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The Taxi News for Thursday July 31, 2014

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Taxi called to move dead body, say Mich. cops

CBS News - (Internet)

YPSILANTI TWP., Mich. - Two men are accused of calling a taxi to help dispose of a woman's body, reports CBS Detroit.

Police say the situation unfolded last Saturday morning when a man contacted BWB Transportation and requested a ride to an address in Ypsilanti Township, Mich. A taxi driver responded and waited as the man came out carrying an unknown object that he placed in the back of the van, reports the station.

The driver took the man to the requested address and then called her boss, 47-year-old Derrick Campbell, after the customer exited the vehicle "because of her concern as to what was placed in the rear of the car," according to CBS Detroit.

Campbell arrived, began talking with the male customer and apparently was told he'd been trying to dispose of a body, police said. But instead of calling police, or otherwise intervening, authorities say Campbell actually helped the man remove the body from the taxi and conceal it alongside the road. - more....


Baltimore taxis must accept credit cards by end of year, state regulators rule

The Baltimore Sun - (Baltimore, Maryland)

PSC cites lack of reliable revenue data in decision against rate hike in years-long case

By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun
10:10 p.m. EDT, July 29, 2014

State regulators on Tuesday rejected rate increases for taxis and ordered all operators to install new credit-card-reading smart meters by the end of the year.

The Maryland Public Service Commission said the new meters will bring more predictability and better service to customers hailing cabs in Baltimore city and county, while providing better financial data for use in future rate reviews.

The commission cited the lack of reliable data as a major reason for rejecting rate increases. The commission's staff had proposed an 18 percent city fare increase and a 14 percent county fare increase but based that analysis on incomplete data.

With "spotty, unreliable, and inconsistent data," the commission said it was unable to reach "an adequate determination of revenues sufficient to enable common carriers to provide transportation services under honest, economical, and efficient management."

It rejected increases because of that, it said — a decision made easier by the fact that many city taxi drivers didn't want them.

Several months ago, drivers who hold their own permits but work under Veolia Transportation, which operates the city's Yellow, Checker and Sun fleets, began opposing rate increases in the face of increasing competition from car-for-hire apps such as Uber and Lyft, said Dwight Kines, a Veolia official involved in negotiations with the PSC.

In response, Kines sent the PSC a letter indicating that Veolia — the largest operator of taxis in Baltimore — was ending its support for a hike. - more....


More cabs approved for MAGIC trade show

Las Vegas Review-Journal - (Las Vegas, Nevada)

By RICHARD N. VELOTTA
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

It’s just like old times.

Now that convention attendance has started to rebound, regulators who oversee the city’s taxi industry have become more receptive to allowing additional taxis on the streets during large trade shows, much to the chagrin of cab drivers who would prefer that the number of cabs stay the same.

The latest example: Tuesday’s unanimous approval by the Nevada Taxicab Authority to allow as many as 160 additional cabs during August’s Men’s Apparel Guild in California fashion trade show.

MAGIC Marketplace, as the show is commonly known, will bring an estimated 80,000 conventioneers to the city Aug. 18-20.

The board approved five additional cabs per 12-hour shift for the three days. Since there are 16 companies operating in Southern Nevada, that could mean an additional 160 cabs, although some of the smaller companies probably won’t take their full allocation.

Only the Industrial, Professional and Technical Employees union voiced opposition to the allocation plan. Every cab company representative supported the increase. - more....


Wapiti Taxi rolls out app

Grand Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune - (Grand Prairie, Alberta)

By Braeden Jones, Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune Staff
Tuesday, July 29, 2014 6:41:28 MDT PM

Getting a taxi in Grande Prairie just got easier.

Toronto-based tech company Gata Labs has partnered with local cab business Wapiti Taxi to provide a totally new cab calling experience.

Calling might not even be the right word. That’s because Wapiti Taxi will be using Gata’s new cab hailing smart phone app: Gata Hub.

“We took advantage to be the first business to work with them, it’s a good app,” said Wapiti Taxi system manager, Ephrem Olana.

“At the same time, it’s the service that makes a difference. Having both good service and the technology makes a lot of difference.”

Olana said the new app makes things easier for the dispatchers, drivers and especially the clients waiting for cabs.

After opening the app for the first time, it gathers the user’s location with GPS permission. It then proposes a cab company, and offers information about the company along with a button to “request a taxi.”

Hitting that button gives users options. It shows the current location on a map and tags it as the “pickup location.” From there, users can choose to reveal a fare estimate by entering the desired “drop off location.”

After checking out the estimated cost, users can select “order taxi,” and be updated in real time of the taxi’s estimated time of arrival. - more....


Deep in Debt, DeSoto Goes Rogue

SF Weekly - (San Francisco, California)

By Rachel Swan @rachelswan Tuesday, Jul 29 2014

Hansu Kim, the embattled co-owner of DeSoto Cab Company, made headlines last week when he announced plans to defect from the taxi industry. Rather than continue operating under the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Kim would enter the gray market generated by Uber, Lyft, and other app-based transportation services. He'd turn in all his medallions (aka permits), remove the meter and taxi light from each of his cars, and obtain charter transportation (TCP) licenses for all of them. He'd recast himself as a limousine sedan service.

The benefits would be astronomical. Kim currently leases 204 medallions. The city charges him $1,000 a month for 32 of them (down from $2,000 last year); the rest come from private drivers who extract a going rate of $2,100 a month. By trading them for TCP permits (which cost $100 every 3 years, plus a one-time fee of $1,000 per vehicle), he'd save almost $5 million annually. He'd be overseen by the state, rather than the city, which would allow his drivers to pick up fares in neighboring areas — like Oakland or San Mateo — with impunity. And he'd have to solicit pre-arranged rides, rather than street hails, which would make DeSoto look more like a tech startup than a cab business.

"The point I've made to the city is, 'You leave me no choice,'" Kim says, explaining that he's found himself in an untenable position — squeezed, on one side, by the strict set of fees and regulations for taxi drivers, and on the other, by a new crop of competitors who aren't playing by the same rules. Uber and its ilk have reinterpreted the state's definition of a "chartered" vehicle to include any hired gun with a Prius.

Meanwhile, the labor pool for cab companies is shrinking, and many of them are hemorrhaging thousands of dollars a month. - more....


Uber Heads to Council

NOLA Defender - (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Committee Looks to Further Tune Up For-Hire Vehicle Ordinance

by Ashley Rouen

A New Orleans City Council committee waved on a proposal Tuesday (7-29) that would amend for-hire vehicle regulations to allow on-demand companies like Uber into the New Orleans market. The committee sent the proposal to the full City Council for further consideration, and did not make a recommendation.

In its second hearing before the committee, Uber continued to drive controversy among members of the community as they try to break into the local luxury car service market with their Uber Black platform. Members of the Transportation and Airport Committee met at City Council again Tuesday (7-29) to discuss Chapter 162 of an ordinance that concerns vehicles-for-hire and, specifically, to consider how the city will regulate the inevitable introduction of smartphone transportation applications, like Uber Black and Uber X, into the local economic climate. 

While the committee members are in favor of bringing new technologies in to help the city evolve with the rest of the country, they are primarily cautious of sanctioning Uber Black because of its counterpart, Uber X, which conveniently allows drivers to use their personal car and the company’s mobile outlet to find nearby passengers.

Uber Black and Uber X come together on one mobile platform. In other cities where Uber Black has been introduced, Uber is known to unleash Uber X, illegally, at the same time. Once Uber Black is available in New Orleans, users will presumably also have access to Uber X, which members of the incumbent taxicab industry say would pose a huge threat to their work. - more....


Texas insurance industry to Uber: Slow down

KHOU-TV Channel 11 - (Houston, Texas)

KHOU Staff, KHOU.com 8:52 p.m. CDT July 23, 2014



HOUSTON -- It s a transportation company that s growing at record speeds, but some are saying slow down and put on the brakes because when it comes to insurance coverage you may not be safe.

It does concern us, said Mark Hanna with the Insurance Council of Texas as he spoke of Uber. We have 20 different states looking at this and no one really has come up with a solution.

Uber connects a passenger to a driver via an app on a cell phone. That s the only way the driver and passenger are supposed to communicate. All fare transactions go through a credit card already on file.

But rivals of Uber, such as local cab companies, say that isn t always happening and that can put everyone in danger. And that has the insurance industry concerned.

You ve got gaps, said Hanna. In fact, there may not be any insurance coverage whatsoever.

According to Uber, unless you go through the app and abide by Uber s platform, Uber s insurance policy does not apply. - more....


If you want real ridesharing alternatives, veto those bills, Gov. Quinn

Crain's Chicago Business - (Chicago, Illinois)

By: Stephen Schlickman July 29, 2014
Today's Headlines 7/30/2014

If you've lived in Chicago for longer than a week, you have to shake your head when listening to the taxi industry's arguments against ridesharing.

The cab companies contend — with a straight face, mind you — that they offer safe and secure rides and serve every neighborhood in the city. In other words, that they're meeting consumers' rights and transportation needs.

Ridesharing services like Lyft and UberX are popular in Chicago and in nearly 100 other cities across the nation for good reason. Available via the touch of a smartphone button, affordable, and accessible day or night in neighborhoods typically underserved by taxis, ridesharing fulfills a market need that has existed for decades.

Ridesharing wouldn't exist if these companies were not responding to consumer demands for more convenient, affordable and reliable transportation choices that employ the latest user-friendly technology. But rather than adapt to provide better service and a more innovative product, the taxi monopoly, whose few medallion holders already benefit greatly from government involvement, has gone “Full Illinois” in an attempt to put the ridesharing services out of business by imposing overly burdensome regulations. - more....


City should ease up on entrepreneurs

The Post and Courier - (Charleston, South Carolina)

Jul 30 2014 12:01 am

Lately I have noticed a trend that is causing me to shake my not-so-bony fist in righteous indignation.

The city of Charleston has taken a turn to what looks to this casual observer like stiff opposition to entrepreneurs. The latest example is the proposed tightening of the hours for new bars and restaurants in a certain area (although an outcry from the business owners has been sufficient to cause the city to rethink the issue).

And now sting operations are being planned on private homeowners offering accommodations to tourists, rickshaw drivers for unlicensed tours and most recently, a new alternative to taxi cabs, UberX.

The bar owners took a risk with private funds and hard work to open businesses in a part of town that not long ago was not a safe place to walk at night. The homeowners are seeking to lessen their tax burden by opening their homes to visitors on a limited basis.

Rickshaw drivers? Come on, can't you make conversation with a passenger?

"Sports and weather, sir, that's all I can comment on. No sir, I cannot tell you where Rhett Butler's house is." - more....


Hail, Boston: The Uber vs Taxi Livery War Is Changing the Industry

Boston Magazine - (Boston, Massachusetts)

As Uber digs ever deeper into taxi territory, Boston’s simmering livery war comes to a boil.

By Luke O'Neil    | Boston Magazine    | August 2014

he city’s taxi battle is about to go into overdrive. In May, taxi drivers protested outside Uber Technologies’ headquarters near South Station, claiming that because Uber’s drivers weren’t as heavily regulated, they had distinct economic advantages. A couple of weeks later, the Cambridge License Commission held a hearing to determine whether the city should impose stricter regulations on the Uber-kinds (a decision was delayed pending further review). Then in June, a Boston labor lawyer filed a suit against Uber, claiming that it classifies its drivers as contract workers to avoid offering health benefits, and is illegally withholding a portion of their gratuities.

“You have one industry that is highly regulated that has established rates,” says Boston Taxi Drivers Association spokesperson Donna Blythe-Shaw, “and another industry that has saturated the streets of Boston with unlicensed, unregulated vehicles—illegal vehicles—that determine whatever the rate is based on the day and time or whatever they feel like.”

Whatever the rhetoric, who’s really being affected by the rise of app-based liveries? “At the end of the day, it’s the big taxi industry that’s slinging the mud,” Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett says. - more....


Colombia’s taxi drivers on strike, furious over arrival of ride-share company Uber

Colombia Reports - (Medellín, Colombia)

Jul 30, 2014 posted by Emily Dugdale

Fifteen thousand taxis drivers in Colombia’s second largest city, Medellin, went on strike to protest the arrival of ride-share company, Uber, as well as other forms of so-called “transportation piracy,” Colombian media reported on Monday.

The decision to protest the San Francisco-based mega ride-share company, along with other enterprises that undermine taxi services, has since spread to other areas of the country such as Bogota and Barranquilla.
The complaint: Uber could take 40% of customers

In mid-July, Colombia’s Ministry of Transportation reversed their earlier decision declaring Uber’s operations in Colombia as illegal. The ministry also announced that at the end of July a decree would be established that would regulate the uses and application of ride-sharing and specialty vehicle services such as Uber, according to Colombia’s Semana news magazine.

“Recognizing that that the community requires a different service, and for this reason Uber was born, there will be several different conditions of service and characteristics particular for these types of vehicles and drivers, and for this reason they will have a special rate,” said Deputy Transport Minister Nicolas Estupinan.

However, taxi drivers are furious with the decision to allow the ride-share company to operate in Colombia, citing an inevitable drop in work and the questionable legality of a taxi-like service that has a separate rate structure than their own.

“All we’re waiting on now is for Deputy Estupinan to call a meeting with our union, and formally report to us the decree that favors Uber,” said Free Taxi general manager Uldaric Pena.

“We are concerned because Uber uses a different rate system that that the the authorities put on us,” Pena continued. “We demand that there is a consensus.”

Pena estimated that Uber may take away as much as 40% of regular taxi work, Semana reported.

Uber uses a mobile app that connects users to drivers for hire and rides-haring services. Users send a text to request a ride, and the fee is payed by their credit card linked to the Uber app instead of cash.

Uber’s Colombian units will have a starting rate of around $1.50, with a minimum fare of $3, according to their website.

A ride to Bogota’s airport, for example, will have a flat rate of $20. - more....



Europe, Africa, and the Middle East

The driverless car edges closer to becoming a reality

Tech Republic - (Internet)

By Nick Heath in European Technology, July 30, 2014, 9:16 AM PST // @nickjheath

A look at the possible future of autonomous vehicles as the UK gives the go-ahead for trials of computer-controlled cars on public roads.

Self-driving cars are on their way, and while they might not be sitting in your yard in the near future, they may soon be your taxi ride.

Driverless cars will take to the road in three UK cities from January next year as part of government-funded trials of autonomous vehicles.

For Tim Edwards, principal engineer in the future transport technologies group for automotive consultancy group Mira, the announcement is a small but important step towards getting driverless cars on the roads.

"What it's about at this stage is moving from the controlled-test track and putting vehicles on the road. It's still going to be quite a long development before you start to see these cars really accessible to the public," he said.

Edwards doesn't think the next stop is everyone owning an self-driving car, but instead sees these computer-controlled vehicles beginning to crop up as local taxis - perhaps restricted to areas where there is infrastructure with which they can wirelessly communicate to guide them through the environment.

"It's very unlikely that you'll be able to go and buy your own driverless car in the next 10 years, but what I think you will experience in that timeframe is using some driverless vehicles for part of your journey. Maybe just a connection from an airport to a train station, for example. You will start to use driverless cars in that time as a transport system, rather than seek to replace your personal car with it."

Others believe that as the benefits of self-driving cars become more apparent they could help affect a shift from vehicle ownership to rental, particularly in metropolitan areas. The price of hiring these self-driving vehicles could be offset by new business models: by advertisers paying car rental companies for data on where and when people travelled, to build more detailed customer profiles; through brick-and-mortar businesses subsidising journeys to their premises and by travellers splitting costs through ridesharing services like Uber. If the cost of hiring autonomous vehicles drops far enough, then paying per journey may eventually seem preferable to the expense and hassle of running a car. - more....


Uber launches controversial taxi scheme in Amsterdam

Dutch News - (Holland)

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Taxi company Uber has launched its controversial UberPOP system in Amsterdam in which private citizens can offer taxi services to others for around half the price of a traditional taxi service.

The introduction of UberPOP in other cities has led to protests, with some drivers having their cars confiscated in Brussels. The system was banned in Hamburg although that was later overturned in court.

In the Netherlands, taxi drivers are required by law to have a diploma and licence. ‘The current law is old,’ Uber Nederland director Niek van Leeuwen told broadcaster Nos. ‘Later this year it is being re-evaluated and I expect there to be room for services like this then.’

Drivers who want to use their own cars to offer UberPOP services must be at least 21, follow a short training programme, have an approved and insured car and a certificate of good behaviour. - more....


Illegal cabbies make killing during long Eid holidays

Gulf News - (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

Unauthorised transport providers earn up to Dh5,000 a week

    BY Anjana Sankar, Senior Reporter
    Published: 16:00 July 30, 2014
    XPRESS

ABU DHABI: Despite regular crackdowns, illegal taxis are thriving in Abu Dhabi. Unmindful of the law, they are making the most of the extended Eid break, ferrying hundreds of passengers to neighbouring emirates and back.

“We make five times more than what we normally do in a week. Eid holidays give us the best business,” said Mohammad Haneef, who operates such illegal taxi.

Another illegal taxi driver, Mustafa Khadim, said he earns up to Dh5,000 a week during Eid. “It is a windfall for us. Most people plan to visit friends or family staying in far-off towns for Eid,” said Khadim.

Drivers can be seen brazenly calling out destinations and fares to woo passengers near the city bus terminal. Their cars, mostly with Dubai and Sharjah registration numbers, were parked nearby when XPRESS visited the place.

The industrial area of Mussfah is also a hub for illegal taxis, mainly because of the concentration of blue collar workers.

“It is risky. But this is how I earn a living,” said Haneef. “To avoid suspicion, we dress up well. Passengers are instructed to pretend they are our friends or roommates hitching a ride,” he added.

Taxis in Abu Dhabi are regulated by the Abu Dhabi Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars (TransAD), a government organisation established in 2006. Running an illegal taxi service is a punishable crime and can invite a fine of between Dh5,000 and Dh10,000 or a 30-day jail term, or both. - more....



Asia and the Pacific

Canberra Cabs system down across ACT

Date July 30, 2014

Ben Westcott
Reporter at The Canberra Times

Canberra Cabs suffered a system-wide failure on Wednesday and was without a website, a booking system and working phones for at least five hours.

Attempts to access the company's website failed as late as 8.30pm, with even the administration phone line not working until about 7.30pm.

Taxi drivers said Canberra Cabs had been unavailable since 2.30pm and drivers had no contact with the system for most of the afternoon.

The company's booking system and website were still not operational at the time of publication.

One Canberra Cabs driver said the system had been down for almost four hours, making it very difficult for driversto make money.

"The dispatching system is shut down ... all the computers are down, only the CabCharge is working,'' he said. ''We can take money only and we can't pick up a job from the system. - more....


Navi Mumabi cops urge for background checks of fleet taxi drivers

The Times of India - (Navi Mumbai, India)

Vijay Singh,TNN | Jul 29, 2014, 11.23 PM IST

NAVI MUMBAI: The involvement of fleet taxi drivers in two recent cases of crimes — a house break-in theft and a chain snatching case — has alarmed the police. They are alerting the taxi service companies to conduct background checks of all drivers employed by them.

Last week, the Vashi police arrested a couple — Aslam Shaikh (37) and Sonali Jatap (18) — for breaking into a flat in Vashi and stealing Rs 5,000, in a plot reminiscent of Bollywood blockbuster Bunty Aur Babli. Later, Akhtar Ibrahim Khan (25), driver of the fleet taxi was also nabbed for helping the couple flee.

In another incident last week, Nerul police held fleet taxi driver Teklal Mohanto (25), who had teamed up with a chain snatcher, Irfan Khan (26), to loot senior citizens and morning walkers in Nerul.

"Following incidents of chain snatching at knife point in the region, we noticed the presence of a particular fleet taxi around 50 metres away from the crime scene. After jotting down its registration number, we nabbed Mohanto and eventually the other robber," said Sangeeta Alphanso, senior inspector of Nerul police station. - more....



Ender Wiggin


Updated jul 30 @ 20:17 GMT

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