It was recently reported that two medallions recently sold for $1 million.Given that most people can’t afford that, how could they possibly go for so much?
Simple economics dictates that the supply needs to be increased since there are not enough medallions on the road. As I’ve said before, nothing is simple when it comes to New York and the licensing of those yellow vehicles hauling people around is no exception to that. The number of taxis is fixed at 13,237 and it’s been nearly the same since the system was introduced in the 1930’s. Back then, you could pay for the privilege to operate one for the nice tidy sum of $10. That’s not a typo, either! So in 80 years, the price has increased almost 100,000fold, just outpacing the cost of housing in New York City.
Much has been written lately about whether the system needs a much-needed change. There was a bill making its way through the state legislature authorizing the issuing of 1,500 more medallions for yellow cabs, along with the ability for livery car drivers to pick up street hails legally. Naturally, the yellow cab owners and drivers were opposed to this since it would eat away at business and drive down the cost of one of those pieces of aluminum pictured above. Looking deeper, the issue is whether the system needs that much of a shakeup at once.
Part of the reason I took this job was that because unlike so many positions these days, that of driver cannot be outsourced. You may have to call to India to troubleshoot your computer or buy imported clothes from Bangladesh in order to walk out of your place in the morning but when push comes to shove, where you live and how you navigate your way to work will have to be provided locally. This is also the reason why your health care increases exponentially too – offshoring will never affect certain industries and since I haven’t figured out where I’m landing vocationally yet, this is where I want to put my feet down (for now).
The demographics are in the driver’s favor too, as well. After losing population for decades, New York has actually started to grow again in recent years. The thought of going to an outer Borough seemed foreign to many drivers at one time but today, more people who live and work in Manhattan are calling areas like Riverdale, Jackson Heights, Greenpoint, and Bushwick home. Given that the MTA is taking forever to build Subway extensions up Second Ave and to the West Side of Manhattan and that the bus system leaves much to be desired, the need for street hails has only grown. Many people complaining about the nature of nightly and weekend Subway line closings do not work the traditional 9-to-5 workday and therefore, cannot fully rely on mass transit to get then around New York. For all the crap we put up with and endure in a given shift, almost none of it comes from the people who need to get home quickly and safely late at night from their jobs.
Going back to the issue at hand, I feel that the biggest roadblock to a cheaper fare *is* the number of medallions that are issued. The problem with a fixed number is that there are never enough during rush hour or periods of inclement weather and too many during the lean hours of the morning. Critics that don’t want any more yellow cabs clogging up the streets never point out that during the busy periods, that they are the high-occupancy vehicles that help make the City function and people get to where they need to be. If all of the single-passenger vehicles were forced off the streets or paid their fair share, the extra revenue could go a long way to more-efficient traffic control devices or mass transit that would help to free up precious room on the streets and sidewalks. Such a plan nearly went through a few years ago but until all agencies work together for a real congestion pricing solution, I’m afraid that the cost of a medallion will only continue to climb.
Hey, at least they’re stylish – right?