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Misalignment between societal well-being and business profit maximization: The case of New York taxis drivers’ incentive system

Andrew S. Manikas, PhD Kroes, J. R. Gattiker, T. F.
Socio-Economic Planning Sciences. August 9, 2018

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Objectives of business sustainability efforts commonly include increasing consumer safety, decreasing resource consumption, and decreasing pollution. Even though there is a societal interest in attaining these goals, business and other economic agents often operate under incentive structures that run counter to these objectives. Taxi drivers operate as economic independents. Their revenue depends on their fares and tips. Moreover they choose how many hours to work, how fast to drive, and which route to take. Using New York City taxi data from 2013, we test the level of alignment between the revenue maximizing behavior of drivers versus safety, conservation and pollution-related outcomes that are valued by stakeholders. We find substantial misalignment—i.e., in order to maximize revenue, drivers take inefficient routes and they exceed the speed limit thus decreasing safety, increasing fuel consumption and increasing air pollution. Based on these empirical results, we suggest methods of aligning societal goals with those of revenue maximizing taxi drivers.