Transportation Policy

The New York Times Editorial Page Gets Poetic About Taxis Which are Now Worth More Than Gold


In strangely intro-to-creative-writing fashion, today's New York Times editorial page spent 250-odd words celebrating the New York experience that is the taxi ride. "Reverie in Yellow" begins thusly:

Most New Yorkers depend on public transportation. And when it is suspended — as it was during Hurricane Irene — we realize just how much we need it. But there are times when, if you can afford it, only a taxi will do. You raise your arm, a cab pulls over, and off you go. Sometimes it occurs to you that if you raised an arm at the curb on most of the streets in America, nothing would happen. Someone might wave, but that's about it.

From there it devolves into further fawning over the city atmosphere. Much to the point of actual news is's report on Wednesday that New York City taxi medallions are now worth more than gold.

The cost of a New York City taxicab license has increased more than 1,000 percent since 1980. The individual 'medallion'—the transferable aluminum plate found on the hood of all cabs—sold for $678,000 in July, according to data compiled from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, up from $2,500 in 1947.

New York taxi medallion prices rose about eight percent annually between 1980 and 2011, outpacing inflation, gold, oil, and home prices. 

Medallions are clearly worth it to the cabbies who manage to acquire them, but the list of regulations and terms dealing with how one becomes and keeps a New York City taxi medallion is long indeed.

The Times is pleased at the apparently unique ability of New Yorkers to raise their arm and have a car appear, but there's a whole bureaucratic, tightly-controlled market behind that gesture. recently did a piece on attempts by Washington D.C. politicians to fix what isn't broken and enact a medallion system in the city.

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  1. You raise your arm, a cab pulls over, and off you go. Sometimes it occurs to you that if you raised an arm at the curb on most of the streets in America, nothing would happen.

    Getting from place to place! How the fuck does it work?

  2. At first, you merely glance out the window and then turn back to your own concerns. But after a block or two, the window demands all your attention. It is like snorkeling through a crowded coral reef. So many colorful creatures getting on with their living, making their way, such elaborate structures, such curious relationships to observe.

    Is it any wonder why movie monsters and natural disasters invariably attack New York City?

  3. In strangely intro-to-creative-writing fashion, today’s New York Times editorial page spent 250-odd words celebrating the New York experience that is the taxi ride.

    I’m reminded of a Spy Magazine headline: “Those Tykes Can Type!”

  4. You don’t want just anyone driving you to Point B. That would be chaos.

    I marvel at this unnecessary regulatory environment cities let de facto monopolists foist upon them.

  5. “I’m not really a cab driver. I’m just waiting for something better to come along. You know, like death.”

    1. Is that DeNiro (the flick with Hinckley’s honey) or from Taxi?

  6. “You raise your arm, a cab pulls over, and off you go. Sometimes it occurs to you that if you raised an arm at the curb on most of the streets in America, nothing would happen.”

    That’s because, to portect the local taxi and tax cartels, you’ll get arrested for conducting commerce without a license.

  7. It’s the same thing with liquor licenses. A restaurant that I frequent when I’m in NJ had to pay $650,000 for theirs.

  8. Any idea how long it takes to net $678,000 from a taxi?

    1. in new york, which probably earns $10 every 30 min, which roughly equates to $180k if the companies run the taxis 24/7, $120k for 16 hour, between 4-6 years.

  9. Dude does make a LOT of sense when you think about it.

  10. I love mocking stupid crap in the NYT as much as the next person, but it is nice being in a city where you can hail a fucking cab. In most neighborhoods/times of day in Seattle, you have to call and they will take up to 15 minutes to get there. And god help you if you don’t have a physical address to give them. (“It is pouring rain and I am at the corner of 2nd and Wall with a ton of stuff to carry, can’t you just come to the intersection?” “No.”) And I do like the view of NYC from a cab.

    1. I’m guessing having to pay over half a million dollars for a medallion has very little to do with the abundance of cabs in NYC.

      1. I’m guessing you have no idea how real markets are established by the City-State.

  11. Most usage panels for the leading English-language dictionaries abhor the use of “thusly,” which came into being (some say) in the mid-1800s as a way of making fun of poseurs … like those who say, “The Duchess invited John and I to supper” because they think it makes them sound smart. “Thus” is an adverb, too, so there’s no need to add “-ly” to it. Sorry I didn’t comment on anything more substantive … but as I glance through the other comments, I see there is no such requirement anyway! Good!

  12. NewYorkTimes Newsflash: New Yorkers Love New York.

    1. wylie|9.2.11 @ 7:30PM|#
      NewYorkTimes Newsflash: New Yorkers Love New York.

      No, many hate it. But we live here and hate it. Its that we hate outsiders who hate on it even more, because they don’t suffer along with us. Or that sometimes they genuinely don’t have the first fucking clue how bad things are (or have been), or just blow some niggling things out of proportion while ignoring the bigger, obvious-bad (THE MTA, THE PORT AUTHORITY)… yadda yadda yadda. This place sucks in many ways, but almost never the way non NY’rs think it sucks.

      Its sort of like how veterans sometimes hate war-cheerleaders. AND war protesters. Both. The idea being, “none of you actually deal with this shit, but pass judgement at a distance… the only people’s opinion who matters is us. And you NEVER FUCKING ASK US. So eat a dick, all of you”.

      something like that. Yeah, cab medallions are fucked up. Next story = how about the licenses for hot dog wagons outside the Met? I think those cracked a million$ a while ago.

      “Shit in NYC is expensive because of shitty regulation! ”

      In related news…. Sky Blue! Water Wet! Californians Oblivious and Narcissistic! Mexicans Shorter on Average! etc.

      Really, the key point of this news story is that the NYT (which I pronounce ‘nut’) sucks so bad as a news source because they really don’t ever do any kind of decent job as a ‘local’ paper. They’re so fucking busy being the ‘paper of record’ that they treat NYC issues (like bad schools, corrupt authorities, etc) like an afterthought, and generally end up apologizing for the very institutions that cause all our problems… or at least giving them cover.

      The NYT is more a paper for suburbanite liberals. Not city people.

      There was a great cartoon joke once about the NYT sunday magazine… like, a working class family in the Bronx is eating breakfast, and the husbad goes, ‘honey there’s a fantastic article here about ways to make organic mango chutney… and maybe we should consider Tahiti for a vacation this year, there’s such a nice travelogue… and have you seen the ad for Breguet timepieces? Perhaps I should consider retiring the Rolex…?”

      1. I always used to love in the old ads for subscriptions to the NYT when the daughter piped in about how she loves reading the Sunday Times “to find out what’s going on on the web”. Cause what kind of person would just go to their computer and check the actual web to find that information?

  13. bureaucratic, tightly-controlled market

    What other markets are there, really? The State is essential to the capitalist agora within the City-State.

    Besides, I think all the Fibertardian responses to White Indian would be appropriate here:

    ? People with better weapons and tactics won, and you lost. Deal with it.

    ? If you don’t like how our market system works, even if imperfect, then get your ass to a third world country. Love it or leave it.

    ? If we don’t have rules about property, then other people will invade hit you on the head with a club and take your taxi passengers and their wives.

    Turnabout is fair play, right?

    1. no, but you’re not a sincere debater about anything in the first place, so the better question with your straw-man positions is, “Why bother”?

      Why dont you stop bear-baiting and defend the idea of enormous market barriers to individuals participating in NYC’s cab-regulation scheme?

      You think its a “good thing”? please clarify. If all you’re here for is to play ‘gotcha’, that’s nice and all, but ultimately useless. Tell me why cab medallions should cost a million bucks in the very near future.

  14. 1. It’s not my position that medallions should cost so much. Sorry, that wasn’t even a strawman; it’s a damn lie.

    2. That medallions cost so much can be defended using Glibertarian apologies of the agricultural City-State (civilization,) which ya’ll think is a “good thing.”

    Guess what, that’s the way that “good thing” works.

    Civilization doesn’t work according to Libertarian science fiction novel fantasy assumptions. The world will never work according to your cargo cult plan of salvation.

    1. Without medallions, the city would be a chaos-system of free-market cabbies, making up their rates like extortionist parasites, using cheap foreign labor behind the wheels of oil-leaking time-bombs?

      I mean, that state intervention *really* helps things work out better than if it simply did nothing…?

  15. Goddamn I hate the NY attitude.

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