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NYC Taxi Agency Says Cabs Will Get GPS Technology

August 14, 2007

NEW YORK – New York City taxi officials said that a new GPS system and other technology upgrades opposed by cab drivers will be installed and used as planned in coming months, despite a threatened strike by some cabbies, according to the Web site Cabbies have said they may go on strike in September and plan to set a strike date in mid-August, based primarily on worries that the GPS technology invades their privacy. They also oppose paying costs of the installations and a five percent credit-card transaction fee that results from installing credit-card payment technology.

However, a city taxi spokesman said that the technology is already installed in about 1,000 of 13,000 cabs, and all of the cab-license owners have picked one of four contractors to do the installations between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31.

Allan Fromberg, a spokesman for the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission, noted that GPS is “only the smallest component” of the new systems, which also provide credit-card payments, interactive electronic maps for passengers, two-way messaging systems, entertainment and music, and electronic trip sheets so drivers don’t need to use pen and paper. The upgrades were approved in 2004 when a 26-percent fare increase was imposed.

But the New York Taxi Workers Alliance’s Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said the city “bullied” the license owners into meeting an Aug. 1 deadline to pick a technology contractor to provide the installations. If they did not meet the deadline, they faced a fine, she said. Desai would not comment on when a strike might occur, and Fromberg would not comment on the city’s possible response to a strike, according to

The systems cost $1,300 and up for installations. A five-percent credit card transaction fee must be paid by the drivers. But the commission said the innovations will lessen burdens on drivers, and in other cities have resulted in increased tips. In addition, fares went up in 2004 in part to help subsidize the technology improvements, according to a statement from commission officials.

About 75 percent of the taxi licenses are owned by corporations that hire drivers to work for them, while about 25 percent are owned by owner-operators, who might do all the driving or have a small crew of drivers.

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