Monday, July 6, 2009

Taxicabs and medallions

Found on Carpe Diem and traced back to its source at The Washington Examiner:
The soaring number of taxicab operators in D.C. -- roughly 8,000, most of whom own their own cars -- is a "pressing and urgent problem," Graham said. There are more licensed drivers in D.C. per capita than any place in the world, he said, and new applicants continue to take the required class, giving them access to the driver exam administered by the D.C. Taxicab Commission. A glut of drivers could jeopardize the chances of any cabbies making an adequate living, Graham has said.
New York City's medallion system, established in 1937 during the Great Depression in response to a ballooning number of unregulated taxis, artificially capped the number of cabs on the road, to what is now about 13,000.

The medallion program, however, made it very difficult for the average New Yorker to join the industry as an owner: The May 2009 price for an individual medallion, those held by owner-operators, was $568,000. The cost of a corporate medallion was $744,000.

D.C. Taxicab Commissioner A. Cornelius Baker said during a recent meeting that the city must move "toward a regulated taxi force" and create a system "that sustains our drivers and also creates wealth for them in the long term."

When the ordinary workings of a competitive market are seen as a problem, what chance does capitalism have? (The New York medallion program was being used as an example of the problems of regulation forty years ago when I was a student. It is amazing that other cities want to emulate it.)

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