Philadelphia taxi drivers shouldn't have had to park their cabs last week to voice their frustration over cranky, new technology installed in their vehicles. It was good news for cab customers, however, that the planned two-day strike was halted after only one day.
The strike, called by Ronald Blount, president of the 1,200-member Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania, wasn't about bringing the city, figuratively, to its knees.
Nor is it important at this point to debate the impact, or lack thereof, from side-lining whatever percentage of the city's 1,600-cab fleet actually was idle.
Blount had a message to get out: Drivers are upset with malfunctioning taxi-guidance equipment, and they're miffed about a 5 percent surcharge for providing customers the convenience of paying by credit card.
Blount got that message out, and with some restraint. Now it's important to respond to the cabbies' concerns - not because they went on strike, but because their concerns are reasonable.
That is not to say the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which regulates the taxi fleet, should back off one iota from its commitment to enhancing cab service. The introduction of the technology that's so irksome to some drivers is an important part of those efforts.
But drivers have every right to expect that the global positioning devices required in cabs work most of the time, and as advertised.
Parking Authority officials concede there are problems, so they need to redouble efforts to resolve them. The fact that the agency has withheld $1 million in payments from the GPS vendor, VeriFone Transportation Systems, is no comfort to drivers trying to make a living right now.
Cabbies also have a case to make about the 5 percent fee they're being charged for taking credit cards.
Will the ability to charge a cab ride result in more people hailing a ride? That's certainly the hope. But until that's borne out by cabbies' receipts, maybe the fee could be discounted. That could provide another incentive for drivers to encourage the use of credit (which in turn should make them less vulnerable to robberies).
The skeptical, world-weary (OK, grumpy) cab driver may be hard to win over. But Parking Authority officials pushing for a more efficient taxi fleet need to try. To do so, they must make sure that improved technology and customer-service procedures result in a smoother ride for both passengers and cabbies.