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Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Share a Cab"














Courtesy of  www.yellowcabnyc.com
It’s been a couple of months that the shared-cab program (Share a Cab) by the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) has changed the public ridership face of uptown NYC. The idea of two or more people –strangers, sharing a taxi and paying a discounted fare seems to be very efficient and beneficial.

On the other hand, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has proposed and approved new budget cuts and as a result many service cuts –such as reduced subway frequencies, as well as elimination of student metro cards and some bus/subway lines. This is in addition to the income reductions of the higher level management positions, in order to fight with the current financial crises. It’s a practical solution for such situation.




However, let’s begin the short journey of this week’s commentary from a different starting point: As most would agree, we have two major socioeconomic groups in our society: the rich and the poor.
The rich are the ones living in uptowns and downtowns (city centers) in luxury housing, condos with magnificent views, maid services, nice cars, access to private schools, out of state colleges, salary jobs, paid vacations, organic food, gym memberships, etc. How do people from this category, move around in town? Personal cars and/or taxis –that’s right, CABS.
Now, the second category which literally is considered as ‘the second/third class’, is the poor: commuting to the city center for work early in the morning, while living in public housing (not that there are many left), or in the suburbs/rural areas, multiple households in small affordable spaces, view to the neighbor’s bedroom window, no private transportation means, may be able to afford public schools and local colleges, hourly non-secure jobs, 12 hour shifts, cheap fast-foods, discounted grocery, local and community sport teams, etc. How do these people commute to city centers for work and/or school? Buses, subways, trains, etc. –PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. 


As I wrote on January 6th earlier this year, the cab-sharing program promotes social interaction in public spaces, increases space efficiency for both pedestrians and automobiles, and has a cost benefit to the “users”. Which is the whole point of this brilliant idea, right?!
All of our brilliant and novel ideas for our cities are claimed to enhance the life and convenience of the "users" (or city-dwellers). But if we take a closer look we can clearly see that this “social enhancement” is done to the cost of social injustice and inequity. Which group of “users” are we particularly planning and designing for?

In a nutshell, with all the budget and service cuts in public transportation and the implementation of shared cabs it is the poor who will continue to suffer as users, and the rich continue to become “richer”. It is the poor who is riding the busses and subways to commute from the suburbs to the city center for work every day. Especially since they have been, and continue to be, displaced from the inner city and public housings to the suburbs and rural areas; due to the amazing effort of private developers (money + power) with the cooperation of the City (authority) for replacing public housing with so-called "essential luxury housing".
The wheels of the city are running by this socioeconomic group of the society, “the working class”: a combination of immigrants and/or groups of color in lower income communities that have no other choice but using the buses and subways to get to the city center every day and SERVE "the better half". On the other hand, it is the 'uptowners and rich' who get the most benefits and advantages of these brilliant ideas made by the “People in Power”. They don’t need to worry about the public transportation budget and as a result service cuts, because they don’t use mass transit. Perhaps they are too special to ride with “the other half” on the same bus and subway. All they need to be thinking about is the cheaper exciting or frightening new experience of sharing their sacred cab space with another rich stranger. “But hey, it’s totally worth a shot, I get to ride a cab for a lot less than what I normally pay”.

....why do the “People in Power” usually end up having “polluting jobs”?!



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