Monday, September 25, 2006

random gambling thought

It would be an easy prognostication to say that there will soon be a cottage industry studying the impacts of gambling in Pittsburgh...whenever it arrives that is. Most think about the big impacts that we expect are coming: jobs, taxes, etc.. but there are going to be a host of smaller impacts that arise that have not even been contemplated as yet.

For example I was reading this story in the Philadelphia inquirer about the impact of gambling in Chester, PA and the very last line got me thinking. Their mayor implies that the the city has recently regained a local taxi service that is attributed to the local gambling industry.

Whether that is true or not, it got me wondering: what will the impact of gambling be on local taxi service here. Taxi service has always been a little peculiar here. Unlike many large cities, it is nearly impossible to hail a cab and taxi stands are limited to only a few locations. The project to start a taxi service you can hail from the street seems to have ended long ago for the most part. Overall I am sure we have fewer cabs per capita than most other large cities with chronic complaints about limited service in some neighborhoods. The association of jitneys, which are essentially unlicensed taxis, with Pittsburgh is not accidental.

A local gambling industry will certainly induce a new level and type of demand for taxi service. Just wondering whether what that will mean for taxi service in general. Will it induce greater service that will provide spillover benefits to local residents, or will it soak up the limited taxi service there is now, leaving local users with even less service?

I realized I did not even know what taxi service is around these days. I checked the phone book and supposedly People's Cab is still around. I swear I have not seen a people's taxi in years or decades. What other taxi services are in town besides the ubiquitous Yellow Cab?

9 Comments:

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I seem to recall that Pennsylvania has set some pretty high regulatory hurdles to starting a taxi company, particularly in a city that already has one. My faulty memory tells me that you have to prove that the area in question is underserved, and the existing taxi company gets to respond.

Monday, September 25, 2006 1:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's pretty easy to get one downtown - they queue at the major hotels. After a show or a game, you just have to walk a few blocks to the nearest hotel.

You just can't count on making a reservation during a peak time (like saturday night at 1am.)

Another great example of where we sometimes hold ourselves up to ideal standards. Pittsburgh obviously doesn't have the kind of taxi service that New York has, but I've also been to other cities (Houston comes to mind) where the service didn't seem much better.

Monday, September 25, 2006 5:31:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Interesting concept and highly plausible. If the casino ends up near the center of town it would be a potential booster of Taxi service.

I think it's pretty self explanatory that great taxi cities have to be fairly dense and that is why NY is the ultimate cab town. If a cabbie picks up a fair at 28th and madison going to say sixth and 14th. He will likely not have any time finding his next fair. Trolling through Manhattan he can keep a full cab most of the time because there is such a high continuous flow of dense activity throughout most areas. Yellows usually hate to take fairs outside of the dense areas of town mainly because they are likely going to drive an empty cab back into the city.

You can see that as density and activity has risen in Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn that cabs are around a lot.

So in the case of Pittsburgh, placing more residents in the downtown and in the strip should help to boost the cab business.
Cabs could become a huge part of the transit sysem here if density rises. ( yet anther reason to make parking more expensive and scarce.)

Monday, September 25, 2006 11:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be a little suspicious of any public official claiming spin-off ventures as a result of gambling.

When I buy a raffle ticket at my local church parish, I do so knowing that most everyone will lose, the parish will make money on the venture, and that the "take" will go to a good cause. I start from the perspective that I'm making a contribution.


Who gets the profits here? It would seem to me that the "take" goes out of the area, resulting in a net loss of regional wealth. The city, however, gets a percentage of the profits before they leave the area, in exchange for allowing the transfer of wealth.

Is this the next stage of decline management being called economic development, after building a prison?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 9:43:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Sure, the PUC regulates taxi service but I really can’t believe that relative differences in regulation account for any Pittsburgh peculiarities. In NYC the number of medallions is fixed, which is akin to regulators blocking all new taxi supply from entering the market. Last I heard the cost to buy a medalion from someone is a cost of well over a half million … which allows only a single cab to operate. No I am not implying NYC and Pgh taxi markets are comparable, but the implied premise is that the PUC is responsible for limiting supply which I am not sure is true.

As for service being ok. I have met more than a few visitors to town whose main memories include how difficult it was to get a cab downtown.. but I really am not talking about downtown. In many neighborhoods the wait to get a cab can be measured in hours. Many people rely on cab service for some essential travel and are often left hanging.

Do those two comments seem contradictory. Not really. Is there an overall lack of supply of taxi’s.. not really. See the long line of taxi’s waiting for fares at the airport. but a lack of supply in some areas.. you bet. One could argue that the problem with taxi service was a lack of regulation… or a lack of enforcement. As a utility you would think some minimal level of service in all areas would be written into the license agreements.. and indeed it is I believe. The problem is that the drivers find it so much more lucrative to do airport runs they do not go out of their way to do airport runs to the detriment of other runs.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 2:42:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Cabbies are not running a charity, they are going to follow demand. Right now the back and forth to the Airport is the run most likely to keep a full cab.

This is the classic situation in NY. Cabbies generally have hated to leave Manhattan other than for runs to the Airports. The main reason for this is because of the awsome market there of people who live, work, visit and shop there.
So, logically as more people live closer in, the cab business will grow.

Let's get some NY cabbies in here. I used to know a bunch, but i have lost touch.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 3:58:00 PM  
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Geesh Louise. I though we are all about of hard core PIT-ers. Ever hear of a Jitney?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 4:06:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

complaints about city cab service go way back to when density in the city was far higher than it is today.. thus I am not sure why higher density in itself would alter the situation much.

but I suppose I am responsible for this digressing away from my main question which I meant to be about gambling. How about this slightly different question: I think yellow cab is a private company so its nearly impossible to know its current value.. but is the prospect of gambling increasing its value.. or the value of the few other licensed taxi companies in town. or will gambling induced demand allow for an argument for new taxi companies to be licensed?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 4:33:00 PM  
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Looking at a map of Chester, PA. I think it is a special case, and not really applicable to our case of a casino in dahn-tahn PIT. Chester is just a little outside of the core downtown of PHI. Cut off by the airport, and highways. Kinda of a forgotten urban carbuncle.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 6:17:00 PM  

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