Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mexico's VW Beetle Taxis Find 2nd Life With Mexican collectors

When the Mexico City government retired the last Volkswagen Beetle taxis in 2012, it shipped most of the aging cars, commonly known as "vochos," to junkyards to be turned into scrap metal.

But some of the Beetles, both former taxis and private cars, have found a second life in the hands of enthusiasts like Mario Anaya. He restored his father's 1994 sedan into an auto he named "the lizard" for its metallic-green paint.

"The car has a second life," said Anaya, who began refurbishing the former taxi in 2007, installing tan leather interior, a new odometer, fenders and chrome Porsche-style wheels.

A Volkswagen factory in Puebla, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) to the east, manufactured the old-style Beetles for 39 years, long after the car design had ceased production everywhere else. The last one came off the Mexican production line in 2003.

About 50,000 of the green-and-white taxis, many with the front passenger's seat removed, still roamed the Mexican capital's streets at their peak in 2006. But the city's crackdown on air pollution, its fight against crime, and the adoption of newer car models finally led to the vocho's retirement, with the last of the Beetle taxi licenses expiring in 2012.

Today, Anaya's close friend Arturo Diaz drives a restored ocean-blue 1965 ragtop Beetle and is president of Xochivolks, a club he founded 11 years ago in the capital's Xochimilco district.

"It is a family thing," said Diaz, who brings his 9-year-old daughter Amiel to club meetings. "The car is mine, but everyone participates, everybody takes care of it, everyone helps."

Fellow club member Christian Franco customized his bright yellow 1991 Beetle with toy chickens for his wife, who works in a roast chicken restaurant. Three foot-long rubber chickens are attached to the car's rear, and a fourth appears stuck under the back bumper.

"There's a resurgence of interest in these cars," said Mario Gamboa, a VW mechanic and racing driver for 35 years. "People want to live the dreams of their youth by fixing up a Volkswagen."

Diaz said collectors sometimes purchase used Beetles on a website for second-hand goods, or acquire a used one from a relative, friend, or neighbor.

Club members currently are looking forward to a huge gathering on Oct. 25 at Mexico City's Estadio Azteca, with as many as 1,500 customized vochos and 4,000 enthusiasts expected to attend.

About 40 of the original vocho taxis still survive at the El Coyol scrapyard in the Mexico City neighborhood of San Juan de Aragon.

"We're like a taxi museum," said Miguel Angel Campos, a junkyard employee. Inside the walled lot, behind a green metal gate, the surviving vochos are lined up in three long rows.

Many of the cars have cracked windshields, dented roofs, and missing fenders. Campos said some were once pirate taxis, or were involved in a serious crime, such as a robbery or killing. Most have not been driven for years.


But they are not for sale.

The last surviving vocho taxis, he said, are destined for the car compactor.

Woman’s Body Discovered Inside Car In Stater Bros. Parking Lot

Woman’s Body Discovered Inside Car In Stater Bros. Parking Lot

WEST COVINA ( — Authorities say a death investigation is underway in West Covina after a woman’s body was found inside a vehicle.

West Covina police say around noon Tuesday, officers received a call by a person who noticed a body hunched over in the backseat of a gray Volkswagen sedan.

The discovery was made in a Stater Bros. parking lot in the 300 block of North Azusa Avenue.

Although investigators haven’t released the woman’s identity, DMV records show the car is registered to an Orange County woman and the coroner’s office confirms they’re working her case. The cause of death was not immediately known.

On the windshield of a vehicle, an Uber sticker turned sideways was visible, reported CBS2’s Rachel Kim. Police, however, say they cannot confirm whether the woman was a driver for the company.

“Detectives are going to do their investigation and maybe find out how long it had been here,” Sgt. Brian Daniels of the West Covina Police Department said. 

It remains unclear how long the body had been inside the vehicle.

“They are thinking she might have been there a day or two because the smell was really bad already, so it’s just really sad. It’s really shocking,” said Celine Portillo, a shopper.

The body has since been removed from the scene by the coroner’s office.

Off-camera, Kim spoke with a man who says the woman is his aunt. He confirmed that the vehicle was in fact hers and that she had just become an Uber driver.

Police said they are looking through security footage from the shopping plaza for any clues.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Another Day...Another Bus Crash.

Bus crashes into tree on busy east London street leaving at least 12 injured 

  • The single decker bus crashed into a tree near Manor Park station in east London. Police, paramedics, plus the air ambulance were all called to the scene.

  • At least 12 people were injured, with 10 taken to hospital and two in a serious condition
  • It is not known what caused the smash or whether the driver was injured 

Chaotic pictures show the front of the single decker bus crumpled against the tree, while shaken passengers watch from across the road. 

Two of the 12 injured are in a serious condition, with 10 being treated in hospital.

Among the injured are a man thought to be in his 40s with head injuries and a woman in her 60s with an injured hip. 

London Ambulance Service (LAS) declared a major incident, sending six ambulances and the air ambulance to the scene.

Police officers and the London Fire Brigade helped the 15 passengers and driver off of the red W19 bus and closed part of Station Road. 

It is not known what caused the crash, or what condition the driver is in. 

New York Taxis Finally Launch An App To Compete With Uber.

New York is launching the Uber of taxis. 

Insiders of the city’s taxi industry are finally launching an app that lets users hail cabs and pay for rides using a smartphone. It’s such a great idea you have to wonder what took so long.

The app is called Arro and, as first reported by Crain’s, it’s in beta testing with 7,000 New York City cabs and could launch within weeks. Here’s how it works: A user launches the app, which gives a nearby cabbie the passenger’s name, pickup address, and cross street. The user, meanwhile, gets the driver’s name and ID number. The app saves credit card info, letting passengers pay the metered fare and tip automatically. Another advantage is no surge pricing; the app developers told Crain’s that fares always will be meter-based.

Arro comes as on-demand ride companies like Uber and Lyft are getting a lot of attention for their impact on public transit. It is largely taken as gospel that the taxi industry’s taken a major hit from the growth of these services. New York’s Taxi & Limousine Commission has seen a dramatic drop in the price of taxi medallions and an increase in foreclosures for medallion owners. Uber and its ilk have dinged other forms of transit too. Just this week, Uber admitted it is testing Smart Routes in San Francisco that let drivers pick up and drop off passengers on specific routes—something that would appear to encroach on bus services. That has some worried that might make the city less likely to invest in mass transit.

But as much as people like to denounce on-demand ride services, the truth is they are far more convenient and much less constrained than public transit. As my colleague Alex Davies noted earlier this year, private transportation models can be successful because they need not please everyone. They also have greater latitude to innovate, which can lead to leaps forward like paying via smartphone. Arro appears to be an effort to bring to the taxi industry a level of service and convenience many people now take for granted.

New York has some 20,000 taxis, but Arro’s partnership with Creative Mobile Technologies limits the service to just a portion of them. Still, the startup reportedly is working on a deal with VeriFone Systems, which would add more taxis. And if all goes well in New York, Arro plans to launch in other cities, including San Francisco, Boston and Washington DC.

Source : Wired 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How Much Longer Can London Traffic Absorb 700 Extra Private Hire Vehicles Every Week?

Since 2013 the number of Private Hire Drivers on London's streets, has increased by 25.9%, to a staggering 85,742, even though the number of London PH operators has fallen by 5%. 

At present TfL are possessing over 2,000 new PH driver applications a month.

By comparison, over the same period of time, the number of Central London Taxi driver new licenses only rose by 1.5%.

   DfT statistics March 2013-March 2015

Smart phone based Uber, who soft launched in 2012, have around 20,000 drivers in London and are presently expanding at a rate of 2,000 extra vehicles every month. Apart from the large amount of new licensees, the app is also recruiting from existing licensed PH drivers.

 Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick hopes to increase their vehicular presence in London to 42,000 by March 2016. This would then amount to more than half of all London's PHV licences based on today’s figures.

Uber's expansion will soon see the number of Uber drivers overtaking the number of official London Taxis, which is already the case in New York. However, it should be noted that PHV drivers outnumbering those in hackney carriages is not a new trend.

Taxis and PHVs require a licence for both the driver and the vehicle. In total there were 297,600 licensed drivers in England with 103,900 (35%) of those operating in London. About three-quarters of the licensed drivers in the capital are for PHVs, compared with taxi-only drivers.

Bad Air Problem :

There’s no doubt London has a serious problem when it comes to air quality. Last year the European Commission started legal action against the U.K. for breaching pollution targets, specifically associated with nitrogen dioxide (NO2, a toxic byproduct of car engine and exhaust fumes combining with oxygen).

London is reported to have the highest levels of NO2 of any European capital city. London’s city authority website itself notes that “most” air pollution in London is caused by road transport and domestic, along with commercial heating systems, and recommends that businesses encourage employees to use public transport, walk or cycle to work.

“City-dwellers are particularly exposed, as most nitrogen dioxide originates in traffic fumes,” the EC noted in a press release detailing its legal action against the U.K., adding: “Nitrogen dioxide is the main pre-cursor for ground-level ozone causing major respiratory problems and leading to premature death.”

A study, published this July, of the health effects of NO2 and particulate matter pollution, commissioned by the Major of London and carried out by King’s College London using 2010 data, reported a higher health impact than the previously estimated 5,900 annual deaths associated with NO2 long term exposure in 2010. Recent reports now show associated deaths as high as 9,000.

       Images tweeted by Mayoral candidate Cristian Wolmar.

Inspite of being told newer vehicles create increased levels of NO2, Mayor Boris Johnson still insisted on introducing an age limit on Taxis, removing older less polluting FX4, TX1 and TX2 models and replacing with newer more polluting vehicles.

If the huge health costs associated with traffic fumes in urban centers weren’t bad enough, the U.K. is facing EC fines of up to £300 million for breaching air quality standards.

What’s clear is that the continued increase in the quantity of vehicles in conjunction with the reduction of space on London’s roads is not compatible with meeting European air quality standards.

Rickshaw Rider Offers Young Lady Free Ride For Sex.

Rickshaw driver 'sexually assaulted young clubber after seeing her crying in the street and offering to take her home for free'

  • Mohammed Hossain allegedly invited the woman, 21, into his carriage 
  • Touched her on the leg and inner thigh, Blackfriars Crown Court heard
  • Allegedly didn't stop when she struggled and said she had a boyfriend
  • 35-year-old admitted she was in the carriage but denies sexual assault 

A rickshaw driver assaulted a young clubber after offering her a free ride home from London’s West End, a court heard.

Mohammed Hossain allegedly tempted the 21-year-old woman into his carriage after spotting her crying in the street.

The 35-year-old then clambered into the back seat alongside her before sliding his hand up her short skirt, it was claimed.

Patrolling police officers spotted the distressed woman stumbling out of the rickshaw near the British Museum and gave chase as Hossain pedalled off.

Hossain, from Plaistow, east London, was arrested further down the street and appeared to be drunk, Blackfriars Crown Court heard.

James Benson, prosecuting, said: ‘On the night of the March 6, a female had gone to a nightclub that Friday with a friend of hers in the West End of London.

‘She had drunk some alcohol and at 1am she decided to leave the club. She was a little tipsy but she was not drunk. She was wearing going-out clothing, including a short skirt.

‘By the time she had left the club she had had some kind of argument and so when she left she was on her own.

‘The defendant, sat on the bike seat of the rickshaw, decided to engage her by talking to her and learned about the fact that she was upset.

‘He offered to give her a ride home in the rickshaw for free. She thought the defendant was just being nice, and so she got into the rickshaw.’

Hossain put a blanket over her legs and then pedalled away before stopping near the British Museum, the court heard.

He went into a shop and came out with a bottle of vodka, a bottle of Red Bull and a polystyrene cup.

The alleged victim accepted a sip of the drink but when Hossain put an arm around her she told him: ‘No I have a boyfriend.'

Mr Benson added: ‘From that stage on the defendant should have been aware that she was not going to consent to any further touching.

‘When he first tried to put his arm around her she told him no, but the prosecution say the defendant persisted and touched her on the knee.

The 35-year-old allegedly tempted the woman, 21, into his rickshaw bike after spotting her crying in the street, it was claimed

‘She felt in reasonable control at that stage, so she told him she wanted to go home. The defendant then leaned in for a kiss.

‘She pulled back and said the words: "No, I have a boyfriend." He tried to put his arm around her shoulder again and she pulled back again.

‘The defendant took his hand, put it on her knee and then moved his hand up the inside of her thighs towards her underwear and only stopped a very short distance from touching her between her legs.

‘Having done that the defendant leaned in again to kiss her and she shouted no.' 

Hossain, from Plaistow, east London, was arrested further down the street and appeared to be drunk, Blackfriars Crown Court (pictured) heard

The alleged victim struggled and managed to get out of the rickshaw as two police officers drove past in a patrol car.

Mr Benson said: ‘They say they saw her stumbling from the rickshaw, and she was clearly upset.

‘She told them what happened and one officer chased the rickshaw as he rode off. The second officer went around the street and caught him and detained him.’

Hossain admitted the woman had been in his rickshaw but made no comment in police interview. He denies sexual assault.

The trial continues. 

Source: DailyMail