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Readers respond to the Globe’s ‘Driven to the Edge’ series

Edward Tutunjian's taxi garage on Kilmarnock Street in Boston.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Edward Tutunjian's taxi garage on Kilmarnock Street in Boston.

Selected commentary from readers on BostonGlobe.com regarding the Globe’s Spotlight series, “Driven to the Edge,” which investigates the city’s $1 billion taxi industry.

Day 1 For Boston cabbies, a losing battle against the numbers

Why is any of this information a surprise. Anything that is subject to regulations by government officials has similar issues. Just think about the number of liquor licenses, lottery licenses, and numerous other licensing boards that exist. They all fall into the category of legalized tipping. Something that can be a challenge for Mayor Tom Menino in his last days. twoj 03/31/2013 08:32 AM

I drove a cab for many years in Boston. This article is accurate and I applaud the Globe for being willing to take this on. The drivers are treated this way because anyone can drive a car and the hackney license is relatively easy to acquire. There is no job security for a driver. Let anyone try driving a cab for a week and see how you feel. 12 hours is a short shift. But this is what happens when the owners can lease the cabs and wash their hands of any commitment to the drivers who are out on the street serving the public. Regulatory agencies look the other way because the drivers have no political or economic clout. Thank you for this investigative journalism. TBNS 03/31/2013 08:45 AM

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I am a physician now. But back in 1975 while a senior in college (age 21) I drove a Red Cab in Brookline for several months. I enjoed it but even then I had to pay a bribe evry night to the “Jimmy Fund’. Jimmy was the guy who filled our gas tanks for the company at shift end. If you didnt pay him a bribe you didnt get gas , You could sit all night and waste time or pay. I paid. It was my first taste of real life bribery . This stuff will always go on when there is a cash business with little regulation. obsidianom 03/31/2013 09:00 AM

Another great, “truth to power”, article by the Globe. The media has been loaded with praise for Menino but facts like these reveal the reality; there is no interest in running this city better but for the benefits that might accrue to city workers or politicians. Cab drivers being ripped off for decades? Who cares? So much for caring about the “little guy” we hear is SO critical to Democrat politicians in this city and state. The solution to the problem is simple however; all the city needs to do is start selling medallions at $100,000 (or some similar, rational, price that brings about a reasonable balance between taxi supply and demand) and keep selling them until all buyers are satisfied at that price. Then be willing to by medallions at $100,000 as well in order to tighten supply when/if supply falls off. I’m not holding my breath untill ANY city takes such a rational, economic, step as the bribes, kickbacks and campaign funding is all too juicy for anyone in such a system to give up (from the mayor down to the cabbie manager). But really, it is a simple proposition when you actually try and bring the rationality of market pricing strategies to bear; no artificially high profit, no room for bribery (at any level). jjag 03/31/2013 09:35 AM

Let’s get a few things clear here. There should be a bit more disclosure in this article. Most of the accusations - true or not - orginate from Donna Shaw who is quoted in the story but is working actively to organize drivers and expand her union (apparently it’s not right to pay tribute to cab owners but forcing drivers to pay dues to union honchos is certainly okay in her book). The authors of the story, meanwhile, are dues paying members of a labor union that is affliated with Shaw’s. (Newspaper Guild and Steelworkers are both AFL-CIO affliates). Should that not be disclosed to readers? And several of the drivers quoted in the story are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the cab companies. These are the guys who are pleading poverty but somehow have money to pay top shelf attorneys? No, the unions - to which the authors contribute - are paying for the attorneys. And though I guess we’re supposed to be impressed that one of the writers got a cab license and drove for a week, but we learn surprisingly little about the experience. How much did he earn in those nights? Did he (illegally) pay bribes? We don’t know. Maybe the cab business is overrun with fraud, maybe it isn’t. You can’t really tell from this story because readers aren’t told the whole story. ignoto1 03/31/2013 09:52 AM

The biggest problem in the industry (I am a 30 year driver/single med. owner) is not the petty corruption and complaints outlined here, but the massive influx of unauthorized taxis from Brookline and other neighboring jurisdictions. Hackney lacks the resources to enforce the law, and the beat cops seem uninterested. There seem to be 300-400 Brookline cabs working the Boston neighborhoods on any given night (not to mention the mealy stew of taxis of you-name-it origin, some painted up to resemble Boston licensed cabs). These are uninspected, mostly older model cars with obvious maintainance issues, and unvetted drivers, most of whom are unqualified for a Boston hack due to criminal records, lack of Green Card or driving infractions. This is the real danger to the cab-taking public (not to mention the credit card option is out the window with non-Boston cabs) and the real source of financial loss for the Boston guys.I hope the series gets to this issue next time. lcdlover747 03/31/2013 01:09 PM

This is an example of the hypocrisy that undermines government’s credibility. How could this go on for so long without the police or city administration knowing about this? It seems odd that such a blatant “pay-to-work” scheme could go on in the open. Where were all those “community activists and leaders” who rallied to squash an urban Wal-Mart on this issue? Surely they must have known that a largely minority, immigrant worker population was getting shafted. This Cohen guy is a disgrace. And frankly, the commissioner doesn’t look good either. His Hackney Unit doesn’t seem to be a tight ship. Mr. Mayor, how could you let the littlest of little guys get screwed over like this? NativeBos 03/31/2013 05:35 PM

Sometimes I wonder if we are reading the same article. The comments here are talking about police corruption. Not once was that even suggested in the article I just read. It is being suggested that the dispatchers, who work for the taxi companies, are corrupt. I am not sure how the readers think Mr. Cohen or the Mayor would have any idea this is happening. I would suspect that now that they are aware, there will be some changes. mashermary 03/31/2013 10:50 PM

Day 2 An empire built on ambition and a very hard line

Day 2, and more ink spilled than necessary for a simple issue. Either Massachusetts courts respect the corporate veil or pierce it. And the legislature either increases the minimum insurance required for cabs or does not. No need to get into all the human interest side of certain accidents. Business would shut down in Massachusetts if we depart from the majority rule on veil piercing, so the only good option is to increase the limit for taxis and other carriers. Simple problem, let’s get to it. Observer08 04/01/2013 06:53 AM

With the long overdue change at City Hall approaching, the time is right to remove control of Boston’s corrupt taxi industry from the BPD. State Legislators & City Councillors need to open their eyes & create a Taxi Commission untouchable by the Mayor or Police Commissioner. This would free police officers now at Hackney to do actual police work - like cracking down on illegal vehicles cruising Boston streets. At best these gypsy cabs only overcharge passengers. At worst, we’ve seen numerous sexual assaults on women & some horribly brutal attacks on both men & women. The public needs an education on legal vehicles that Boston, shamefully, does not provide. This is unforgivable in a college city that welcomes thousands of naive young people every September. Major steps must be taken & major changes made, starting at the top, that protect both taxi drivers & the public. ApplesnBeans 04/01/2013 03:58 PM

Day 3 For cab drivers, risk and reward are a mismatch

Tutunjian aparently inherited the system since it is identical to the system there when I drove for Boston Cab in the mid 1970s. They haven’t even changed the plexiglass “humiliation window”, ha ha. The fact that Mr. Tutunjian hangs out in that dismal dungeon on Kilmarnock Street instead of kicking back in the Carib or managing his wealth from a loftier perspective says a lot about the man and his environment of which he is a product, albeit a titanic example. The Globe reporter had quite a first week, even managed to destroy a cab. Had he driven longer, he might have related that Boston Cab Co enjoys a great deal of lucrative radio-dispatched work that includes accounts with the nearby medical community, as well as numerous businesses downtown. You can make a moderate living, but it’s very very tough just the same. I made more than twice the Boston money when I moved to SF in 1980 and drove for a few years. It was like dying and going to heaven, although it remained an outsider’s, underground, and sometimes exhausting livlihood. San Fransisco had a different system that was also corrupted and abused in similar fashion to Boston’s system, except that the medalions [sic] were issued, not owned. Clubfoot 04/02/2013 06:43 AM

Oh, guys, why oh why would you not let Bob Hohler write this wonderful piece in the first person? I’d argue that in the blogging era, the old “a reporter” structure looks incredibly archaic and unnatural -- I mean, even more than it used to.... careygoldberg 04/02/2013 08:27 AM

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