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GPS Log Analysis Uncovers Millions In NYC Taxi Overcharges 232

Posted by timothy
from the this-medallion-will-keep-you-safe dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission is using GPS data collected in every cab to review millions of trips in New York City over the past 26 months and has discovered a huge number in which out-of-city rates, twice the rate charged for rides in the five boroughs, were improperly charged. The drivers' scheme, the commission says, involved 1.8 million rides and cost passengers an average of $4 to $5 extra per trip when drivers flipped switches on their meters that kicked in the higher rates, costing New York City riders a total of $8.3 million. Cab drivers are supposed to charge the higher rate only when they cross the border between New York City and Nassau or Westchester. 'We have not seen anything quite this pervasive,' said Matthew W. Daus, the taxi and limousine commissioner. 'It's very disturbing.' The taxi industry vigorously challenged the city's findings, saying it was unimaginable that such a pervasive problem could be the result of deliberate fraud. The commission says that 75% out of the city's 48,000 drivers had applied the higher rate at least once. Officials hope to roll out a short-term fix in two or three weeks in which an alert will appear on the backseat monitor when a cabbie activates the out-of-town rate."
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GPS Log Analysis Uncovers Millions In NYC Taxi Overcharges

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  • by Rivalz (1431453) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:37PM (#31466878)
    Bah forget about bankers we need to bail out the cab driver industry.
    • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:46PM (#31466962)

      This is a tricky point for me.

      As our information collection gets better, hidden income sources get eliminated.
      Then the question becomes- does the "honest" rate really need to be raised?

      For example- truck drivers used to be expected to make 8 stops and were paid 8x dollars.

      Once GPS came in, suddenly they are being expected to make 11 stops (because the gps showed they were sitting around for 20 minutes) and work 100% while on. But the pay is still 8x dollars.

      I wonder if there is a correlation between how much the out of town rate was activated and how slow a day the driver was having?

      Our drivers in Houston are certainly not retiring wealthy (unlike some of our police sergeants). Cab driving should provide a decent living and with government intervention in rates, that can be tricky at times.

      • by causality (777677) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:05PM (#31467114)

        For example- truck drivers used to be expected to make 8 stops and were paid 8x dollars.

        Once GPS came in, suddenly they are being expected to make 11 stops (because the gps showed they were sitting around for 20 minutes) and work 100% while on. But the pay is still 8x dollars.

        There's an easy solution to that which involves neither GPS tracking nor micromanagement.

        Pay the drivers on a per-delivery basis, allowing for things like distance driven and amount or weight of cargo to be variables that determine this rate. Then the drivers can decide how they wish to use that 20 minutes. If a driver can make 11 deliveries in X time, then he gets paid about 28% more than a driver who makes 8 deliveries in X time. Now they have an incentive to be more productive that doesn't require tagging them like cattle and any expenses associated with that. The recipients of the deliveries have no incentive to help the drivers cheat this system, since that would mean failing to receive their items.

        I wonder if there is a correlation between how much the out of town rate was activated and how slow a day the driver was having?

        Our drivers in Houston are certainly not retiring wealthy (unlike some of our police sergeants). Cab driving should provide a decent living and with government intervention in rates, that can be tricky at times.

        The most robust solution to this is presented in the summary. Have some unambiguous indicator that allows the paying passenger to see whether the out-of-town rate is being applied. It could be as simple as a bright LED with a label saying "When light is on, out-of-town rates are being applied" that is tied to the driver's rate switch. This would guard against both deliberate deception and honest mistakes and would represent full disclosure to the customer.

        The idea of using GPS to monitor everyone's whereabouts and track their activities is both unnecessary and needlessly complex. Simpler, more robust solutions can be implemented that come with none of the privacy concerns. Not only is a centralized GPS database a tempting target for attackers who would compromise it, it's also a single point of failure if such a compromise does occur. That's undesirable in a system used to keep people honest. It'd be far more difficult to obtain physical access to every cab in NYC and disable the physical indicator of which rate is being applied.

        • by clintp (5169) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:15PM (#31467190)

          Pay the drivers on a per-delivery basis, allowing for things like distance driven and amount or weight of cargo to be variables that determine this rate. Then the drivers can decide how they wish to use that 20 minutes. If a driver can make 11 deliveries in X time, then he gets paid about 28% more than a driver who makes 8 deliveries in X time.

          With that you get drivers rushing through their deliveries or trying to squeeze in an extra one or two runs per day. That's great and all and everyone wins, right? Until a driver that's taking drugs for alertness has a heart attack or one that doesn't falls asleep at the wheel. Cargo gets manhandled, customers get lousy service from cranky and rushed drivers, and the equipment takes a lot of abuse. The DEA starts sniffing around the employee lockers and trucks, insurance companies, workman's comp. adjusters, and lawsuit happy attorneys circle nearby.

          The other suggestions (the LED one) I'm in favor of. Let the customer know he's (possibly) being cheated, and they can work it out from there.

          • by causality (777677)

            Pay the drivers on a per-delivery basis, allowing for things like distance driven and amount or weight of cargo to be variables that determine this rate. Then the drivers can decide how they wish to use that 20 minutes. If a driver can make 11 deliveries in X time, then he gets paid about 28% more than a driver who makes 8 deliveries in X time.

            With that you get drivers rushing through their deliveries or trying to squeeze in an extra one or two runs per day. That's great and all and everyone wins, right? Until a driver that's taking drugs for alertness has a heart attack or one that doesn't falls asleep at the wheel. Cargo gets manhandled, customers get lousy service from cranky and rushed drivers, and the equipment takes a lot of abuse. The DEA starts sniffing around the employee lockers and trucks, insurance companies, workman's comp. adjusters, and lawsuit happy attorneys circle nearby.

            The other suggestions (the LED one) I'm in favor of. Let the customer know he's (possibly) being cheated, and they can work it out from there.

            It seems to me you could avoid that by defining a maximum safe/realistic number of deliveries to be made during any one timespan. You could derive such a figure by averaging the number of deliveries made by the top 5-10% highest-performing drivers who have had no at-fault accidents and no customer complaints about quality. Then add a margin to that of around 25% or so and you get your maximum permitted number. This would be easy enough for the company to control since the drivers have no cargo that it di

            • by PaladinAlpha (645879) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @08:42PM (#31468356)

              Where do you get the baseline data? How do you control for delivery complexity? How do you determine pay? What do you 'expect' your drivers to handle? How do you handle owner-ops vs. leased trucks? Accidents? Training? Maintenance? What about drivers that perform significantly below the norm -- you're paying them fairly by your own standards, but you're incurring the overhead of maintaining their paperwork. How do you handle long deliveries vs. short deliveries? Hazardous cargo? Insurance? Benefits?

              • by causality (777677)

                Where do you get the baseline data? How do you control for delivery complexity? How do you determine pay? What do you 'expect' your drivers to handle? How do you handle owner-ops vs. leased trucks? Accidents? Training? Maintenance? What about drivers that perform significantly below the norm -- you're paying them fairly by your own standards, but you're incurring the overhead of maintaining their paperwork. How do you handle long deliveries vs. short deliveries? Hazardous cargo? Insurance? Benefits?

                You mention things like pay, performance expectations of drivers, accidents, training, etc. A GPS system would have the same issues to solve. Basline data is easy; the company already has records of previous deliveries that have been made. It would not be hard to use data-mining techniques on that data to come up with reasonable baselines. Many industries use projections that are far more complex than this.

                My intention was not to contain the perfect, absolutely objection-proof system that addresses a

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          There's an easy solution to that which involves neither GPS tracking nor micromanagement. Pay the drivers on a per-delivery basis, allowing for things like distance driven and amount or weight of cargo to be variables that determine this rate. Then the drivers can decide how they wish to use that 20 minutes. If a driver can make 11 deliveries in X time, then he gets paid about 28% more than a driver who makes 8 deliveries in X time. Now they have an incentive to be more productive that doesn't require tagg

          • by causality (777677)

            There's an easy solution to that which involves neither GPS tracking nor micromanagement. Pay the drivers on a per-delivery basis, allowing for things like distance driven and amount or weight of cargo to be variables that determine this rate. Then the drivers can decide how they wish to use that 20 minutes. If a driver can make 11 deliveries in X time, then he gets paid about 28% more than a driver who makes 8 deliveries in X time. Now they have an incentive to be more productive that doesn't require tagging them like cattle and any expenses associated with that. The recipients of the deliveries have no incentive to help the drivers cheat this system, since that would mean failing to receive their items.

            Not so easy. You think your solution hasn't been tried before / exist now? All it leads to is drivers taking uppers to stay awake and drive hours past when they should be taking a break, as well as encouraging them to speed.

            It's conducive to the discussion if, before posting, you note that someone else has already raised this very same objection [slashdot.org] (32 minutes before you posted this) and that I have already addressed it [slashdot.org] with a proposed solution. The already-stated objection and my response to it are in the very same thread.

        • by Cyberax (705495) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:54PM (#31467476)

          Yup. That's how taxi works here in Kiev (Ukraine).

          When I order a taxi over the phone, I'm immediately told what the price is going to be, so you pay exactly this sum to the driver (+tips).

          And now it's the driver's problem to chose the shortest and fastest route. If we get stuck in a jam - I'm not paying more.

        • ice road truckers are payed like that.

      • by timmarhy (659436)
        no, it's called effiency. just because drivers don't get to sit around for 20 mins extra per day it doesn't equate to a pay rise. if we didn't constantly get more efficent in this manner inflation would spiral out of control as everything got more expensive everytime you got people to work smarter.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:59PM (#31467518)

          That doesn't even come close to making sense, yet it superficially sounds good. You must be in management.

        • So, the problem is drivers working themselves to death and putting their fellow vehicles at risk, and the solution is perfect enforcement of a "no loafing" policy to work the drivers like dogs...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sjames (1099)

          That is, until the stress associated with being spied on all the time makes the drivers surly and accident prone. You'll notice that executives never get spied on to make sure they're REALLY making business deals while golfing.

          Human beings are not 100% efficient. Try to make them so and something will eventually fail spectacularly.

          The world is a better place when everyone gets a little slack.

          • by IICV (652597)

            The world is a better place when everyone gets a little slack.

            Spoken like a true disciple of Bob [wikipedia.org].

      • by Vellmont (569020)


        Once GPS came in, suddenly they are being expected to make 11 stops (because the gps showed they were sitting around for 20 minutes) and work 100% while on. But the pay is still 8x dollars.

        What that leads to is drivers that can't afford to stop to take a piss. So what do they do? Piss in a plastic jug and throw it out the window. [roadsideamerica.com] There's more to life than money.

        • Once again Trailer Park Boys were ahead of their time:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNkiO20AlQE High Definition Piss Jugs
      • by bschorr (1316501)
        It even pervades information services. I wonder how many people get busted telling their boss or client they're working on Project A because they were on Twitter or Facebook talking about doing something totally different.

        Accountability, for better or worse, is rising to a whole new level due to voluntary and involuntary location and presence services.
      • by quantaman (517394)

        This is a tricky point for me.

        As our information collection gets better, hidden income sources get eliminated.
        Then the question becomes- does the "honest" rate really need to be raised?

        Yes.

        If the "honest" rate is too low, and the only way to make money is by being dishonest, than only the dishonest will work in that field. That's a situation I'd rather discourage than encourage.

        For example- truck drivers used to be expected to make 8 stops and were paid 8x dollars.

        Once GPS came in, suddenly they are being expected to make 11 stops (because the gps showed they were sitting around for 20 minutes) and work 100% while on. But the pay is still 8x dollars.

        I wonder if there is a correlation between how much the out of town rate was activated and how slow a day the driver was having?

        Our drivers in Houston are certainly not retiring wealthy (unlike some of our police sergeants). Cab driving should provide a decent living and with government intervention in rates, that can be tricky at times.

        If not idling reduces their job satisfaction that much than fewer people will drive trucks, and eventually they'll have to raise wages to attract more drivers.

        If not idling didn't actually reduce their job satisfaction... Well then what's the problem? More work is getting done and no one is any less happy, it's goo

      • by e4g4 (533831)
        I have no doubt that cabbies flip the switch when travelling from say, Manhattan to Brooklyn or on any long-ish ride where the ride back to the place where cabbies make the vast majority of their money (Manhattan) is unlikely to be paid for by a fare (late at night, e.g.).

        This certainly explains some previously inexplicable fairly large ($5-$7) variations in cab fare that I've been surprised by since I moved to Brooklyn.
    • by magsol (1406749)
      I had always assumed the cab industry in New York was so saturated with competition and so decentralized that price fixing like this wouldn't be possible; everyone would have to charge essentially the same rates or risk being driven (literally and figuratively) out of business.

      Apparently, it can happen anywhere.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Gorobei (127755)

        That makes no sense. All NYC cabs are yellow and charge the same rates - you don't the choice to either hail an honest one or a dishonest one. It's about the most uncompetitive market there is.

        • by wanax (46819) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @08:38PM (#31468330)

          Indeed, NYC created a taxi monopoly in 1937, partially as a response to poorly maintained vehicles and their attendant dangers. The problem is, that the law which did so hasn't been revised since, we've only had several hundred new medallions issued (as far as I know given for hybrid cabs) since 1937, and are stuck with the same ~13k cabs. Since this has made the medallions extremely valuable ($500k+), there is obviously a significant lobbying interest to prevent the sale of new medallions. While I'm not a huge fan of gypsy cabs (which, for example, often don't have functioning seat belts) the idea that the current population is served by the same number of cabs as was available in 1937 is absurd.

        • by frisket (149522)
          The problem isn't so much the rate as the fact that yellow cab drivers don't appear to know their way around the city, and can't speak any recognisable form of English. I would have more sympathy with them if they behaved more professionally.
  • Very easy fix (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:38PM (#31466880)

    Require the use of GPS to automatically set the advertised rates at the correct points. Don't let the drivers flick the switch themselves.

    • by barzok (26681)

      Assuming the GPS can be trusted to get a good enough fix all the time. Look up "urban canyons."

      • It's good enough to create logs on the basis of which the cabbies can be punished but not good enough to set the rate?

        Besides, they only need an occasional fix. Dead-reckoning would work when no satellites are visible. The cab only has to know what county it is in.

    • by mikael (484)

      What about freeway exchanges (spaghetti junctions) where the roads are above each other. Would GPS be able to accurately tell the difference between the two altitudes?

      • Re:Very easy fix (Score:5, Informative)

        by techno-vampire (666512) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:54PM (#31467988) Homepage
        Who cares, as long as both roads are in the same county? The point of the GPS isn't to keep track of exactly where the taxi is at all times, it's to make sure the passenger isn't being charged the suburban rate while they're inside New York.
  • Taxi! (Score:5, Funny)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:38PM (#31466890)
    Take me to the cleaners, and hurry!
    • It's quite possible that if you live in the sprawl called Southern California, a trip to the cleaners would make you pine for the days when New York cabbies overcharged you with out-of-city rates..

      Hell, when I lived in Chicago, I'd often take a limo (no, not the stretch kind) to work, and that was on a fairly ordinary salary. When I moved to LA, I was dumbfounded to learn the extent to which car and car-related expenses eat up your budget. A cab ride to the cleaners? If I could afford the trip, I doubt

  • Since when GPS measures traffic jam? I'd happily pay 5 bucks more if I won't wait in the traffic for half an hour more. That's the whole point for getting a taxi any ways (ie. being at where you want to be faster).
    • The GPS wasn't measuring traffic, just their trips and the rates charged. It showed they were within the 5 Boroughs but were charging the 'out of town' rates. Nothing to do with traffic, everything to do with greed.
    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      Ignoring the other reply, aren't cab rides charged by time AND distance? So a half hour wait in traffic would be a lot more than $5?

      I saw on a TV show the other day the cab driver saying something like "the meter doesn't stop until you get out". Yeah that was fictional, but I thought something this basic would reflect real cabs.

  • The holocaust. Lehman Brothers goes bankrupt. The US government selling arms to Iran to fund an illegal war in central america. Flu strains from 3 different species combine overnight to form the new H1N1. Man walks on the moon and returns to earth safely.

    This, on the other hand, is easily imaginable.

    Anyone here NOT ripped off once or twice by a taxi driver?

  • logic fail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:47PM (#31466968) Journal

    Bhairavi Desai, head of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said the charges of rampant thievery defied logic. The new GPS technology and meters installed in every cab are the problem, not the solution, she said.

    In other words, the problem isn't defrauding customers, it's getting caught.

    "This is a workforce that's known for returning diamonds and tens of thousands of dollars passengers leave behind," Desai said. "To be told the same workforce is ripping off passengers for four dollars and change each ride just doesn't match."

    "we have you on tape shoplifting a candy bar at the store but you've been trustworthy before so it doesn't match up."

    • "we have you on tape shoplifting a candy bar at the store but [remove]you've[/remove] [replacement]someone else with the same job as you has[/replacement] been trustworthy before so it doesn't match up."

      • Maybe so however, Desai was speaking of cabbies as an entity more than a collection of individuals. The argument that the cabbies as an entity couldn't possibly have been responsible for quite a bit of fraud because the cabbies as an entity were known to be trustworthy in prior cases to a degree still fails.

    • If this were a widespread scam, you'd have caught us at it by now.

    • I hate to reply to myself but I thought I should point out a bit of psychology:

      "This is a workforce that's known for returning diamonds and tens of thousands of dollars passengers leave behind," Desai said. "To be told the same workforce is ripping off passengers for four dollars and change each ride just doesn't match."

      Well I suppose that's about like the difference between stealing a pen from the bank and robbing the bank. The pen is easy for people to steal as it is easier to rationalize guilt away (i

      • by jabithew (1340853)

        Also, realistically, the bank doesn't care about the pen. I wonder if it's the same here? By the time you've got to New York from London (for example), the last thing your wallet is worrying about is an extra $4 on a cab fare.

    • Re:logic fail (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bert64 (520050) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:37PM (#31467334) Homepage

      It's easy to get away with stealing 4-5 dollars, and if you do it often enough you make a tidy profit...
      If someone loses diamonds or thousands of dollars they're going to come looking for it, and your chances of getting away with it are pretty slim.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BertieBaggio (944287)

        It's easy to get away with stealing 4-5 dollars, and if you do it often enough you make a tidy profit... If someone loses diamonds or thousands of dollars they're going to come looking for it, and your chances of getting away with it are pretty slim.

        That and it's easier to resolve the cognitive dissonance of stealing a little while still believing that you are an honest person. Think "Oh, it's only a buck or two, it probably won't make a difference anyway" (or even "this guy makes 10x what I do; he won't miss it") versus "I'm not the sort of person who would steal thousands of dollars!".

    • Cabbies are honest by their own standards.

      Stealing someone's diamond or someone's cash would be wrong.

      Boosting the daily fares up a fair wage isn't wrong.

      (I mean.. come on- they make $50k in a town where $126k has the same purchasing power as making $50k in Houston. So $50k is like earning about under $25k-- i.e. near poverty if not below).

      When they start to retire rich like the Wall Street folks I'll feel a little differently.

  • Who is surprised? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by idiot900 (166952) * on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:13PM (#31467172)

    I live in NYC and I am not surprised in the least by this. It's amazing that it's only 75%.

    The taxi drivers expended a lot of social capital vigorously opposing and even striking over the GPS units, when everyone (taxi drivers included) knew that the GPS units would help keep the drivers honest. Now that fraud has been exposed, it will be even more difficult for the drivers to gain public support the next time they are angry about something.

    • by nomadic (141991)
      The taxi drivers expended a lot of social capital vigorously opposing and even striking over the GPS units, when everyone (taxi drivers included) knew that the GPS units would help keep the drivers honest. Now that fraud has been exposed, it will be even more difficult for the drivers to gain public support the next time they are angry about something.

      Eh, the taxi drivers are in general have the T&LC's boot on their neck. Cab driving is too lucrative, and they're too disorganized, to ever successfu
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by spire3661 (1038968)
        Its a no skill job. you sit, you drive, you talk. Hard to throw your weight around when we are one good innovation away from removing the need for a human to do it. Someday in the not too distant future we are going to wake up and hail a Johnny Cab, (Total Recall). Ive been thinking about this for a while, how far are we realistically away from driveless cars on (mostly)* unmodified roads? How hard is it to automate driving a car on a known circuit (city grid). *Allowing for sensor installations and machi
        • Its a no skill job. you sit, you drive, you talk. Hard to throw your weight around when we are one good innovation away from removing the need for a human to do it. Someday in the not too distant future we are going to wake up and hail a Johnny Cab, (Total Recall). Ive been thinking about this for a while, how far are we realistically away from driveless cars on (mostly)* unmodified roads? How hard is it to automate driving a car on a known circuit (city grid). *Allowing for sensor installations and machine instruction signage, failsafes, etc.

          Technologically? Not that far. Socially - very far. Think about it - thousands of people die in auto accidents each year and that's considered unfortunate, but "acceptable". With an automated car - if even ONE person died to a computer's mistake - that'd be unacceptable and the company that made the computer would be sued into oblivion. People will ignore that fact that it would in all likelihood save thousands upon thousands of lives because A COMPUTER KILLED A PERSON, OMG!

    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:24PM (#31467238) Journal

      And in return, don't expect cabbies to care when IBM outsources every IT job to India, or MS relocates to China.

  • This is a centrally managed computer system; maybe somebody in the central office has figured out a way to illegally tack on and collect out-of-town taxi charges indirectly.

    Or maybe the computer system is recording the charges incorrectly due to a bug.

    Who's to watch the watchers...

    ---

    Scientific, evidence based IP law. Now there's a thought.

    • by dudeman2 (88399) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:02PM (#31467554) Homepage

      Not true. In NYC, Taximeters are installed in individual cabs and are controlled by the driver. All the GPS/credit card/entertainment systems with two way radio communication were installed very recently. Before now it would have been impossible to prove fraud other than by hand matching receipts and rates charged to driver logbook to/from/time entries.

  • New Yorkers are not typically suckers. My guess:
    1. Double the fare and I will charge it to the company and get reimbursed for double tip
    2. Double the fare on the company if you know where I can get a date
    3. Profit!
    I have seen it played many ways. This is more likely a pattern that was just hidden.
    What I want to see is if (gps(politician) == gps(lobbyist)){moneyChangesHands(howMuch);} .
    • by TheMidget (512188)

      New Yorkers are not typically suckers.

      Or more likely: tourists visting New York are suckers. And they are plentiful and easily recognizable as such.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dudeman2 (88399)

      New Yorkers are not suckers, and those of us who have lived here a while know roughly how much a cab ride from Point A to Point B will cost. But the taximeter labels on fare schedules ("fare 1" versus "fare 4") are subtle and easily missed. I'm sure the hacks knew to cheat people who are either (a) tourists, (b) people in a REAL hurry (c) drunks. Plenty of those to go around.

  • by VTEX (916800) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @06:55PM (#31467488)
    Almost every cab driver in New York acts unethically. As someone who lives in the city and takes cabs regularly, I can attest that 95% of them attempt to scam you in some manner. Sometimes they will take a longer route, sometimes they will add extra bogus fees, sometimes they will "forget" to turn on the meter. They will try and friend you to get extra tips. Very often, they will try and complain that the credit card machine costs them money (despite the fact that the TLC increased fares specifically for them). 20% of the time those credit card machines are "broken".

    They almost always conveniently forget the flat fare rate from JFK to Manhattan. One time, I was in a cab and someone cut the guy off - so the cabbie sped up and started yelling at him - needless to say I was not amused. After telling a cab driver once we were making 3 stops, he refused to take us any further than the first stop - he was "on break".

    This is an industry with a history of mob control and immoral behavior. If it takes GPS to help put an end to these things - I'm all for it.
  • by j1m+5n0w (749199) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:40PM (#31467874) Homepage Journal

    The 1.8 million fares represent a tiny fraction of a total 360 million trips over the 26-month period in question.

    Taxi drivers are people. People make mistakes. One mistake per two hundred trips does not seem unreasonable, especially considering that the frequency of incidents per driver probably follows a power-law distribution and the median number of mistakes per driver is likely much lower. Another way of looking at it is that 25% of drivers didn't make a single mistake in more than two years of driving.

    Which isn't to say that these were all honest mistakes. However, I don't see this as the massive systematic fraud the article seems to be suggestion. A 0.5% chance of being overcharged just doesn't seem like something to get excited about (even if I lived in New York, which I don't).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by oldsaint (736226)
      How many "mistakes" were made to undercharge the customer?
    • From TFA:

      The investigators determined that 36,000 drivers improperly activated the higher rate at least once, and that about 3,000 drivers did it more than 100 times.

      I doubt the 3000 drivers who did it 100+ times did it by accident.

    • by idiot900 (166952) *

      One mistake per two hundred trips

      It's pretty hard to confuse being inside NYC for being out of town. Given the state of traffic in NYC, it's easy to hit a pedestrian or another car. Do these same drivers have a one in two hundred trips accident rate?

    • The 1.8 million fares represent a tiny fraction of a total 360 million trips over the 26-month period in question.

      Taxi drivers are people. People make mistakes. One mistake per two hundred trips does not seem unreasonable, especially considering that the frequency of incidents per driver probably follows a power-law distribution and the median number of mistakes per driver is likely much lower. Another way of looking at it is that 25% of drivers didn't make a single mistake in more than two years of driving.

      I agree. Surgeons are people, as are engineers, airline pilots, lawyers, nurses, construction workers, and pretty much any other kind of worker. Who cares if they are dishonest or make mistakes once every 200 tasks?

      Back to the topic: I have never experienced dishonesty with Korean cab drivers in two tours and a number of side trips there. Regular cabs (not the deluxe cabs) are very affordable. US armed forces members take note: Korean cabs are less expensive than AAFES cabs.

      My last tour at Osan I took

    • One mistake per two hundred trips does not seem unreasonable

      The interesting thing is if you compare it to working a register. Giving back change manually incurs mistakes. Even if you're 100% honest, you're going to make mistakes. The difference here being that those mistakes work both ways. One customer will get a few cents too much back, another will get too few.

      At the end of the day, you're going to see maybe 20 cents mismatch on a thousand dollars. More than that and you had to recount it (we didn't have

    • by khallow (566160)

      One mistake per two hundred trips does not seem unreasonable

      How many opportunities do they get to make this "mistake"? If it's also 1 in 200, then there might well be a problem.

  • by Que_Ball (44131) * on Saturday March 13, 2010 @07:50PM (#31467934)

    So there are 13,257 medallions in new york.

    Lets estimate each cab makes an average of 30 trips per day. So every day there are about 397710 cab trips made or 145 million trips a year.

    They are saying that 1.8 million trips were overcharged over a period of 2 years. So over 2 years there were about 290 million trips of which 1.8 million were overcharged.

    So approximately 0.6% of the trips made were overcharged by about $5.

    Doesn't sound like it's so bad to me. Half a percent is a legitimate rate of errors for any human endeavour. So the previous trip was out of the city area and the rate wasn't switched back for the next rider would be a good example of how that would happen.

    The story seems a little sensational to me. I'm sure there are a few legitimate abusers but the numbers don't seem to imply a widespread problem to me.

    • by kramerd (1227006)

      I would like to agree with you, but I can't, because you are wrong.

      Its not a mistake, when you have a gps system on the vehicle that determines the rate. It tells the system whether you are in rate 1 area or rate 2 area. The vast majority of trips do not cross the border where the higher rate is used. Clearly, manual overrides are causing the issue. There is no reason, at all, for a gps to say you are a different city than you actually are, especially for an entire trip. There is no reason that trips acros

  • by GTarrant (726871) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @10:27PM (#31469056)
    In Washington, DC, taxicabs used to charge via a "zone" system - it didn't matter how far you went (necessarily) - the city was divided into multiple "zones", and the rate was charged based on how many zones you had to travel through to get to your destination.

    People (particularly tourists) complained about this system because it didn't make complete sense and a tourist, or even just someone not familiar with the zone map, wasn't going to be able to look at the map and see where the zone boundaries were. As an example, if I was in a hurry, I could take a taxi from my home, to work. The total was 3 zones (with a minimum, of course, of 1). However, if I walked 1 block south from home, hailed a taxi, and had it drop me off 1 block north of work, it would be 1 zone. That would save a good percentage of the cab fare.

    However, a tourist getting in the car would have no idea - furthermore, if a tourist was being dropped off, say, right near a border, if the cabbie says "Hey, traffic is bad here, mind if I drop you off across the street?" most people would say "OK", figuring that in most cities, that's probably nothing, or maybe an extra quarter or so. In DC, it could be an extra $2.

    A little over a year ago DC switched to a metered taxi system, as mandated by Congress. Prior to the switchover, taxi drivers in DC went on strike, saying they'd lose significant money in a switch, despite the fact that the rates were set such that the average metered trip would actually net more for the driver than the old zone system would - but only under the assumption (which the people setting the rates were using) that the zone system was being used fairly and customers were not being diverted, sometimes only short distances, in order to add zones (sometimes, near zone borders, moving a few blocks could be two extra zones!).

    You'd get a constant circle:

    Taxi Driver Committee Representative: "We'll lose tons of money switching to meters!"

    Taxicab Commission: "But under this new system, a driver would actually be getting more money on an average trip than before, unless they were routinely cheating customers in a way the new system would prevent. Look, we'll open the books to you, examine the whole thing."

    Taxi Driver Committee Representative: "Ah. I see. We, of course, have never cheated anyone. But notwithstanding that, we'll lose tons of money!"

    The change took place anyway, and the world hasn't ended, although the data does seem to reflect that cabdrivers are making less than before, yet somehow the data also shows that they're making more per trip than before. How? Because before they were manipulating the system to charge more.

    I doubt this is any different. Most people in the cab in NYC aren't going to notice if the fare is $X or $X+4, unless they're a native. Just like I could tell my cabdriver in DC "No, drop me off here" whenever they tried to move an extra block near a zone boundary, a native might catch it. But someone unfamiliar? No. Thus, I'm going to side with the GPS on this one.

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