A dirge for taxis

It was raining hard in ‘Frisco

I needed one more fare to make my night

A lady up ahead waved to flag me down

She got in at the light

Harry Chapin could never write those lyrics today. The woman would have activated an app on her smartphone and stayed dry while waiting for an Uber or Lyft inside a warm building. Harry would likely not have met his “lady blue” and would be a heck of a lot more than one fare short of making his night.

While the romance has been gone from the taxi industry for years, any song played for cabbies today would likely be a dirge. In Boston, the last best hope for taxi drivers to stay afloat ends today as drivers using the ride-hailing apps can now pick passengers up at Logan Airport.

For decades, the airport terminals were the last vestige of hope for Boston cab drivers, with some allowances made over the years to accommodate limo drivers and out-of-town taxis from nearby communities such as Cambridge and Somerville. But curbside pickup was reserved for Boston cabs and transportation network companies were barred from offering their services except for under severe restrictions that only allowed those with livery plates to be called by arriving passengers.

For the cab industry, Logan was a safe haven as it got more and more squeezed on the streets of Boston. Though only taxis can be hailed on the streets, riders, especially the younger generation, merely tap the app before leaving their office, school, or home and have a car waiting outside their door. Without the overhead of medallions or cab leases and lower tunnel tolls than taxis pay, getting an Uber or Lyft is not only more convenient, the cost is far lower, especially now to and from the airport.

While the law passed by the Legislature last summer paved the way for ride-hailing companies to operate freely with some regulation, it also spelled the end for the taxi industry. Though it remains on life support, no extraordinary measures are being taken and it’s as if there’s a “do not resuscitate” order in place. Medallion owners are still operating under the burden of mortgages taken out on their permits that at one point cost nearly $800,000 in Boston but are now essentially worthless. The selling price has plummeted over the years since the first ride-hailing app was launched in 2011. In November, a medallion was sold for $107,000 and two other medallions put up for sale went without an offer.

Boston cabs are still operating under strict regulations on fare-setting, lease prices, radio dispatch, and other rules that Uber and Lyft are not subject to. A federal judge dismissed suits by the taxi industry against the city and promised reforms by Mayor Marty Walsh remain, at this point, still just that.

One of the other hidden problems for cab owners is the increasing lack of drivers as more and more abandon taxis and join the ride-hailing world by using their own cars to ferry riders with much lower overhead and more profit in their pockets.

It’s enough to make Harry turn to self-medication.

And me, I’m flying in my taxi

Taking tips, and getting stoned

–JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

The Baker administration’s new solar incentive plans cuts electric ratepayer subsidies in half while giving developer more assurances about the money they will receive under the program. (CommonWealth)

A Herald editorial decries a move by Rep. Aaron Michlewitz to expand Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal for a taxing short-term rentals through Airbnb and similar services.

The regional director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation resigned last week after porn was allegedly found on his work computer, but he remains on the board of the Central Berkshire Regional School District. (Berkshire Eagle)

Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson is bristling over legislative bills by state Rep. Antonio Cabral and others to restrict his use of inmates for out-of-state projects (read: the wall) and use of state funds to enforce federal immigration laws. “I don’t answer to Rep. Cabral,” Hodgson said. (Standard-Times)

Lawmakers from Springfield and Wellesley have filed bills giving a boost to so-called school empowerment zones, which received a plug from Baker during his State of the CommonWealth speech. (Lowell Sun)

Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester files legislation that would allow prosecutors to charge heroin dealers with murder if one of their customers overdoses and dies. (Salem News)

The Massachusetts Senate is moving out of its chamber in April  to make way for renovations. (State House News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Pembroke selectmen, with the backing of many residents, voted to oppose an affordable housing project and went even further by passing a one-year moratorium on multi-unit housing projects. (Patriot Ledger)

City officials have released a new plan to try to jump-start Don Chiofaro’s redevelopment of the Boston Harbor Garage into a 600-foot tower. (Boston Globe)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is suddenly in the national spotlight with his outspoken opposition to President Trump’s immigration order. (Boston Globe) Joe Fitzgerald prefers to think Walsh has been kidnapped and brainwashed by the unruly mob opposed to the Trump policies whose cause he has joined. (Boston Herald)

The Worcester City Council votes 9-2 against a resolution that sought to clarify whether Worcester is a sanctuary city. (Telegram & Gazette) Hundreds rally in Worcester against Trump’s immigration order. (Telegram & Gazette) In Holyoke, $19.6 million in federal funds could be at stake if the city defies Trump’s sanctuary city order. (MassLive)

A Boston Marathon bombing survivor is going to marry the fireman who helped save her. (New York Post)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump nominates US Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, a pick many say is a clone of the man he was chosen to replace, the late Antonin Scalia. (National Review) Some observers say the selection was made with an eye on assuring Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote on the divided court, that he can retire without concern that a radical would be chosen as his successor. (New York Times) Richard North Patterson says Gorsuch would join with a faction on the court that supports weakening voting rights. (Boston Globe)

Stephen Bannon, in interviews and articles, articulated many of the themes now emerging in the Trump administration. (Washington Post)

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey joins a suit to stop Trump’s immigration ban, saying it violates the state and federal constitutions. (CommonWealth) Apple, the biggest company in America, is considering legal action against Trump’s ban. (Time) Hundreds of doctors, medical students, and other personnel at Harvard Medical School have signed a petition asking Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to cancel a lavish fundraiser scheduled for later this month at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida club owned by Trump, in the wake of his executive order on immigration. (Boston Globe) More than 1,000 members of the State Department have signed onto a so-called “dissent cable” opposing the ban, an unprecedented show of solidarity in the normally staid diplomacy corps. (New York Times)

Boston-area faith leaders speak out against the immigration order. (Boston Herald) ‘

Bay State Trump backers are speaking out too, saying the new president is simply delivering on what he said he would do. (Boston Globe)

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey breaks his silence with the media and discusses a number of issues, including Trump’s immigration order. He calls the order well-intentioned but too broad, and he described the rollout as “terrible.” (NorthJersey.com)

ELECTIONS

Gov. Charlie Baker may have a kindred spirit in Maryland, where another popular Republican governor in a deep-blue state, Larry Hogan, is trying to figure out how navigate the turbulent Trump waters. (Politico)

EDUCATION

The rollback of the Affordable Care Act could also have a major impact on student loans as some regulations on repayment and guarantees were part of the law. (U.S. News & World Report)

The Ashland School Committee has decided to continue charging $4,000 a year tuition for kindergarten rather than offering free all-day kindergarten as most towns in the area already do. (MetroWest Daily News)

The University of Vermont Medical School is moving to end all lecture courses by 2019, part of national trend to make medical education more interactive and collaborative. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

STAT News reporters have a helpful explainer on some of the claims President Trump has made about drug development and drug pricing, concluding that he has often oversimplified problems and potential solutions.

TRANSPORTATION

A commuter rail train apparently struck a person on the Newburyport Line Wednesday morning. (Salem News)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Gina McCarthy, the last Environmental Protection Agency administrator under President Obama, said she is troubled by early signs from the Trump administration that environmental policy will be guided more by politics than science. (Boston Globe)

Hundreds of people packed a Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing in Plymouth to hear why regulators decided to allow Pilgrim nuclear power plant to continue operating despite safety issues cited in an email by one inspector that was inadvertently made public. (Cape Cod Times)

Orleans officials are taking a look at changing the town’s policy to issue unlimited free beach stickers to residents as climate change and erosion at popular Nauset Beach force a “retreat” of the parking lot. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Princeton dentist is acquitted of pushing his wife out a window and killing her. The case attracted a lot of attention in central Massachusetts, in part because the dentist’s daughters were convinced he did it. (Telegram & Gazette)

A Bridgewater man who is serving 25 years in the state prison for fatally stabbing a man in Brockton is suing Abington police for excessive force after he was shot in the chest by an officer following a chase after the stabbing. (The Enterprise)

MEDIA

Columnist Taylor Armerding, writing in the Eagle-Tribune, says the election of Donald Trump has transformed the press from a lapdog into a watchdog.

The NFL has scrubbed from its official transcripts of Super Bowl week interviews any references to Donald Trump, Roger Goodell, and even a comment of good wishes from Tom Brady about the release from a Houston hospital of 92-year-old former president George H.W. Bush. (Boston Herald)