Mayor Bloomberg Brags That You Can ‘Just Call 311’ To Get Items Left In Cab, But Test Fails


trafficYour lost bag better be full of diamonds if you want NYC’s high-tech help getting it back. Mayor Bloomberg has been bragging that taxi cab GPS devices let 311 operators track down lost property without the driver’s name or medallion number.”Just call 311,” Bloomberg told David Letterman and 3.38 million others watching “Late Show With David Letterman” last month. “They’ll ask you where you got … into the cab, where you got out, and we’ll call the cab driver and get your luggage back.”

“Now that’s a joke, right?” Letterman shot back, skeptical that such a system could work.

It does work, but apparently only if you leave behind pricey property. The Daily News sent six reporters to leave six bags in six cabs – and failed to get a single one back.

When told about the bag bungle, a spokesman with the mayor’s office said GPS is reserved for property considered valuable and is at the discretion of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

“The mayor said if you lose something like luggage – something of some value – GPS gives us another way to find your item,” said Bloomberg spokesman Marc La Vorgna, adding that the backpacks left by reporters are items “they would not conduct a search for.”

Bloomberg never mentioned that caveat in his public touting of the system.

“You lose your luggage we can, chances are, get it back very quickly,” he said last week at a program on city car sharing. “Tell us where you got the car. Just call 311.

“You call the taxi cab driver and it’s amazing how many times, ‘Oh, yes, yes, I just found it in the backseat.'”

The city has used GPS to return lost items 843 times since 2008, La Vorgna said. He pointed to a 2009 incident when a violinist left his $500,000 instrument in a cab and got it back with the help of GPS and an NYPD detective.

The dollar value of items Daily News reporters left in taxis was far smaller – and so was the city’s effort.

One reporter hailed a cab near Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and rode to Penn Station, leaving a magenta and gray backpack behind. Inside was a $5 bill, a lightup Star Wars yo-yo and a notebook – items a New Yorker might be carrying around.

The reporter filed a report with 311. One week later, a 311 operator told her the city was “unable to locate it without the driver’s name, license or medallion number,” and instructed her to call the NYPD lost and found.

They, too, failed to find the bag.

Another reporter left a red and black backpack in a taxi he hailed at Penn Station and rode to Shake Shack on W. 44th St. Inside the bag was a three-ring binder, a black and white notebook, hand sanitizer and a container of tennis balls.

He got the same response from 311 and the NYPD – the city can’t help.

All six cases were closed by 311 with the following explanation: “The Taxi and Limousine Commission is unable to locate the lost property without the driver’s name, license or medallion number. Lost items may be returned to designated police precincts in Manhattan, which you should contact directly.”

Asked about the GPS gaffe, a spokesman with the TLC directed questions to the mayor’s press office.

{NY Daily News/}