Woe, The Boston Cabbie

Published February 15, 2011

One block from downtown crossing, January 2010

One block from downtown crossing, January 2010 (Michael Krigsman/Flickr)

I got a ride to work this morning from Cambridge cabbie Frantz Victorin, a Haitian immigrant who says he used to make $80,000 in wealth management until his doctor ordered him to change professions because of his high blood pressure. He started the new gig this week.

Why on earth he chose the taxicab business, I don’t know.

Boston cab drivers have bad reputations. He knows this. Passengers don’t like cabbies, so they’re rude. This makes cabbies rude to passengers.

Boston cab fares are the most expensive of any city in North America.

Boston cabbies are subject to the most progressive (or aggressive) regulation in the country. This is precisely why Victorin says he chose to lease a Cambridge, not Boston, medallion.

Boston requires all cabs be brand new. And all of the city’s 1,800 or so cabs must be equipped with credit-card machines — but there’s no rule preventing drivers from giving you a guilt trip whenever you use plastic.

Depending on the length of your ride, Boston's cab fares can be the most expensive in North America.

Click To Enlarge: Depending on the length of your ride, Boston's cab fares can be the most expensive in North America.

Why do the cab drivers complain about credit cards? Because they’re stuck with the 6 percent processing fee — even though those fees are factored into Boston’s exorbitant fares. (See above.)

Moreover, because the Boston metro area is broken up into cities and towns, cabbies licensed in one city can’t pick up passengers in another. For example, if Victorin drives someone to Logan Airport, he has to drive all the way back to Cambridge without picking up a fare. (Well, he could, but he risks a steep fine.)

Since WBUR started pressing its reporting force on the taxicab business, the comments have been rolling in:

@ValentinaMonte: BOS cabbies ALWAYS feign credit probs & ARE liars. period.they’re RUDE about it & shouldnt hav a machine then!!

Blogger Mitch Blum wrote a beginner’s guide for Boston cabbies. (“By law, you are required to keep the ‘check engine’ light lit at all times.” Etc.)

Again, why Victorin chose the taxicab business, I don’t know.

“Atttiude is ev-er-y-thing,” he tells me, in a Haitian accent, stretching the word “everything” into five.

Victorin exhibits the best attitude about Boston driving I’ve ever seen. He is totally Zen about it. Never uses the horn. At one point, the man tells me his wife’s favorite song is “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera, and he starts singing the chorus (while we’re stuck at the BU Bridge rotary).

Victorin’s cab was new and clean, tricked out with Wi-Fi and a shiny credit-card reader. That costs money, but he clearly thinks he can make up for it in fares. He works 12-hour shifts and has to make at least $80 a day to break even.

Frantz Victorin is just a guy trying to make a living. I gave him a nice tip. If you get a driver like him, I suggest you do the same.


Tomorrow: Hubbub and Universal Hub take your questions and complaints in a live chat with WBUR’s Adam Ragusea.