Boston cabbies: Fire the regulator

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April 2, 2013, 7:57 pm
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(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston) - On the heels of a three-day Boston Globe Spotlight Team investigation documenting taxi drivers being systematically overcharged by cab owners and hit up for bribes by dispatchers, a cabbies’ union Tuesday urged Mayor Thomas M. Menino to fire a top regulator they say has failed to investigate and protect them.

Members of the United Steelworkers Boston Taxi Drivers Association said the abuses the Globe has found it has been complaining about for years. Tuesday they urged Menino to fire Mark Cohen, director of the Police Department’s Hackney Carriage Division, which regulates the city’s 1,825 licensed cabs and 6,200 licenses cabdrivers, who collectively drive 14 million fares each year.

"What’s going on in the system is corruption, and this is what the Hackney unit has to stop, right now," said Donna Blythe-Shaw of the Steelworkers.

Arthur Rose, who’s been driving a cab in Boston since 1973, said he has gone repeatedly to the police with evidence of being overcharged by companies he rented cabs from, even with a lawyer, without any result.

"Every single driver who has come forward has lost their job, and the police just say: Oh, well … For Mr. Cohen or any of them to say they know nothing about overcharging is completely erroneous," Rose said.

Menino and Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis are not commenting on the cabbies’ call for Cohen’s firing, or their push for a new civilian taxi-regulation commission that would include representatives of drivers.

Tuesday, Menino’s office said the mayor is calling for a 60-day review of the industry, addressing questions and allegations raised in the Globe series, including whether the Hackney Division needs new leadership or should be transferred out of the Police Department. Menino’s office said the review will also look at how new electronic smartphone taxi services like Uber should be regulated and whether the city needs to expand beyond 1,825 licensed cabs.

With videographer Kevin Krisak

Tags: Boston, Peter Howe, Thomas Menino, Ed Davis, Boston taxi cab industry, Boston Globe Spotlight Team, United Steelworkers Boston Taxi Drivers Association, Mark Cohen, Boston Police Hackney Carriage Division
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