Editor’s note: The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s Sept. 2, 2008 launch – is an opportunity for either the publisher or the editor of The Chronicle to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication. It’s also a time that we highlight, with gratitude, our local advertisers, and ask readers to consider subscribing voluntarily to The Chronicle to support our work.
This little taxi ride is going to start where Mary Morgan’s milestone column last month left off – she drew a comparison between news media choices and transportation choices.
This column also will deliver readers to a destination that asks them to consider applying for a mayoral appointment to Ann Arbor’s taxicab board.
If you’d like to take a shortcut, then go ahead and download the application form for the city’s boards and commissions, and return it to the mayor’s office. The address is printed right on the form.
But the longer route will include some discussion about who’s paying the fare for this media cab we call The Ann Arbor Chronicle.
Last Friday evening, Mary Morgan and I ordered an actual cab to cover the 3/4 mile from our Old West Side neighborhood to the near edge of downtown Ann Arbor. Who on earth orders a cab to cover that short a distance? A journalist who needs a piece of art for a column involving taxis, that’s who. The trip required a detour from the planned route. That’s because Washington Street between Ashley and Main was closed for the FoolMoon festival – which we were headed downtown to see.
The taxicab driver circled around to have another go at it from Huron Street. And he told us he’d knock a quarter mile off the final distance on the meter. He could exercise that discretion, because taxicab drivers function essentially as independent contractors, who lease the vehicles from the taxicab company each night.
There’s a limit to a cabbie’s discretion. I’m guessing he wouldn’t earn a livelihood if he decided just to let passengers ride for free, for as long as they liked, and expect that they might later send him an equitable fare. Yet if operating The Chronicle were like driving a cab, that’s what the voluntary subscriptions part of our business model would look like.