Baker, other councilors call for using federal Covid-19 relief money to help taxi medallion owners

Three city councilors say they city should use some of the money the city's getting from the feds to help out the owners of taxi medallions, whom they say have been decimated by unfair competition from Uber and Lyft.

Councilors Kendra Lara (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury), Frank Baker (Dorchester) and Michael Flaherty (at large) say taxi medallion owners are just the sort of small businesses federal ARPA money is meant to help - already hard hit by ride-share companies, they suffered even more with the pandemic. Not only have cab drivers lost business directly, the value of their medallions has plummeted.

Lara said "big tech's overreach" has hit families who had counted on their taxi medallions to support their families. Although the city does have some large medallion owners, she said that half the city's current 1,800 or so medallions have owners with four or fewer medallions.

A buy-back program would help these families "get out of the red and into the black," she said.

The councilors did not set a price tag on their proposed buyback. The proposal now goes to a council committee for study and a hearing.

Baker said Uber and Lyft did the classic monopoly thing of driving out the competition and then, once they're doing, start raising all their prices.

Flaherty said he hopes the measure could leave to the rebirth of the local taxi business. Flaherty, whose grandfather and father drove cabs, said there's no reason that Boston with its own airport and numerous hotels, can't have a flourishing, locally owned cab industry.

Flaherty added that he hopes that, in addition to any payments to local medallion owners, the council would look at reforming the BPD hackney division, which currently regulates cab drivers - but not Uber and Lyft drivers, who are covered under state law - and which he said has "onerous requirements."


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