One thing that I would like to see discussed in the 2013 state transportation bill is taxi reform. More, better and cheaper taxis would be a great way to help ease some of the growth fears in PA’s cities. If taxis were more convenient, more affordable and more plentiful, more city dwellers would feel comfortable going car-free, and there would be less political pressure on city politicians to adopt auto-oriented zoning and planning policies.
This is an issue where we could really use the perspective of some Republican representatives from cities, since the solution is right there in the deregulation playbook. The problem in Philly, for example, is that the number of taxi medallions is capped by the state legislature at 1600 medallions.
The city’s population has been growing in recent years, but the number of medallions has stayed the same, so in the future there will be fewer and fewer cabs per person. Fewer cabs per person will mean upward pressure on fares and a harder time getting a taxi.
Back in July, Tom Corbett signed Act 119, which authorized the sale of 15 new medallions a year for the next 10 years. The medallions can only be used for wheelchair-accessible cabs.
That’s still far too few medallions. Personally I’d be for scrapping the medallion system entirely and letting the number of cabs be determined by how much demand there is for cabs. But if we have to have a medallion system, then rather than an arbitrary number like 1600, we should have a population-based formula.
The state could set a target number of n cabs/person in each County, and then each year print the number of medallions needed to hit the target.
To have 12 cabs per 1000 people like Washington DC, for instance, Philly needs about 18,000 medallions – far higher than the current cap of 1600. Medallion owners – who make money as rents on the scarce number of medallions increase – would hate this naturally, but it would be a great deal for taxi riders.
Soaking medallion owners by switching to a population-based formula would be a very cheap way to increase mobility in PA’s cities, reduce transportation costs, reduce the need for car ownership, and promote smarter pro-growth land use policies.