Will D.C. Taxi Industry Become a Cartel Like NYC?
WASHINGTON EXAMINER -- The District’s open, all-are-invited taxicab industry is so saturated with drivers that the entire enterprise is threatened, according to a D.C. Council member who has filed a bill to cap the number of cabs allowed on city streets. Councilman Jim Graham introduced legislation to limit the number of taxicabs in D.C. through either a medallion system, like ones used in New York City and Chicago, or a certification system.
The soaring number of taxicab operators in D.C. -- roughly 8,000, most of whom own their own cars -- is a "pressing and urgent problem," Graham said. There are more licensed drivers in D.C. per capita than any place in the world, he said, and new applicants continue to take the required class, giving them access to the driver exam administered by the D.C. Taxicab Commission. A glut of drivers could jeopardize the chances of any cabbies making an adequate living, Graham has said.
New York City's medallion system, established in 1937 during the Great Depression in response to a ballooning number of unregulated taxis, artificially capped the number of cabs on the road, to what is now about 13,000. The medallion program, however, made it very difficult for the average New Yorker to join the industry as an owner: The May 2009 price for an individual medallion, those held by owner-operators, was $568,000. The cost of a corporate medallion was $744,000 (see chart above, medallion prices have more than doubled since 2004).
MP: Isn't this an example of a "pressing and urgent problem" that would easily solve itself without government intervention, and a problem that will probably be made significantly worse with government intervention? That is, if there really is an excess supply of taxis in D.C. relative to the demand for taxis, that surplus will be automatically corrected and eliminated by firms/drivers exiting the industry in response to low prices and low/negative profits.
Just like a shortage of taxis would be automatically corrected by firms entering the industry, attracted to the "smell of profits" created by the high prices. As long as the taxi industry has easy entry for new firms, and easy exit for existing firms, which seems to be the case, any surplus or shortage of taxis will automatically be eliminated.
By restricting the supply of taxis with costly medallions, that regulatory action will create a government-enforced taxi cartel, with an artificially low number of taxis and artificially high prices. Membership fees to join the cartel will became extremely expensive (more than half a million dollars to join the NYC Taxi Cartel), and the average person will be priced out of the cartel.
HT: Coyote Blog