Anyone can tell you that Cambridge is a rapidly changing city, but few people are so attuned to that change as its cab drivers, who have a literal front-row seat from which to watch its development as they shuttle fares from MIT to Porter Square, from Harvard to Huron Village.
We hailed a ride with a few local cabbies to learn a bit about the job and to find out what’s changed and what hasn’t during their years stuck in Mass. Ave. traffic.
“Now, it seems like there are too many cars, big buildings. The city is more congested, more expensive. That’s Cambridge. The students bring a lot of business to the cab business and also to the local community: restaurants, bars, shopping. You see buildings everywhere now. There’s no more land.
It’s sad, but the City of Cambridge is not doing enough to provide affordable housing. We see a lot of homeless in Central Square. The number has increased and multiplied. I think the city should do more about the homeless issue.”
– Hamid Elmaksoud, 11 years as a Cambridge Cab Driver
“I like all of Cambridge. It’s a small city, very nice. People say, ‘Take me this way, this way. I want to see this, I want go by Memorial, I want to see the water.’ A lot of people from Europe, or tourist people. But people from here, they just want to save time and money.
– Abdal Gabbour, four years as a Cambridge cab driver
“The smartphone thing has changed the culture. Now people can work in the car, they’re on their phone, whereas before they would be more talkative. That’s changed the interpersonal relationship between the drivers and the customers.
I do a lot of trips to Longwood Medical. That’s a common destination. And, of course, the museums over there—the Museum of Fine Arts.
Monday’s a slow day. It gets busy around here toward the latter end of the week, when people are concluding their meetings and going back to where they came from. Thursdays and Fridays are airport trips.”
– Ken Levin, 28 years as a Cambridge cab driver
“I prefer Harvard Square myself. People from all over the world aspire to come and visit Harvard.
People ask about restaurants–a lot of different things. A history of the old days, the old gangs in the ’60s and the ’70s and the ’80s. Cambridge and Somerville kind of had a lot of that back in the day.
I think it’s changed for the better. I remember when the train stopped at Harvard. I remember in the ’80s when they built the new tunnels up to Davis and Alewife. There have been a lot of changes, but I just feel like the more it changes, the more it stays the same. My family has been here forever. My dad grew up in East Cambridge over 100 years ago. They all moved away; I’m one of the few left in the area. I think it’s price, affordability.”
– Dan Mosher, Cambridge resident for 50 years
Like what you’re reading? Consider supporting Scout on Patreon!