Saturday, March 12, 2016
Police arrest 47 after huge demo turns violent
Thousands of taxi drivers are up in arms about the transport company Uber, which they say is undercutting them and stealing their livlihoods.
They took to the streets of Guadalajara to block roads but factions of the protest angrily began to damage cars and shop fronts.
Security forces were sent to close down the main square where the protest had got out of hand, using smoke bombs to disperse the crowd.
Footage shows crowds of men fighting each other in the streets and riot police behind shields.
The governor of the state, Aristoteles Sandoval, has warned that although citizens have the right to protest, violence will not be tolerated.
He said: "We are in favour of the freedom of expression and the right to protest, but we will not permit disorder.
"I have instructed security forces to act at the moment that people bring disorder to the city with the full weight of the law in respect of the rights of the general public."
Directors of the taxi syndicates are currently in negotiations with local legislators to try and regulate the activity of Uber.
New regulations to modernise and improve the private hire industry will be considered by the Transport for London (TfL) Board next week.
The measures, which follow an extensive consultation process have attracted over 20,000 responses and are aimed at making travelling by private hire safer and more convenient for customers.
The changes the TfL board is being asked to agree include increased insurance requirements making sure a policy is in place for the duration of the vehicle license. The ease in which "anyone" can get a fully TfL plated vehicle (even without Hire and Reward insurance) has recently been highlighted by an investigation carried out by a reporter from LBC.
An understanding of the English language will also be a requirement. Last year TfL closed 15 testing centres, when it was found applicants were being allowed to sit tests in their own native langue and were also given the answers alongside the questions. After a sample of 200 applicants were made to take a retest, less than 30% actually passed.
There will also be a requirement of advanced fare estimates and operatorswill have to keep improved records for enforcement purposes (not a new requirement, just unenforced by TfL compliance at present)
Private hire operators will also be required to ensure customers can speak to someone in the event of a problem with their journey (although Uber office staff, presently only work office hours of 9-5)
These changes, represent the first significant amendments to the private hire regulations since they were first introduced in 1998 and follow an unprecedented increase in private hire driver and vehicle numbers.
The number of private hire drivers has increased from 59,000 in April 2010 to around 100,000 today and is increasing at a rate of over 700 per week, contributing to issues such as congestion, pollution and illegal parking.
The Mayor believes more action must be taken to address the impacts of these increasing numbers, particularly on congestion and air quality.
The Government has been reluctant to introduce legislation to allow TfL to restrict the number of drivers and vehicles on the roads in London (although many areas outside London have successfully capped their PH and Hackney Taxis numbers, using a supply and demand initiative).
In response, the Mayor has instructed TfL to investigate the potential effects of removing the Congestion Charge exemption currently given to private hire drivers fulfilling a booking, in order to see whether this may make a difference in those areas of concern. Big talk from Boris who is about to leave office. None of the leading Mayoral candidates have the removal of this concession on their manifesto.
TfL estimates that the number of private hire vehicles operating within the central London Congestion Charge zone has increased by over 50 per cent in the last two years. This means that during the day, 1 in 10 vehicles entering the zone is now a private hire vehicle. This situation changes dramatically on weekend nights when London's WestEnd and City are swamped with minicabs bringing the roads to near complete gridlock.
Garrett Emmerson, TfL’s Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport (pictured), said, during the consultation process, Londoners, made clear the improvements they want to see in the private hire industry.
The package of changes being taken to the Board includes more robust insurance requirements when vehicles are licensed and a formal English language requirement for drivers. Both of these requirements should have been firmly in place when the act of 1998 was first put together.
Also customers should receive quotes for before their journeys. How this will apply to Uber is anyone's guess as they use a Taxi meter based on time and distance which in most cases results in the fare having no relationship to the estimate.
All operators will need an easier process for customers to complain if they need to. This requirement is already in place when first applying for an operators licence, but was somehow dropped unexplainable when Uber and RD2 both first applied for their licenses back in 2012.
It's hoped that these new(ish) requirements will help ensure a modern, flourishing and safer private hire industry, and will provide choice for customers alongside London’s iconic and world-class taxi service.
Friday, March 11, 2016
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Reading Borough Council's licensing committee turned down an application by a Mr Thomas Elvidge on behalf of Uber Britannia for a private hire operating licence.
The committee rejected the application to establish the company in the town because:
- there was insufficient evidence of demand
- no clear evidence about the number of vehicles that would be operating in Reading
- no clear indication of how or by whom the Uber office would be manned.
Licensing officer Jean Champeau raised concerns there was no “safe and lawful place” for the vehicle to park if Uber’s office was based in Davison House in The Forbury.
Mr Elvidge explained the Uber model to councillors, talking them through the process by which a customer can get straight through using an app on their mobile phone.
Customers can track their minicab as it drives through town, receive photo identity of their driver and their journey to their destination is also tracked.
But councillors were curious about the self employed drivers and wanted to know:
Clr Jeanette Skeats was particulary keen to find out how licensing officers or the police would be able to find a manager at night if there was a problem.
She wanted to know where Mr Elvidge would be and discovered that he was in charge of a massive area surrounding Greater London.
Cllr Marian Livingston questioned Mr Elvidge’s claim there was a demand because 20,000 people in the Reading area had already downloaded the app.
She suggested Uber might just be “trawled by phone app junkies who if they don’t have their phone in their hand they think they have had an amputation”.
The application was also opposed by chairman of Reading Taxi Association Asif Rashid who raised concerns about the Uber surge pricing which uses a computer algorithm to increase prices during periods of high demand to attract more drivers to the area.
Mr Rashid questioned Mr Elvidge as to how much more than the regular fare Uber’s prices could rise to - he asked if it was possible they might rise to five times the standard rate.
Mr Elvidge said that twice the rate was more usual but it could go as high as five times.
Mr Rashid said someone who had “drunk too much” could easily find themselves paying much more than they realised.
He was also concerned that drivers could come in from other borough and from as far away as London to answer calls to the app in Reading.
But his key argument was that there was no significant unmet demand in Reading for cabs.
Mr Rashid was able to point to the strong evidence from the three-year independent survey on unmet demand, which has to carry out if the council continues to cap the number of Hackney carriage licences it allows to be operating in the borough.
The independent consultants CTS, which carries out exhaustive surveys throughout Reading counting taxis at ranks all over the town, concluded: “There is no evidence of unmet demand for Hackney carriages either patent or latent which is significant at this point in time in Reading area.
“The committee is therefore able to retain the current policy and limit at the present level and defend this if necessary.”
In London, we've been told on countless occasions that there would need to be a national law change to introduce a cap on Private Hire vehicles licenses. It would appear from the above statement from Reading council that this is indeed not the case.
It appears that TfLTPH's compliance department don't seem to be concerned that Uber cannot be contacted outside normal office 9-5 time (which is when the majority of customer safety concerns are presented)
It would appear that Reading Council think more about members of the public being ripped off by extortionate surge pricing than TfLTPH management.
It would also appear to be of no concern to TfLTPH that the massive over supply of Uber vehicles, illegally park all around the WestEnd and City causing major nocturnal congestion.
We now wait with bated breath to see if Uber take on Reading council by continuing to supply vehicles through their app illegally in the Reading area. Uber have always professed they are not a minicab operator, but a technology company.
Sir John Armitt CBE
Sir Brendan Barber
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE
Dear Transport for London Board Members
On 17th March you will be asked to adopt a set of proposals from TfLTPH to place additional controls on the activities of the Private Hire Sector
These regulations contain no safeguards to check the recent massive increase in minicab numbers on London's streets nor do they contain any meaningful brake on the total eclipse of the Black Cab industry.
If you, the board, do not vote these proposals down and insist that TfLTPH 'think again' your names will be forever remembered as the men and women who had the opportunity to save the London taxi but failed to act.
This is not a little taxi boy crying 'Wolf', it is a whole industry under attack from a predatory and ruthless wolf pack called 'Uber'
Please do the right thing and say 'No' to Brown, Daniels & Emmersons's attempt to impose a pro Uber lobbyist's anti-regulatory agenda and rubber stamp the existing status quo.
Do not accept the free market apologists argument that a mechanism to prevent drivers who respond to App sourced demand effectively plying for hire would be an unreasonable imposition.
Such an instrument based on zoning limits of access and visibility could be easily implemented via the very technology that has led us to this sorry state of affairs and is a crucial first step in preventing the London Taxi being consigned to the scrap heap.
Ignore the siren calls of those who would have you believe that the plight of the London Cab is a function of it's inability to adapt to a new technological landscape - that is just plain wrong - taxis equipped with CC payment systems and Apps such as Gett & Hailo simply can't compete with a rival empowered to ply for hire (illegally we would maintain)
by virtue of legalistic sophistry - a device operating as a meter and referred to by Uber as a 'meter' is apparently not a meter - and the creation of the oxymoronic and hitherto unheard of entity 'an immediate booking'.
In addition to your explicit statuary duties of regulating such an historic and revered world icon, the London black cab, there exists a concomitant implicit responsibility to behave as 'good stewards' toward a 350 year old tradition.
In that capacity your primary function is to ensure it's continuity which is now under threat as never before.
Failure to grasp this nettle now will simply repeat the old bad habits of national self denigration - The British Disease - tearing down to the detriment of society at large that which we edify and excel at.
Recent events such as the LBC expose have led many observers outside the taxi business to concur with us that TfLTPH is no longer an agency fit for purpose and that administration of the taxi industry should be removed from it's jurisdiction as soon as possible.
If you are in any doubt as to the veracity of that statement I urge you to visit Pancras Road between King's Cross and St Pancras Stations any time when a Eurostar train is due and witness for yourself the rugby scrum of PHV's double and at times triple banked jockeying for advantage in the wait for a ping on the iPhone, causing traffic mayhem in the process, whilst a line of idle taxis yellow 'for hire' signs ablaze snake away on the Kings Cross taxi rank as far as the eye can see.
These disgraceful scenes are your handiwork and you now have the opportunity of taking a first step in turning the tide, already one of Tsunami proportions, to ensure a continuity of supply of the best taxi service in the world to residents of and visitors to the greatest city in the world.
As I write we learn that a 1 year old child has died, mown down by one of your Google gawping gimps in Sw7 >on Monday night<
All 18 members of the board bear an individual and collective responsibilty for that tragedy and I urge you on behalf of all Londoners including my fellow taxi drivers to take that first bold step and say 'No' enough is enough
Licensed London Taxi Driver of 39 years service - but maybe not 40!
Taxi Trade Protest Outside The Beeb, Then On To Downing Street And TfL, Over Falling Standards In PH Regulations
The Taxi trade has again staged a mass protest outside the gates of Downing Street over the non enforcement of private hire regulations by TfL.
But this time, it was slightly different than in the past. After unfair harassment from the Met Police -who had been dishing out Public Order Section 12/16s like sweets- it was decided to leave the vehicles at home. In the past, Taxi demos have been treated worst than some terrorist groups, simply because of the disruption they've caused to TfL's bus network.
Yesterday saw the emergence of a completely new group of protesters -#DadsDefendingDaughters- who held up placards condemning TfL and the BBC over an alleged cover up of escalating minicab related serious sexual assaults including rapes.
The group started their protest outside Broadcasting House, marched along Regent Street to joined the main body of the protest in Trafalgar Square, where they were met by a massive cheer and found of spontaneous applause.
The combined groups then embarked on a two-hour demonstration finally arriving at TfL head offices Windsor House in Victoria Street.
The Taxi trade made it clear, they were protesting over the dropping of standards in regulations which govern Private Hire drivers and operators. The Taxi drivers claim, safety standards have dropped to a level where most women are no longer safe in a minicab.
The main protest, organised by the United Cabbies Group (UCG), supported by the London Cab Drivers Club (LCDC), SupportBlackTaxis group (SBT) and the RMT, was in protest to the Government's interference in the industry's regulatory affairs, while actively supporting a tax avoiding multinational corporation.
A few Taxis lined Whitehall while a mass of drivers on foot, holding banners marched to Downing Street. The group were seen wielding placards claiming PM David Cameron told Mayor Boris to leave Uber alone. Another massive banner accused TfL and Boris Johnson of Totally failing London.
A group of female drivers, from the #SaveBlackTaxis group, had two banners one reading TfL, Totally failing Ladies and the other pointing to TfL's failures regarding PH drivers CRB checks, Hire and Reward insurance and poor safety standards.
The on foot protest, was the latest in a number of demonstrations organised by the United Cabbies Groups calling on Transport for London and the Government to impose tougher restrictions on minicab drivers and operators.
The next protest will be held on the 23rd of March, where again drivers will be back with their Taxis to cause as much disruption as possible (details will be posted nearer the day). Earlier this week Steve Headley of the RMT Union, called for London to be bought to a stand still in a massive 48 hour Taxi strike.
Wednesday, March 09, 2016
Yesterday morning (8/3/16), the largest congregation of LTDA members ever seen for many a year massed in the splendour of the Central Hall, Palace of Westminster.
The LTDA had organised a lobby of MPs. Members and MP's did not let them down.
The day bode well when with two colleagues, on entering the security screening area, a policeman enquired, "are you cabbies"?...We owned up. He then uttered under his breath, "Good luck lads, get rid of them" He wasn't referring to some of the incumbents of the House.
The exercise of LTDA's lobbying intiative was that members could persuade their MPs to commit to taking action that TFL had failed to do.
We had to adhere to the protocol of lobbying by making for an area where lobby cards had to be filled in. I was promptly reprimanded by a rotund bobby for trying to take photos, ironically, by a sign proclaiming 'No Photography'. That tickled bobby.
Rules are made to be broken, Uber have conclusively proved that adage. I took a picture of my Lobby card and promptly tweeted it to my MP Wes Streeting (ilford North). To my amazement Wes tweeted back, he was on a committee and would be down soon.
Wes is well informed, engaged, energetic and was generous with his time. He was empathetic to our plight. Wes revelled to us, on March 22nd he's airing our greviances in the House, introducing a 10 minute bill. Hopefully it will be debated, but it's not a given.
Lastly Wes insured us that our historic great trade has many friends in both Houses. We all left with a spring in our step....But how many times have we done that before???
Looking forward to today's demo 11o/c Trafalgar Square.
Tuesday, March 08, 2016
On Monday, Uber walked back a core explanation for the thousands of tickets in its customer support ticket system with the subject “rape.” This change in position comes less than a day after a BuzzFeed News published screenshots from Uber’s Zendesk-based customer support system showing thousands of tickets containing the word “rape.” Our report led to Uber's revelation that the company receives 5 claims of rape and 170 claims of sexual assault directly related to an Uber ride as inbound tickets to its customer service database between December 2012 and August 2015.
Uber responded with a letter signed by three key executives. It directly referenced the Zendesk screenshots and claimed these were “highly misleading” and contained false matches. It offered three explanations for the prevalence of the word “rape” in its system. The second of these stated: “Any email address or rider/driver last name that contains the letters R, A, P, E consecutively (for example, Don Draper) are included.”
However, that turned out not to be right. Today, at approximately 1:10 p.m. Pacific Time, Uber updated its letter with the following:
* An earlier version of this post stated that “ Any email address or rider/driver last name that contains the letters R, A, P, E consecutively (for example, Don Draper) are included. After analyzing the data, we found more than 11,000 rider names and 17,500 rider emails with the letters ‘rape’”.
Zendesk, one of our customer support platforms, contacted us to say that their search tool would not return a name such as “Don Draper” when searching for the word “rape.” However, such a search would (and did) return names that start with the letters R,A,P,E — even if the ticket itself had nothing to do with a claim of rape. We apologize to Zendesk for using an imperfect (and fictitious) example that doesn’t accurately represent their search functionality. This does not impact our analysis of the overall numbers, which was based on a manual review of these tickets rather than a simple keyword search.
The update came following an investigation by BuzzFeed News. Yesterday evening, BuzzFeed contacted Zendesk to specifically ask about its search query capabilities. After failing to get a response, BuzzFeed News called and stopped by the company’s headquarters. Following that visit, Zendesk notified Uber of the error.
Uber’s update notes, “We apologize to Zendesk for using an imperfect (and fictitious) example that doesn’t accurately represent their search functionality.”
Prior to the update from Uber, BuzzFeed News had already learned that the Zendesk system did not work in the way Uber claimed in its original statement, and had reached out to Zendesk for confirmation and comment. It is unclear at what point it contacted Uber