Saturday, July 28, 2018
Friday, July 27, 2018
Graham Foley, with a bundle of warning letters sent to taxi drivers, by the bus lane camera on the A40 in Cheltenham(Image: Copyright Unknown)
Hundreds of warning letters have been sent to taxi drivers because they drove in Cheltenham bus lanes - even though they are perfectly entitled to do so.
A mix-up means the letters have been sent to drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles by APCOA, the company dealing with traffic enforcement matters on behalf of Gloucestershire County Council.
So even though those vehicles are exempt from a ban on general traffic using the bus lanes, and also Boots Corner, newly-installed cameras have captured their registration details and letters have been sent out. They have warned the owners of the cars that they were illegally driving in the areas and would be fined £60 if they did it again
Graham Foley, owner of Dial-a-Cab in Cheltenham, said it had been alarming for his drivers to receive the letters, which must have cost the tax payer a lot of money.
The new camera overlooking the bus lane on the A40, by the Benhall roundabout, has been in use since late last month. A new camera monitoring traffic at Boots Corner has also been operating since then.
Mr Foley said it seemed APCOA had sent out letters to hundreds of taxi drivers, telling them they had been spotted driving in the bus lanes at Benhall and in Albion Street.
He said drivers working for his company had been sent 100 and therefore he thought the total number sent out had been about 1,000.
The new traffic enforcement camera in Clarence Street, Cheltenham(Image: Rob Jenkins)
He said: "The biggest thing about this is the phenomenal waste of money and that is council tax payers’ money."
He said APCOA should have been sent a comprehensive list of taxis that are allowed to use the bus lanes and Boots Corner.
And he believed the county council could easily have got that information from the district councils in Cheltenham and surrounding towns and cities, which are responsible for issuing taxi drivers with their licences.
A spokeswoman for the county council said: "APCOA now has a full list of exempt vehicles from all district councils across the county and is working hard to upload them on to the system.
"We’re sorry for this delay and would like to reassure taxi drivers that this was a short term mistake and will not be happening moving forward."
Victory for anti-CS11 campaigners as judge approves injunction against work starting and grants judicial review
The Mess That Would Be ‘Swiss Cottage’
A High Court judge has passed Westminster City Council’s bid for an injunction and judicial review into CS11, but said he was "exasperated" by both sides.
In a two-and-a-half-hour hearing this morning, Mr Justice Holgate heard Westminster City Council believed Transport for London (TfL) hadn’t properly modelled traffic for parts of the route, including through St John’s Wood.
Tristan Jones, acting for the borough, also alleged TfL hadn’t properly shared documents with Westminster City Council.
But this was rebuffed by TfL, which said it had shared the same information for the plans with consultants from the council as it had on the Oxford Street pestrianisation plans.
The High Court also heard the transport body hadn’t shown why the Swiss Cottage gyratory work and work on the 100 Avenue Road plans needed to take place simultaneously. Mr Jones said: "There has been no explanation why they most be done at the same time."
Andrew Parkinson, who was assisting the claimant, raised campaigners’ concerns that the gyratory section would increase traffic elsewhere in the route.
Meanwhile Timothy Straker QC, representing TfL, said the council’s "sudden" withdrawal was "politically motivated." He alleged that Westminster’s backing of the plans was dropped after May’s local elections.
The Conservative-run authority jettisoned support for the Oxford Street works at around the same time.
As TfL officers ferried information to him from the back of the court, he said: "If you look at Camden’s response to the consultation, they say they welcome the scheme because Swiss Cottage is so awful."
Throughout the hearing, Mr Justice Holgate aired his frustrations.
At one point he accused Mr Straker of "grandstanding" over the accusation Westminster City Council’s actions were politically motivated.
He also said one authority taking the other to court was "like nothing I’ve seen before".
"Why is the court being troubled by this?" he said.
He urged the two parties to have informal mediation talks, and said they should be working together to agree the scheme.
The approval means work beginning on July 30 is delayed, and a full judicial review hearing will take place on September 6.
It is expected to last one day.
Following the hearing, campaigner Jessica Learmond-Criqui told the Ham&High: "We are obviously delighted that the judge expressly acknowledged and recognised the concerns of residents about ran running and traffic displacement into Hampstead and St John’s Wood.
"We were very ably assisted by the brilliant planning barrister Andrew Parkinson and couldn’t have done it without him.
"TfL will not be able to start work before the final decision of the judicial review full hearing."
She added: "The judge also mentioned there is a real prospect of an error of law in TfL’s decision [in March to begin work on Swiss Cottage]."
Ben Plowden, TfL’s director of strategy and network development, said CS11 was "a vitally important addition to London’s cycle network" and that work at Swiss Cottage would "make it a better place to live and work while reducing road danger for pedestrians and cyclists".
Of the hearing result, he said only: "Construction was due to begin on July 30. This will now be delayed pending the outcome of a judicial review."
Westminster’s environment chief, the rather more jubilant Cllr Tim Mitchell, said: "We are pleased with the High Court’s decision today which supports the council and residents’ right to be heard on CS11.
"We are worried that CS11 will cause traffic displacement, increase congestion and lead to poorer air quality.
"We are glad that the court has granted our injunction to stop works at Swiss Cottage until the very legitimate concerns with this scheme are addressed via a judicial review."
And he insisted: "Westminster City Council fully supports safe cycling and we are making major investments for cyclists within Westminster."
Thursday, July 26, 2018
BARCELONA, Spain --
Taxi drivers from all corners of Spain drove to Barcelona to join a 2-day strike that started Wednesday in protest of the growing number of cars operating under ride-hailing apps. Uber and Cabify briefly halted service, saying some of their drivers were attacked.
The taxi drivers, who joined a raucous protest in front of the Arch of Triumph, oppose the recent suspension of additional authorization required for ride-hailing companies to operate in Barcelona.
They want a previously agreed ratio of 30 taxi licenses for every authorized ride-hailing car to be honoured. The current ratio in Catalonia, the Spanish region of which Barcelona is the capital, stands at about 6.7 to 1.
Thousands of demonstrators lit firecrackers and honked car horns as they marched to a government building to demand more regulation on the ride-booking apps they claim are taking away their jobs.
Later Wednesday, Uber and Cabify announced they were temporarily suspending service in Barcelona after some of their drivers were assaulted on the sidelines of the pro-taxi demonstration.
Eduardo Martin, spokesman for Unauto, the Spanish national association for drivers of ride-hailing apps, including Uber and Cabify, said there had been dozens of assaults of Uber and Cabify drivers and passengers in Barcelona, mainly in front of hotels.
Two drivers were hospitalized, he said. One was left unconscious, and the other was taken to the hospital with first-degree burns to his face after an acid attack.
Cars were left with broken windows and wing mirrors.
TAXI LEAKS EXTRA BIT :
Meanwhile in London !
Pervert Uber Driver Jailed After Sexual Assault On Uber Pool Victim.
A ‘seedy’ Uber driver who showed no remorse after taking a passenger on a detour and running his hand up her thigh has been was jailed for seven months today Dorin Visanu, 30, molested the woman after picking her up in Clapham, south London, late on the night of 2 September last year. She had ordered the UberPool ride-sharing service to take her home to Shoreditch, east London, and got in the front passenger seat when the car arrived.
Uber told its drivers they would get 'more trips' under recent policy changes, a claim which is being disputed.
Uber has been accused of "wage theft" by some of its drivers, who say they have been "deceived" into taking pay cuts under recent policy changes.
As competition intensified with competitors Ola, Taxify and DiDi entering the market, Uber introduced its UberPool and "upfront pricing" policies earlier this year.
The key change was that Uber would provide its customers with "more certainty" by quoting an exact "upfront" price (for example, $40), instead of a range ($35-45).
It's essentially Uber's best estimate of what the trip should cost, and drivers were promised they would get "more trips" as a result.
But several drivers allege they were not given a real choice, as they had to sign amended contracts agreeing to be bound by Uber's estimates, which were "frequently too low".
Otherwise, they risked "deactivation", which means getting blocked from the Uber app without explanation.
After interviewing 40 Uber drivers, the ABC found that an overwhelming majority (35) said they saw a "significant" drop in their earnings, as they were getting "short-changed" on almost every trip.
This was compared to what they would have earned according to the meter.
Only one said he was making more money, and four said their earnings were steady.
Why are drivers claiming underpayment?
Despite the transition to upfront fixed prices, Uber said it would still charge by time and distance, according to its app's meter, in some situations:
"If the trip changes significantly such as with heavy traffic or multiple extra stops, the fare will be automatically adjusted to use the actual time and distance travelled," the company said in an email to drivers.
But several drivers have told the ABC that their worst cases of "underpayment" happened precisely under those circumstances as Uber failed to follow its own policy.
Uber's online support staff told many of them that their 20 or 30-minute delays -- caused by traffic jams, and unexpected demands from customers to "pick up friends along the way" or "pull over at McDonald's" -- were not considered "significant" enough.
Therefore, their pay would remain at the lower figure (the upfront estimate), rather than the higher amount (based on the meter).
The problem was that the company "bases its fares on upfront calculations that nobody is able to explain", said one full-time driver, Jackie (not his real name).
None of the drivers wanted their real names to be published for fear of Uber deactivating their accounts.
On its website, the company said:
"Upfront Pricing is calculated using the expected time and distance of the trip and local traffic, as well as how many riders and nearby drivers are using Uber at that moment.
The company's spokesperson confirmed it uses "historical traffic patterns" to make that calculation.
But Jackie disputed the reliability of this method: "How can traffic jams, especially ones caused by future car accidents, be calculated based on 'historical' data'?"
"It wasn't in Uber's historical data yesterday, and it sure wasn't there 20 years ago."
"It frustrates the hell out of me they can sit in a bubble and make rulings like this."
"That's why I hate upfront pricing with a passion."
The price of the lower-cost carpooling service UberPool is also determined by its "upfront" fare policy.
"In most cases, UberPool trips are likely to undercut UberX trips [the next cheapest offering] by up to 40 per cent," said Max B, an Uber driver who runs an online advocacy group, Ride Share Drivers United (RSDU).
Uber's spokesperson said: "We continue to focus on demonstrating the benefits of UberPool and encouraging further use, including investing in discounts to passengers who share their ride.
"More affordable rides means more trips for drivers and less wait time between trips."
How much worse off are drivers?
One driver, Edmund, who has been with the company for more than two years, said he was losing on average $28 per week.
Among the other drivers, the alleged amount of underpayments varied according to each trip. Sometimes it was low as just a few cents.
But other times, the difference between Uber's estimate and what drivers claim they "should have" earned, under the meter, was as much as 30 per cent.
"This is wage theft -- nearly 90 per cent of the time, the company underpays me by 50 cents per trip, and up to $4," said another driver, Stephen.
Considering the full-time drivers take hundreds of trips each month, the difference can add up quickly.
Uber's spokesperson said: "We want driver partners to be successful which is why we are investing in innovations to encourage more riders to choose the app, and proactively share information about when and where the best times to drive are.
"We also continue to work on improving our driver app in response to feedback from partners so they continue to choose us.
One driver pointed out that there will always be "a loser" in the upfront estimate system.
"If I end up being paid more money under Uber's upfront price [compared to the meter calculation] that means the customer has paid too much.
"They would have been better off under 'time and distance' charging in that case, but that situation is rare."
Fair Work investigation
"This new system may sound sensible on its face value," said Max B.
"But drivers, who Uber claims are 'independent contractors', are kept in the dark and aren't told what the actual 'upfront fare' price is until the trip ends.
"The first rule of thumb to being an independent contractor is to know exactly how much they will get paid for a job, let alone a 'predetermined' job cost.
Some of the Uber drivers who spoke to the ABC have also recently been contacted with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), as part of its "sham contracting" probe.
Basically, it is looking into whether Uber is misrepresenting its employees as independent contractors (or entrepreneurs running their own businesses) -- to avoid paying minimum wage, annual leave, sick leave and superannuation.
The FWO, through a spokesperson, confirmed it is currently investigating Uber "to determine whether the engagement of Uber drivers is compliant with Commonwealth workplace laws", but would not comment further.
Bonded to Uber … for now
Drivers like Jackie are trying to minimise their time driving for Uber "as much as possible" in response to the recent changes to its pricing policy.
Despite his personal feelings about the company, he has little choice but to continue driving for Uber in the meantime.
"A driver is very expendable at the end of the day," he said.
"It doesn't matter if I leave -- 100 others would take my place.
"Unfortunately, Uber controls the market in Australia, and at least 90 per cent of my trips are with them.
"But only three-quarters of my pay is from Uber. I earn the rest from Ola and private chauffeuring because they pay better."
Uber takes a 27.5 per cent cut from its drivers' pockets, while Ola's and Taxify's commissions are lower, at 15 per cent.
"But until one of the other competitors gains ground on Uber, we have no choice but to tolerate the conditions of the dominant player."
Source : ABC.net
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Sunday, July 22, 2018
Home and ride sharing in Hong Kong has always theoretically been illegal. But like many cities around the world, a wink and a nod from the government has allowed services such as Uber and Airbnb to thrive, driving more opportunity and demand to the cities than ever. Recent crackdowns and proposed changes to Hong Kong’s enforcement and penalization of sharing economy policies could effectively end the presence of Uber, Airbnb, Grab, Gobee and other leading services in the city entirely, vastly change how travelers experience the iconic Southeast Asian destination. Perhaps, not for the better…
Sharing Economy Travel
Short term lettings under 28 days have always been illegal in Hong Kong, without a license. Since most Airbnb rentals are all under 28 days, virtually every one of them is "technically" illegal, but that hasn’t stopped a booming business of roughly 5,000 Airbnb hosts, each earning HK$25,000 annually, on average in the bustling city. In recent years, cost of living in the city of Hong Kong skyrocketed, and the city seemingly embraced Airbnb and sharing opportunities as a way for residents to subsidize their upward trending rents.
An Airbnb, Uber Crackdown
The South China Morning Post reports recent searches, fines and bans in a large scale step up of enforcement against sharing economy offerings, with further legislative proposals in the pipeline. In similar maneuvers against the ride sharing economy, 28 Uber drivers were fined and convicted of illegal carriage on Tuesday, facing fines up to HK$4,500. The newly proposed legislation would also pave the way for search warrants, where Hotel and Guest Accommodation Authorities could kick the door down on anyone suspected of offering home shares without license. Naturally, the proposal fails to offer a reasonable road to legal listing.
Just weeks ago, Tokyo "cracked down" on Airbnb in a commendably appropriate and progressive way. The city loosened legal restrictions and fees for becoming a vetted and certified home share operator, making it feasible for most current Airbnb hosts to quickly and inexpensively secure the legal framework to list their properties without grey area. Realistic limits were set, allowing hosts to list properties for up to 180 days a year. Hong Kong thus far refuses to engage in mediation to create new and sustainable laws for the sharing economy. Uber and sharing economy proponents have long lobbied the government to create a path toward legal operations, yet the Hong Kong Government insists all drivers and companies must conform with the current, arguably draconian laws.
Statistically, Airbnb hasn’t even made a dent in hotel occupancy rates or revenues. With the exception of Paris, hotel occupancy has continued to rise amidst booming economies and an ever increasing demand for travel. Many view Hong Kong’s proposal to limit the sharing economy as a benefit to hotel and cronies in traditional travel provider markets, with no benefit to residents or travelers. Airbnb, Uber and other sharing economy stalwarts offer travelers increased choice, and price competitive options. Hong Kong is not only one of the most expensive cities to live, but also to stay, and affordable options have only bolstered demand for this Southeast Asian jewel. Will the city pull the plug on thousands of bright lights?