The real scandal, however, is not just that regulators turned a blind eye to predatory lending, but how the Taxi and Limousine Commission, as well as elected officials, played a pivotal role in taxis’
demise. And it was no accident.
In 2010, the TLC had in hand an internal report predicting the collapse of the lending market because loans were unsustainable. But the agency—even though it knew how fragile the situation was—ignored its own rules, flooded the streets with additional vehicles and streamlined the processing of new drivers, cars and bases competing with taxis.
Lest we forget, the TLC—according to former Chairman Chris Lynn—has the final say over all medallion transactions, and Joshi was its general counsel when the 2014 minimum auction bid of
$850,000 for a medallion was established.
Some examples stand out. In April, 2017, the TLC held a hearing on industry economics that went on for six hours with medallion owners telling TLC commissioners how horrific their lives had become.
Yet all that came out of it was an option for tipping of app drivers.
The following year, amid owner and driver suicides, the willfully blind TLC commissioned a study of driver income. Yet the academics tasked with the study were explicitly told to exclude the yellow-cab industry and to not consider a cap on for-hire vehicles. The study led the city to establish a minimum wage for drivers of for-hire vehicles.
Perhaps the most egregious display of favoritism was how the mayor and the City Council mishandled Uber and Lyft’s resistance to meeting the wheelchair-accessibility requirements mandated for taxis. When push came to shove, the city caved and allowed a company-sponsored plan with no accessible-vehicle mandate.
The tragic bankruptcies and foreclosures being highlighted today were unknown prior to the influx of Ubers. The Ubers’ catalytic role, and the subsequent shameful enabling of the city, is unmistakable.
In 1971 taxis were making 500,000 daily trips. Today they are doing 250,000 while the invaders are doing 769,000. Uber itself has lost billions of dollars undercutting competitors through predatory pricing to capture market share. This cannot be airbrushed out of the picture.
The public sector needs to be held to account for its part in the threatened demise of taxis and the wanton harm done to thousands of defrauded immigrants who came to this country in search of a better life.