Saturday, September 22, 2012

Taxi! Oh, Never Mind. I'll Use My Smartphone.


That's the promise from Smart phone apps. The apps all work slightly differently, but in general they allow smartphone users to see where available cabs are, alert drivers that they need a ride, and store credit-card or debit-card information so they can pay for the trip without exchanging money or swiping a card.
The act of physically hailing a cab on the street could be a rarity "in maybe as soon as five years".
To most night drivers, these apps are a way of fighting back against the system, where our licensing authority seem to be working their way to bring in a one tier system by stealth.

Many drivers have become disenchanted with their current Taxi Radio Circuits, who seem to have lost their way, getting themselves entwined with Private Hire. The disgruntled drivers are looking for a new deal with cash, account and pre booked jobs, looking instead to a completely new way of offering a Taxi only service.

Many drivers believe, the new apps will eventually take over from current radio circuits as they reach out to become global. Soon an app subscriber will be able to book a Taxi to the airport and also arrange to be picked up their destination with a couple of click on their smart phone.

London is seen to be the jewel in the crown for these apps and now they have secured a large slice of the market, their sights are now set in cracking the jewel in the states, New York, where at the moment apps are forbidden.

Below is part of an article from the Wall Street Journal by Ted Mann.

These apps are big in London
In London, more than 400,000 people have downloaded the free cab-hailing app from Hailo since it was introduced last November, says Jay Bregman, one of the company's founders. Hailo users tap their iPhone or Android smartphone screen to alert participating drivers that they need a ride, and then tap again to book an available cab.
Get Taxi
Get Taxi's New York prototype shows nearby cabs...
Hailo says it has signed up 2,500 prospective users among cabdrivers in New York City and more than 800 drivers in Chicago. But before Hailo and similar apps can take off in those cities and elsewhere in the U.S., they need to iron out some issues with regulators.
For instance, Hailo and Get Taxi Inc., which offers a similar service, have reconfigured their apps in an effort to gain approval to enter the most highly regulated taxi markets, notably New York, which bars its 13,000 yellow cabs from using dispatch systems to connect riders and drivers. The rejiggered versions alert drivers to the presence of potential customers but don't allow the two parties to contact each other, which would violate the dispatch ban.
Which Way?
Meanwhile, regulators across the country are in the early stages of examining rules written, for the most part, long before smartphones were widely available to see if there are ways to make the adoption of hailing apps easier. New York officials announced this month that they would revise their rules by February.
Get Taxi
…And then confirms a booking.
On a national level, the National Institute of Standards and Technology—a federal agency based in Gaithersburg, Md., whose standards for taxi meters are commonly used by regulators—has gotten involved in the discussion. It has convened a task force of regulators and industry and consumer representatives to examine, among other things, whether Global Positioning System technology can be accurately used in calculating time and distance for cab fares, a feature that could readily be incorporated into hailing apps.
"Technology is moving at lightning speed," and the regulatory process is not, says Matthew Daus, a former New York City taxi commissioner whose law firm, Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf LLP, is advising regulators about new technologies. "We're at a regulatory fork in the road," Mr. Daus adds. The crafting of new rules "has the opportunity to be the greatest potential achievement if it's done right," he says. "Or it could be the biggest disaster ever" if it fails to let the industry benefit fully from the latest technologies.
Mr. Mann is a staff reporter in The Wall Street Journal's New York bureau. He can be reached at ted.mann@wsj.com.
Corrections & Amplifications 
More than 400,000 people have downloaded Hailo's free cab-hailing app for London since it was introduced in November. An earlier version of this article incorrectly put the number at more than 100,000.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The World's Most Expensive Cabs?

This month new cab fares went into effect in New York. Fares will rise an estimated 17 percent under a new cost structure approved by the Taxi and Limousine Commission this summer.

For each fifth of a mile, or each minute in traffic, the fare goes up 50 cents, instead of 40, in the new system. It's the first across-the-board increase in about eight years, and cabbies say it's essential to keep up with rising fuel costs, but New Yorkers still aren't happy. One Christopher Keating, 42, told Reuters:

"A 17 percent hike all at once is a little hard to swallow," Keating said. "They may deserve a raise, but it seems like it would make more sense in smaller increments, year to year."

C. Keating might check out a new report from the Swiss bank UBS for some global perspective. On a list of cab fares in 72 cities around the world, New York fares are in the middle of the pack. UBS calculates the price of a typical 3-mile cab ride in the city at $8.50.
That's just above Dubai ($8.17) and just below Istanbul ($8.94). It's also considerably less than the other three American cities on the list:
Chicago ($12.50)
Miami ($15.32)
Los Angeles ($25.06).
It's even less than the global average, which UBS puts at roughly $10.

Angelinos have a lot more reason to be sore. Their fare ranks third overall — losing out only to the Swiss cities at the top of the list:
Zurich ($28.93)
Geneva ($27.78)
Stockholm ($24.64)
Oslo ($23.22).
London ($23.03)
Tokyo ($21.42)
These are all places that top the twenty-dollar mark.

A few others come pretty close:
Luxembourg ($19.43)
Munich ($18.04)
Copenhagen ($17.33)
Vienna ($17.27).

As a general rule, if you're in Europe, you're paying a lot for taxis.

At the other end of the spectrum is Cairo, where 3 miles in a cab costs you $1.49.
Mumbai ($1.76)
Delhi ($1.95)
Sofia ($2.00)
Kuala Lumpur ($2.44)
These cities round out the bottom five.
Bangkok ($2.47)
Bogota ($2.81)
Manila ($2.88)
Jakarta ($2.93) are the others below three bucks.

New Yorkers like can at least rest assured that the recent fare hike will go to struggling cab drivers and not fleet owners.

While the fare increased 17 percent, the rate of leasing cabs from medallion owners seems to have stayed about the same, (but may go up slightly soon).

As taxi expert Bruce Schaller pointed out many years back, fare increases do raise industry revenue, but not quite as much as the percentage fare increase itself. That means if cities raise lease rates as much as fares — well, they may be asking for another fare-hike debate sooner than their residents would like.

Different cities, but same problems.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Protests Over Rape Victim Insults.

Semi-naked SlutWalk protest took place outside Downing Street today.

A group of women in their underwear as part of the SlutWalk movement have protested outside Downing Street to urge David Cameron to do more to help rape victims prosecute their attackers.

They urged the prime minister to ensure the criminal justice system treated rape and sexual assault cases with the seriousness they deserve.

A so-called SlutWalk march is due to take place in London to further raise awareness of the issue on this Saturday the 22nd.

'All the failings of the police and courts, they are only allowed to happen because there is not proper supervision at the top, because rape is not being made a priority within the justice system,' said 18 year old protester, Anastasia Richardson.

She also stated "only seven per cent of reported rapes in the UK resulted in a successful prosecution, which amounted to making rape 'essentially legal".

"We want the police to take more care when they investigate cases because what we are seeing at the moment is evidence lost and police not looking at CCTV footage before it's destroyed".

The SlutWalk movement began in 2011 when a Toronto policeman told students that women could avoid being sexually assaulted by dressing less provocatively.

Thousands of women consequently joined marches protesting against rape in Canada, the US and UK.

The Anderson Shelter has pointed out on many occasions that in London, confidence in the Met police in regards to reporting rape has fallen to an all time low. Virtually 90% of victims are failing to report attacks.

It's time the "Men" at TfL/GLA and the Mayor stood up and admitted there is a problem, instead of constantly denying the figures.

The main cause of these attacks is the lines of illegally plying for hire minicabs outside satellite offices.

TfL always state that the predators are unlicensed. But what they omit to say is the reason they are "Unlicensed" is only in the sense that they are not pre booked and fully recorded by the licensed provider. In essence, this makes any vehicle with or without a TfL roundel used in this manner unlicensed and uninsured.

I think we will see more from the Slut Walk movement in the near future.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson challenged to access Stanmore Station using wheelchair

By David Hardiman,

A volunteer who spent 32 years helping with the Paralympics has issued a challenge to Boris Johnson to improve disabled access at Stanmore Station.

Gordon Infield, 83, of Glebe Road, wants the Mayor of London to try using a wheelchair on the steep ramp into the station in London Road for himself to see the difficulty of accessing the platform.

Locals have spent three years campaigning for lifts to be installed to improve access, and Mr Infield believes part of the legacy of the Paralympics should be that Transport for London (TfL) spends money helping disabled people get around more easily.

The campaigner was present at the first ever wheelchair basketball match at the International Wheelchair Games in Stoke Mandeville in 1952 and volunteered as the Paralympics developed until 1984.

He said: “I’ve been having an ongoing row with TfL for years that they should stop saying that the station is disabled friendly – it isn’t.

“With Aspire and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital just up the road they have a duty to make it disabled friendly.

“If I’d have had someone come and stay with me during the Paralympics in London this summer they could have sued them because they wouldn’t have been able to get out of the station.”

Mr Infield, who struggled to get the media interested when he was in charge of press for the 1984 Paralympics, said he believed the success of 11-time gold medallist Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson had boosted the profile of disabled sport.

The retired charity manager added: “I’ve issued a challenge to Boris Johnson to come here and try and push Tanni Grey-Thompson in her wheelchair out the station – I’d like to see him try.”

Campaigners have long argued that the station is dangerous for disabled people because they have to share the ramp with cars accessing the car park, and the Stanmore Society even considered taking legal action against TfL two years ago to try and prompt improvements.

London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow, Navin Shah, has also backed the campaign and raised the issue repeatedly with Mr Johnson, but said in June he had been given “evasive and unsatisfactory” answers.

The Harrow Times has extended Mr Infield’s challenge to Boris Johnson’s office but has received no reply.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Justice, Or Just Can't be Bothered?

Excerpts from a day inside the Westminster Magistrate's Court, first two cases.

Hearings are listed to begin at 10am but nothing happens for first 40 minutes. “This is dead time.” says Sir Paul Stephenson, the former Met Commissioner.

10.40am: Fabian Leal, 29, from Kennington in south London. Leal, a Colombian national, pleaded guilty to obstructing a West End street by stopping his rickshaw in the road on August 25. He had no previous convictions and had only started working as a rickshaw driver in time for the Olympics.

Sentence: conditional discharge and £85 costs.

Sir Paul Stephenson’s verdict: “What is he doing here? This is a victimless crime and suitable to be dealt with outside of a court.”

Thomas the Taxi's verdict: Why has this man not been given a fixed penalty ticket for obstructing the queens highway. If this was a Taxi he would have been given a £130 fixed penalty. 

10.50am: Stuart London, 29, a father-of-four from Deptford, south east London. London, who has a history of violent offending including a two-and-a-half year jail term for wounding, terrified a black cab driver by jumping on his bonnet, thumping his windscreen with his fists and ripping a wing mirror off after claiming the taxi had tried to run him down. London was tazered by an armed police officer who had raced to the scene from the nearby American embassy. London pleaded guilty to criminal damage.

Sentence: To remain under curfew from 9pm to 5am for the next six months and to pay £400 compensation.

London, who is on benefits, agrees to pay £20 a fortnight.

Sir Paul’s verdict: “How depressing that this man is paying a fine to the state out of money from the state. He has committed a violent thuggish offence which is consistent with his history. He has so many convictions, it is depressing.”

Thomas the Taxi's verdict: How is it that this thug, with many similar conviction for violence is allowed to stay at large and present a danger to the general public. Are they waiting for him to kill some one before they finally bang him up?

Photo: left, Fabian Leal Right, Stuart London


Passenger who bi Taxi driver in attack, is jailed

A PASSENGER who bit a taxi driver in the face during a frenzied attack has been jailed today (Friday).

James Pilgrim, 43, of Newgate Road, St Leonards, left Leigh Curtis with injuries including cuts and bruises to his face, a broken nose, broken ribs and requiring stitches to his finger.
At a court hearing at Lewes Crown Court this morning, Judge Charles Kemp described the unprovoked attack as ‘appalling’, before jailing Pilgrim for 30 months.
The assault was captured in its entirety by CCTV cameras installed in the Mr Curtis’s vehicle, which was instrumental in the prosecution of Pilgrim. The footage was played in today’s sentencing.
Mr Curtis, who has more than 30 years experience driving a taxi, has been unable to work since the attack on Tuesday, July 17 and continues to suffer flashbacks.
Just after midnight on that day, he picked Pilgrim up from the Lord Warden pub in Manor Road and drove him home to Newgate Road.
Pilgrim said he did not have the fare on him, so after confirming that he was known to the radio operator, Mr Curtis agreed that he could pay in a few days time.
As he was getting out of the taxi, Pilgrim broke a bottle of wine he was carrying, which appeared to be the trigger for him to turn nasty.
The violence escalated to the point where Pilgrim had Mr Curtis in a headlock and proceeded to bite him on the face.
It only came to an end when the handbrake was released in the struggle causing the car to roll backwards colliding with parked vehicles. The impact caused Pilgrim to release his grip.
He was arrested at the scene by police, and Mr Curtis was taken by ambulance to the Conquest for treatment.
Pilgrim pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm when he appeared at Hastings Magistrates Court on August 2. He also admitted possession of cannabis.
After today’s hearing, Mr Curtis said: “I am glad he (Pilgrim) got a prison sentence but I think it should have been double. Since the attack everything has gone wrong, both financially and emotionally. I still get flashbacks and now I don’t trust anybody. It’s horrible.”
Source: Hastings Observer