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Marcus Moore Restorations

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From the Publisher's Desk...

THE MAYOR’S TAXI METER DECISION NEEDS TO BE ALTERED BY THE CITY COUNCIL

When we first weighed in on the question of whether the Mayor was going to cave in to a micro-managing U.S. Senator, a one-time Detroit city councilman named Carl Levin, and force taxi meters on us here we concluded our commentary by urging that the Mayor opt for the so-called GPS, or zone, meters instead of traditional time and distance meters. We will not repeat our discussion about why we favor the GPS variety over the traditional; readers can go back to our editorial of three months ago and see for themselves. (“From the Publisher’s Desk,” September 2007, page 2; available in the Current 7 back Issues Archive at www.intowner.com.)

However, we feel compelled to re-visit this issue, especially since the public’s attention has been substantially redirected to the monstrous looting of the city’s treasury by unscrupulous employees abetted by incompetent senior management and, arguably, inattentive city council scrutiny. Furthermore, since the time we wrote that editorial we had an opportunity to observe the Mayor’s actions leading up to his announcement that, in retrospect, have raised serious issues about his candor with respect to the process by which he reached his decision.

What has singularly struck us as almost bizarre — certainly very troubling and making us wonder if we can truly trust the Mayor’s analyses and decision-making processes (not just with respect to taxi meters but, possibly, with respect to a whole host of issues) — was how just 24 hours prior to his announcement he was being videoed by a TV camera crew, with reporter in tow, as he drove around in one of the Yellow Cab Company’s experimentally-outfitted cabs that had been testing these meters for many months.

This ride-around video was accompanied by clear audio which revealed the Mayor’s seeming enthusiastic approval of the GPS meter technology. We personally watched the report unfold on the local news that evening. There was no question that the Mayor appeared highly impressed; he asked intelligent questions about its working and its acceptance among drivers and passengers and seemed impressed with the answers.

And yet, the very next day as he stood on a street corner far from downtown to make his announcement, something very peculiar transpired. In his remarks justifying his decision to opt for time and distance meters he never one even hinted that there was another option – the very alternative that less than 24 hours earlier he was heard and seen on local TV news gushing over! What gives? He did not even inform the public as to his reason for rejecting the GPS meter technology. technology, by the way, which during extensive testing proved itself to be terrific for both drivers and passengers. We simply cannot fathom how it is that acted as if GPS meters don’t even exist.

(That location where he made his announcement by the way, seems to have been selected more for theatrical purposes than for clarifying his rationale. We say this because that was where four zones all converge — one for each corner — though he did not reveal that it was only one of three such locations and that all three are in far reaches of the city where out-of-towners do not go so cannot be “victimized” by zone border confusion, something about which hardly confuses the neighborhood residents themselves. But we digress.)

It was just a few weeks after his announcement that we had an opportunity to personally experience the wonder of these GPS meters that produce clear and accurate receipts. We were picked up in Chinatown for a ride within Zone 1 and were so impressed with how the meter worked and the format of the receipt we wondered how it could be that the Mayor or anyone of the riding public could possibly favor the traditional time and distance meter over the GPS alternative?

(The image of the noted receipt which is reproduced in the print edition but not shown here, can be viewed in the PDF file version available by clicking the link for the archive on the website.)]

With the GPS meter there can be no doubt which zone the trip started in and which one it ended in, no doubt as to the accuracy of various mandated surcharges, including, with respect to the rush hour charges, no question at what moment in time one is no longer supposed to be charged them. What the receipt show is precisely what the taxi regulations mandate and so no passenger will ever be cheated or believe they may have been cheated. And, since this seemed to be the most often stated reason for people wanting meters, with the GPS alternative, those arguments become totally moot.

What’s there not to like?

But now, unless the city council exercises its authority, under the Mayor’s plan we will not only have the highest “drop” rate (what is charged when entering a cab) in the nation, but we will also be subject to something not found anywhere else — a surcharge when the cab moves at less than 10 miles per hour; how many drivers might watch their speedometers carefully during rush hour (when that surcharge is in effect) to stay just under 10 mph even though they might be able to move a little faster than 10 mph? And, of course, the traditional meters do nothing to assure passengers that they won’t be taken around the mulberry bush which would mean yet higher charges.

It’s now up to the city council to put things right: keep the zone system but tell the Mayor to change his order and to go with the GPS meters.