Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Things change.

Things change in Boston, especially if you’re in the taxi biz.

A year ago a Boston taxi medallion (license) sold in the open market for $700,000. Yup, five zeroes.

Last month one of the 1,825 taxi medallions issued long ago in Boston was knocked down for only $350,000 at a foreclosure auction.

Think Uber. Think Lyft.

Boston has capped the city-authorized taxi medallions, so there are 1,825 city-authorized and city-inspected taxis on the streets. I’m not sure how many Uber and Lyft drivers there are. I’ve never had a ride with any of them, not sure if I would if I had the chance.

The point is: there’s no particularly good reason why the number of cabs in Boston should be capped at 1,825, it’s a legacy thing from the time Boston started regulating taxis in the 1930s. Why should the city protect a monopoly that benefits a small number of medallion owners? The city fathers should think about authorizing more medallions with a modest annual fee, for drivers who would charge lower fares.

On the other hand, I think a good argument can be made that all the Uber and Lyft and other private-transaction “taxis” should be inspected and thus authorized as insured carriers by the city, for the protection of passengers.

Here’s more stuff: Boston’s high cab fares make it one of the five most expensive cities in America for taxi customers.

The average cabbie doesn’t own a medallion ($350,000!), and the average cabbie clears about $25,000 a year after paying for gas and insurance, and paying the medallion owner for the privilege of driving a licensed cab—some drivers pay more than $100 per 12-hour shift.

The medallion owners basically have to cover the cost of buying and maintaining the vehicle, and apparently they’ve been making out OK for many years.

One man reportedly owns almost one-quarter of the Boston taxi medallions.

In case you were wondering, only four cities in the U.S. have more taxis than Boston, which is the 24th largest city in America. In fact, Boston has twice as many city taxis per capita as New York City, that is, roughly one Boston cab for every 345 Bostonians. Apparently, the taxi patrons in Boston want even more of them.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

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