Staples and a Universal New York City Taxi Cab App

Why does the government resist innovation?

staples-featAs a capitalist (and a sane person), it is readily apparent that on issues of performance, private-sector businesses will outperform the government.  Similarly, if I wanted work done in a timely and efficient manner, as an entrepreneur, I would choose private sector employees over government-backed union employees.

Recently, a national controversy has erupted with a dispute between big-box retailer Staples, which has started offering some simple postal supply services for sale. While that may sound like the normal course of business for a company already selling envelopes and packages, the problem is that the American Postal Workers Union objects.

Now, nationwide we see Staples stores, which are staffed with non-union employees, being protested against. Rather than considering what is best for the American public, what the American Postal Workers Union is concerned about is that their employees are losing money. They of course do not address the fact that the United States Postal Service is losing tens of millions of dollars annually and service is regularly being cut. Americans throughout the country are complaining about postal service. While this very vocal, politically connected labor union is well-moneyed and well-connected, all that should matter is what is best for the consumer. And that answer is of course obvious: Privage enterprise is better than government-backed unions.  Consumers can choose not to buy postal services at Staples - or they can. But can anyone possibly think that Americans aren't better suited here by shopping as they please?

Another scenario entirely exists in New York City, where there is already a major industry with what is essentially a public-private partnership. In New York City, taxi medallions are 7-figure investments. Owned largely by immigrants, the city’s taxi fleet consists of hard-working people who are on the streets daily, working hard to provide for their families.  It is a highly-regulated industry, whereby NYC's Taxi & Limousine commission regulates the rules and regulations of this industry which serves millions of people.

Against that backdrop, taxi apps are affecting both medallion owners and consumers in a major way.  While the convenience factor is way up, we are seeing regular "price-surging" -- whenever it rains, whenever there is high-traffic, New Yorkers have no choice but to pay prices which are often double or triple what the market usually is priced at.  One wonders why there is no universal New York City taxi app which medallion owners can adapt, and the traditional, New York City taxi fleets will be able to survive, rather than die a slow death and lose the millions they have invested in taxis because the regulated industry they are in hasn’t yet adapted to technology. And they may see the millions they already invested lost.

Taxis take 175,000,000 trips a year, and each trip generates $0.50 in tax revenue for the city and state, for a total of at least $87,500,000 in MTA Taxes. Medallions also pay $1,000 per medallion per year for the joy of being able to use city roads. The most recent taxi auction saw the city raising $226,739,011.98 for coffers by auctioning off 200 mini-fleet wheelchair accessible medallions. These auctions happen regularly, and medallions cost in excess of $1 million dollars – income the city needs.

While medallions are outrageously expensive, one can expect to see the prices of medallions “surge” in the other direction of Uber if a universal app isn’t adopted – which can protect New Yorkers from price surging, and much more.  

One may also wonder with taxi apps exploding, where is the union to protect their drivers? The National Taxi Workers Alliance (NTWA), who recently became the fifty-seventh affiliate of the AFL-CIO, is headed by a Marxist, Bhairavi Desai. She regularly speaks and is a member of the Brecht Forum, an independent Marxist center in New York City - and could spend her time better pressuring NYC to do something which can ensure that taxis enter the 21st century – rather than furthering Marxism.

I, Ronn Torossian, and many others realize that New Yorkers no longer want to wait in the rain and whistle for a yellow cab, and it is inevitable that taxis adopt apps. If they do not, one can expect to see the city and state lose significant tax dollars – and dig deeper into New Yorkers' pockets.

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