vote.
“I cannot afford the computer. What is going to happen to me?” said driver Oscar Luzzi.
Daus responded, “It was part of the last fare increase.”
The Taxi Workers Alliance held a rally in March to protest the new systems. The group is concerned about the costs ” as well as lost working time if the equipment malfunctions ” but it also says the global positioning system could lead to inappropriate tracking of drivers’ movements.
“We know that written all over this plan is to rip off hardworking taxi drivers,” the alliance’s executive director, Bhairavi Desai, said after the meeting. “This is not about customer service, this is about tracking working people. “
The commission has said only pickup and drop-off points and fares will be recorded, information drivers already log.