Friday, December 31, 2010

Bad Time Peak Time Permits. By Jane Bolig.

Photo by John Han.
Jane Bolig is president of De Soto Cab.

San Francisco is unique. Even our taxi laws are unique. In other cities companies can own medallions. Here, even the suggestion of company medallions is heresy. You might as well ask a Baptist preacher to kiss the pope’s ring. You don’t do it.  

You just DON’T.
Yet, because of our unique, driver-medallion-only law, all the cabs are out all the time; sometimes there are too many, sometimes too few. With no ability to respond to wildly up-and-down customer demand, we have both a peak time problem AND a down time problem. To address, if not fix it, we are discussing just one part of the problem: peak times.
So, let’s forget the obvious solution for both peak and down times: company medallions. It will upset too many people, so just forget it. Let’s think realistically.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Driver Shakes A Fist At MTA's Style of A-Card Renewal.

By Tariq Mehmood, Taxi Driver.  Published On Taxi TownSF With Permission From Tariq Mehmood.
The drivers used to spent 2-3 minutes to 5 minutes at City Hall for renewal of A-Card.
It was always so quick that they will park their taxis at 400 Mcallister on taxi stand and walk in-and-out of city hall within 5 minutes with their A-Card renewed.
Now they have to stand at SFMTA for 2 to 3 hours like slaves.   Drivers are losing $ 90-100 of their time waiting to get their A-Card renewed due to the new system arranged by SFMTA and its Deputy Director of Taxis Christiane Hayashi. I urge everyone to send emails to SFMTA Director Mr. Ford, Debra Johnson, SFMTA Board members and even to the Board of Supervisors.

The drivers are screaming and there is no one to help them in this horrible, disaster situation.  Where are fake taxi advisory council representatives of the
drivers who do not know what is going on.  This council was arranged by Christiane of the people who do not have 2-3 drivers behind them.

It is unthinkable what is going on with the drivers.  We need immediate help from someone for the drivers to solve this problem.

Tariq Mehmood
Working for the Drivers

415 756 9476
From the Publisher:  For further commentary and possibly clarity, read Ed Healy's blog "A-Card Renewal".

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Taxi Driver Vs the DPT, Round 2. DPT Captured On Camera! By John Han. (Photostream)

DPT at Market and Main St.

Essay and photostream by John Han.

I have already received a notice from the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) that my letter to contest the first of the two tickets that I received along the Embarcadero has been denied, and that I owe the $90 penalty.  Insufficient argument, they say.  I now have the option to go to a hearing officer in person and contest that ticket at the DPT office.  I will.  I hope I can get some help from Michael Harris at SFMTA Taxis and Accessible Services Division, and Christiane Hayashi.  I could really use a letter of support from the SFMTA, and bring it to the hearing officer to show when I contest.  

Commentary on Barry Korengold's GPS Short Proposal. By John Han.

SFO Taxi Lot.  Photo by John Han.
Barry Korengold may be onto something.  He’s president of the San Francisco Cab Drivers’ Association (SFCDA).  And he’s proposed to save SFO’s short line with a distance based short instead of the traditional one based by time… one that would be monitored by GPS technology.  Ed Healy’s got his ideas posted on “The Phantom Cab Driver Phites Back”.  

I posted previously about using a short system also based on distance, but one in which the starters hand out tickets to the drivers manually, once it would be determined they’d be going to pre-designated short cities.  Other drivers, like Mark Gruberg, are also promoting a distance-based system using tickets that’s similar to one being used in New York.  But these ticket systems are being proposed, because there was the notion that a GPS plan would be too far away into the future, and that a distance, ticket system would have to serve in the interim years. 

Barry says he’s talked to a CEO at a tech company that says a GPS system could have already been nearly implemented by now.  If that’s true, then the GPS plan is the way to go.  No need for a ticket plan in the interim.  SFCDA is pushing for this plan as a pilot program until the glitches can be worked out, and then have it serve as a “complete and real time GPS system” once it’s perfected. 

If it can happen sooner than later, then I say go for it now.  No need for an interim plan.  

I don’t even play the airport.  I like to pick up street fares in the City and play the radio.  But that’s not to say I'll never play the airport in the future.  And if I do, this GPS idea would be a relatively convenient system to have.  And drivers who want to save the short line would probably do themselves a big favor to get behind and support it... now!  Drivers are going to have to come up with some kind of consensus soon.  If you don't, you might lose the short line altogether. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Remembrance of Peak Times Past. By Jane Bolig.

Photo by John Han.
Jane Bolig is President of DeSoto Cab.
Does San Francisco need peak time taxi medallions? If so, how would they operate: who would hold them; when would they be on the street; when off?
At the November 22 Taxi Advisory Council meeting I suggested that we survey cities around the country to see how they structure peak time medallions. Our problem might already have a solution.
Rather than wait for the taxi section to take up my suggestion, I decided to do my own research, so I started by asking the Taxi Limousine Paratransit Association (TLPA), headquartered near Washington D.C., for a list of cities with peak time medallions.
The answer surprised me. Apparently, Las Vegas is the only place in the entire U.S. to issue peak time medallions. In fact, they issue all kinds of medallions, some of which can only pick up in certain areas, some of which may operate only at certain times of the day, or on certain days. It’s easy to imagine why a city built on tourism, with predictable peaks and valleys of demand, would issue a variety of special medallions, but hard to imagine how its experience could apply here.
So, what about other American cities with demand cycles more like ours? Do they ignore peak time service needs? Are they waiting for San Francisco to take the lead? Or, is there another reason? If we look into our own history we may find the answer.

The SFO Distance Based Short. By John Han.

SFO Taxi Lot.  Photo by John Han.
I must say I was aghast after hearing some of the complaints SFO says it gets from customers taking taxis from the airport, (i.e. - driving 95 mph, reckless driving, dumping passengers off on the street, or somewhere besides their destinations in order to get back on the freeway quicker – just to name a few).  These are atrociously unacceptable, as bad as “Boycott Paratransit” or even worse.  SFO is not to be blamed for considering enforcing some changes.  In fact, I support the idea of changes.

But the airport must address this problem in a way that doesn’t look or feel as if it is lashing out at cab drivers in revenge for misconduct.  And that is how the ‘elimination of the short line’ with a ‘minimum fare proposal’ looks and feels like to many drivers.

Since new changes seem inevitable, it’s necessary to first identify the key problem.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

United Taxi Workers (UTW)

Photo by John Han.
SFO Plans to Eliminate Short Line

After months of meetings with drivers and more months of inaction, SFO management is pushing forward with a plan to do away with the taxi short line.  The Airport Commission will vote on the proposal on Tuesday, Dec. 7.  
Assistant Deputy Airport Director Henry Thompson presented the proposal to a committee of driver representatives on Dec. 1.  The plan is as follows:
§          The short line will be eliminated as of Feb. 1, except for CNG cabs. 
§          Drivers will pay $4 for all trips.
§          Drivers will be allowed to pass through $3 to the passenger, instead of the $2 now allowed.
§          There will be a minimum fare of $17, including the $3 pass-through.
Interestingly, CNG cabs will still be allowed one short trip per shift under the plan.  The airport plans to close the door on new entries into the CNG short program early next year, but cabs currently in the program will have short line privileges as long as they are on the road. 
The airport’s plan is similar to one management sought to impose last spring.  It was put on hold after dozens of drivers came to an Airport Commission meeting to protest.  Under orders from the commission, management convened a committee of drivers to discuss plans for dealing with the short line. 
While these meetings were in progress over the spring and summer, I talked to hundreds of drivers at the airport.  The great majority wanted to keep some form of the short.  The reasons are clear.  Cab drivers earn their living from day to day.  Gates must be paid at the end of the shift, or the driver will be held out of service.  The rent comes due, or the long-term lease, or personal and family necessities that won’t wait. 
Say a driver pays his $4, spends two hours in the lot and gets a short for $20, including tip.  He can go back into the taxi lot, pay another $4, perhaps wait another two hours, and maybe get another short.   Or, he can deadhead back to the city, meaning he’s invested 2 ½ or 3 hours of his time for $16.  None of that is his.  His gates and gas for that slice of time are way more than he’s made.  
Management says the time-based short encourages speeding and is open to cheating.  At the airport meetings drivers acknowledged that there are problems with the current system, and presented ideas to deal with them in ways that would allow for keeping the short.  Among these ideas were several variations on the theme of a distance-based short. 
United Taxicab Workers proposed a system similar to the one used at all the New York airports.  There, a starter asks passengers where they are going and issues a ticket to the driver if the destination is a short.  The driver has up to 90 minutes to return to the airport.  The system has been employed successfully for a number of years.
A GPS-based short system was also discussed.  Most driver reps agreed that this would ultimately be the best solution.  But management was cool to the idea, saying it presented technical problems.  They say they haven’t discarded the notion, bus they’ve shown little inclination to pursue it.
They also dismissed out-of-hand a simple, interim solution of reducing the time limit for a short from 30 minutes to 25 or even 20 minutes.  That would eliminate the possibility of making a short from the city.  Since most rides from SFO go into San Francisco, most abuses would end instantly—and at no cost—allowing time for longer-term solutions to be pursued.      
The airport’s “final proposal” came as no surprise.  During the months of meetings, airport officials never wavered in their expressed intention to end the short.  But their plan is completely untested, and they glibly dismiss the problems it could create for drivers, passengers and the airport itself.  For instance, what if drivers, wary of getting a short, simply stop playing the airport in sufficient numbers to ensure a steady flow of cabs?  This is especially a danger when both the airport and city are busy. 
At the final meeting, I proposed the idea of a trial of the airport’s plan.  Test it for three months.  Survey passengers and drivers on its effects.  See whether demand is being met.  After a thorough review, the Airport Commission would decide whether it should be continued, changed or scrapped.  This conciliatory proposal was tossed aside with the demeaning suggestion that drivers might intentionally subvert the system.
Shockingly (at least to me) most of the dozen or so drivers attending the airport meetings supported, or at least did not oppose, the airport’s plan.  I’m not going to point fingers at the supporters, but the only attendees who made clear their opposition were myself, Bud Hazelkorn and Tariq Mehmood.
If drivers are concerned about the airport’s plans, Tuesday’s Airport Commission meeting will be the last chance to derail it.  Sometime in January, the MTA will consider whether to approve the $3 pass-through and the minimum fare, but the airport can eliminate the short line without any further approval.  They plan to do so as of Feb. 1. 
The Airport Commission meeting will take place Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 9 a.m. in City Hall, Room 400.       

Mark Gruberg

Door-to-Door Shuttles to Compete Directly with Cabs

During the course of the Dec. 1 airport meeting, SFO management threw in another zinger.  They will soon be re-opening Terminal 2, with American and Virgin America as tenants.  In connection with that move, door-to-door shuttles like SuperShuttle will be moved from upstairs to downstairs at all the terminals, sharing the curb with taxis.  They say that no taxi spaces will be lost, but this change will put the shuttles in direct competition with us for passengers exiting from the baggage claim.   
Not infrequently, the line for cabs is long, especially at Terminal 3.  This is not necessarily on account of a lack of cabs.  It often happens because the cabs in the taxi lot aren’t dispatched to the pick-up line quickly enough.  So passengers have the impression that cabs are scarce, although the lot may in fact be full.  Many of those would-be taxi passengers will walk a few steps and take a shuttle.  Through no fault of our own, a nice chunk of our business will be gone.                      

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters Epic Performance, "The Wall" Live! By John Han

What do cab drivers do when not driving cab?  Some of us go to concerts. At least that's what I did on Friday night, December 3rd.  

I'm actually somewhat of a homebody. Cab drivers don't make very much money.  But when I heard Roger Waters, former bassist and singer for Pink Floyd was coming to town, I shelled over the high price for a pair of tickets, got one for myself and a lovely date. We headed on BART to Oakland's Oracle Arena to enjoy a rare performance of the epic, "The Wall" tour.  And I say rare, because this is the first world-wide performance tour of "The Wall" in some 30 years.  It hadn't been performed in its entirety since the '80-'81 tour when Roger Waters and David Gilmour were still members of Pink Floyd together.

SFMTA Ignoring Drivers' Safety?

Photo by John Han.
From Dave Schneider
At Green Cab, Athan the manager, has on the Green website "expect the unexpected" [Heraclitus (c.535 BC - 475 BC].  You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know the holidays especially can be dangerous. 
Athan today copied Green Cab relaying an SFPD bulletin that there had been a robbery on a Yellow driver Dec 1 the other day.  Would have been nice had they stated the time of the pick up and robbery.  And on Jan 11 it will have been one year since driver Singh was stabbed on States Street.  Nothing has been done.
The way it is now your safety is largely a crap-shoot depending on your company and dispatch service.  To some extent it involves big company v. little company.  But really it's a worker protection issue and it shouldn't be a crap shoot.  The SFMTA exists in part to provide uniform regulations including driver safety.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

From the United Taxi Workers (UTW)

Photo by John Han.
SFO Plans to Eliminate Short Line.  By Mark Gruberg, UTW.

After months of meetings with drivers and more months of inaction, SFO management is pushing forward with a plan to do away with the taxi short line.  The Airport Commission will vote on the proposal on Tuesday, Dec. 7. 
Assistant Deputy Airport Director Henry Thompson presented the proposal to a committee of driver representatives on Dec. 1.  The plan is as follows:

§          The short line will be eliminated as of Feb. 1, except for CNG cabs. 
§          Drivers will pay $4 for all trips.
§          Drivers will be allowed to pass through $3 to the passenger, instead of the $2 now allowed.
§          There will be a minimum fare of $17, including the $3 pass-through.

Eliminate the Short Line at the SFO? Airport Officials Likely to Recommend It.

SFO Taxi Lot.  Photo by John Han.
From Barry Korengold, President of the San Francisco Cab Drivers' Association (SFCDA)

Airport officials held their 12th and final meeting with taxi driver/industry reps today to present their decision on what they will recommend to the Airport Commission on how to replace the current time based short system.  They'll be making this recommendation next Tuesday, Dec. 7 at the Airport Commission Meeting at 9am,  City Hall, Room 400.

The plan they came up with is along the lines of what we had discussed at the last meeting.  There will be a single line, no more short line, except for the CNGs that will continue to get "head of the line privileges" for the life of the cars, then the CNG pass through privilege will be phased out.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Paul Makaveckas and Bill Hancock Expected in Court This Week

Hey drivers, the SF Chronicle is reporting that former SF Taxi Detail police officer Paul Makeveckas and former Flag-A-Cab Taxi School instructor Bill Hancock are expected in court this week.  They're both being charged with accepting bribes in exchange for giving would be cab drivers passing grades on their city taxi license tests.

According to the article in SF Gate, Makaveckas was charged Wednesday with four counts of bribery.  He pleaded not guilty and is out on a $160,000 bail.

Bill Hancock, according to the article, was arrested Tuesday in Marin County on three counts of bribery for allegedly acting as the middleman between cab drivers and Makaveckas.  Wow!  I remember taking Hancock's class.  He gave us free food.

And according to this new website called the Bay Citizen, they are both expected to appear in court Thursday, December 2.

I have mixed feelings about Makaveckas.  On the one hand, he was always good to me, and had a likable personality.  On the other hand, I saw him do something once that was less than professional and he tried to get me involved in it, but I won't go into the details.  It wasn't a bribe, but it wasn't too cool.  I guess we'll follow the updates.

The Bay Citizen, on the other hand, is a recently founded news organization devoted to reporting civic and community issues in the San Francisco Bay area.  Read their article on Makaveckas here.

From The SFMTA, Renew A-Cards!

Beginning Tuesday, November 30, 2010, the SFMTA Taxi Services will begin accepting A-Card renewals. To avoid penalty fees and to avoid having your A-Card closed out for Non-Payment, we encourage all taxi drivers to renew their A-Cards in a timely manner. 
WHEN to Pay? 
Drivers must renew their a-cards by January 31 to avoid penalty fees. 
• Payments made beginning November 30- Jan 31: No penalty fee 
• Payments made beginning February 1 - 28: 10% penalty fee 
• Payments made beginning March 1 - 30: 15% penalty fee 
• Payments made beginning April 1 – April 30: Drivers must complete an application for a Public Passenger Vehicle Driver Permit (A-Card), pay applicable filing fee, license fee and 25% penalty fee 
• Failure to submit payment by May 1, 2011 the permit shall expire by operation of law. Drivers must obtain a new permit pursuant to MPC Section 1089 and pay all applicable fees. 

Office Hours for A-Card Renewal: 
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday only between 9:00-11:30am and 2:00-4:00pm 
*We are closed Dec. 2 and Dec. 27-31 and unless otherwise stated. 
WHERE to Pay? 
Payments can be made at the SFMTA Taxi Services 1 South Van Ness Ave, 1st Floor – Drivers must check in with the security desk first and will be given instruction upon arrival. 
The current renewal fee is $88.50 + any outstanding fees from previous years 
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency San Francisco Municipal Railway | Department of Parking & Traffic | Division of Taxis & Accessible Services One S. Van Ness Avenue, Seventh Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103 | Tel: 415.701.4400 | Fax: 415.701.5437 | 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Taxi Driver vs the DPT, Round 1

Photo by John Han.
By John Han.

Hey drivers, if you haven't already experienced it yourself, then may I kindly inform you that the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) has been on a mission, issuing a flurry of parking tickets to lots of cab drivers as of late. 

According to Yellow Cab, most of these are being issued along the Embarcadero near the Ferry Building, and at Candlestick Park.  I just recently talked with one of the Yellow Cab managers and was told that DPT has mailed in at least 30 citations to the company (approximately) from these areas. 

That’s right, mailed in.

Cabbies on Tilt.

Photo by John Han.
By Gabriel Golden.

"Tilt" is a term that comes from the game of poker.

Let's say you're in a poker game, playing confidently and well, making money. You get a great hand, you think you have the proverbial "nuts" and are unbeatable so you push in a big chunk of your chip pile. Another player is calling you, then raises you at the end, you go all-in and he suddenly and unexpectedly wins the hand, taking your huge pile of chips. You've had a "bad beat." Frustrated, you feel like you've been punched in the face, and as the game goes on you are thinking about how much you have to gain back, and you're making bad, reckless choices that cause you to continue losing even more money.

A poker player in this state of mind is said to be "playing on tilt," and it occured to me that a similar thing is frequently experienced by cabbies.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Luxor Cabs, Inc.'s Suggested Cab Stand Locations.

Here's a list of cab stand ideas that Luxor Cab President John Lazar handed to me.

Nissan Leafs are Snazzy & Cool For Sure... But How Can They Perform Well As Taxicabs? Let's Find Out.

All new 2011 Nissan Leaf at SF International Auto Show Moscone Center.  Photo by John Han
By John Han, (photos by John Han).

On Sunday, November 21st, I headed down to the Moscone Center for a quick look at the much hyped about Nissan Leaf all electric vehicle.  It will continue to be on display until Sunday, November 28th, at the San Francisco International Auto Show 2010. 

The Leaf is Nissan’s new 100 percent electric vehicle that produces zero green house gas emissions.  No tailpipe, no exhaust… a good start for families around the world to move away from big oil and fossil fuels.

What’s even cooler is San Francisco has got some federal grant money to purchase for free, 25 of the Leafs and use them as taxis (read full text of grant application).  So, it may be safe to say that the Leafs are coming to town, and they may be coming down the chimney like Santa Claus, servicing our public as early as next year.

Friday, November 19, 2010

From The SFMTA, Time to Renew A-Cards

 Beginning Tuesday, November 30, 2010, the SFMTA Taxi Services will begin accepting A-Card renewals.  To avoid penalty fees and to avoid having your A-Card closed out for Non-Payment, we encourage all taxi drivers to renew their A-Cards in a timely manner. 

WHERE to Pay?
Payments can be made at the SFMTA Taxi Services 1 South Van Ness Ave, 2nd Floor – Drivers will be given instruction upon arrival.

WHEN to Pay?
Drivers must renew their a-cards by January 31 to avoid penalty fees. 

·       Payments made beginning February 1 - 28:  10% penalty fee
·       Payments made beginning March 1 - 30:  15% penalty fee
·       Payments made beginning April 1 – April 30:  Drivers must complete an application for a Public Passenger Vehicle Driver Permit (A-Card), pay applicable filing fee, license fee and 25% penalty fee
·       Failure to submit payment by May 1, 2011 the permit shall expire by operation of law.  Drivers must obtain a new permit pursuant to MPC Section 1089 and pay all applicable fees.

Hours for A-Card Renewal:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (except December 2 and unless otherwise stated)
9:00-11:30am and 2:00-4:00pm

Taxi drivers should contact SFMTA Taxi Services (415) 701-4400 to find out the total amount due.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Correction to Nissan Leaf Story

53rd International Auto Show/Nissan Leaf
In the essay below entitled, "The All Electric Nissan Leaf To Debut In Moscone Center", it states,

"The City's original idea was to make the Nissan Leafs "single operator" and drivers therefore should charge the taxis at home, cover all operating costs, plus a lease fee, and cover the more than $2000.00 installation costs for a home charging station.  This would most likely be unfeasible.

The City then offered to keep the Leafs as "single operator" but eliminate any lease fee and the $2000.00 installation cost.  But under this specific version of the "single operator", even without a lease fee or installation costs, the operating costs have roughly been estimated to be nearly $3000.00/month.  This also may be cumbersome. "

Correction - It must be made clear that these claims reflect preliminary ideas that were tossed around in unofficial and informal brainstorming sessions.  They are not official statements nor do they reflect any official offers made to drivers by the SFMTA.  The City has yet to release any official statement or plan detailing the Nissan Leaf program and has made no offers as of yet.  Plans are expected to be released in the future. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The All Electric Nissan Leaf to Debut In Moscone Center.

53rd International Auto Show/Nissan Leaf
The new 100% electric Nissan Leaf vehicle will highlight the 53rd Annual San Francisco International Auto Show, November 20-28 2010, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.  

The auto show each year features the latest models of cars, trucks, SUVs and vans from carmakers around the world.

According to Nissan's website, the car has a range of up to 100 miles of distance on a single, fully charged battery.

And Nissan is targeting the average American commuter as its primary market, of whom 95% are said to drive less than 100 miles a day.  Prospective consumers will be able to reserve a space to test drive the Nissan Leaf at next week's auto show.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) last month approved $33 million in federal grant money to fund green projects throughout the Bay Area.  Included in that project is San Francisco's pilot plan to purchase some 25 of the Nissan Leafs, intended to be used as "neighborhood taxis" in designated areas in the City.

As mentioned earlier, the vehicle will travel up to 100 miles of distance on a fully charged battery.

However, there's a twist in the plot.

Friday, November 12, 2010

SF Taxi Driver Wages 10-Year Battle to Reduce Fleet Emissions, And Wins

Paul Gillespie, San Francisco Taxicab Commission president
Paul Gillespie, former president of Former SF Taxi Commission
It’s a crisp spring morning in San Francisco, and Mayor Gavin Newsom is standing in front of a row of taxi cabs lined up at City Hall. He points to the TV camera and says, “To Mayor Bloomberg, I say we beat you on this.” He gestures to the taxis, each either a fuel-efficient hybrid or natural gas vehicle. “The Big Apple is not the green apple yet."
Indeed, San Francisco succeeded in greening its taxi fleet—which is now 55 percent hybrid or powered by clean-burning natural gas—where New York City failed even to approach San Francisco’s level.
Before you imagine this game of environmental one-upmanship is strictly between big city mayors, consider this: the man who arguably deserves the most credit for reducing the San Francisco taxi fleet’s carbon footprint—by a whopping 35,000 tons per year—is a 53-year-old rank-and-file taxi driver named Paul Gillespie. Gillespie’s efforts serve as an object lesson in how real environmental change gets done—not by politicians politicking but by grassroots hard work, consensus building, and levelheaded thinking.
The story begins 13 years ago, when former Mayor Willie Brown established a taxi task force to look at all issues facing San Francisco’s cabbies. The task force recommended the creation of an official Taxi Commission, with one of the seven seats allocated to a working driver. Gillespie raised his hand and was chosen. “I was just a regular guy who got himself appointed to this position where I had a chance to get things done,” Gillespie recalled.  Read entire article>>

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cabulous, Uber, and San Francisco's Poor Taxi Industry Part 2, by John Han

Photo by John Han.
Comments to the previous post entitled, "Cabulous, Uber, and San Francisco's Poor Taxi Industry" has raised some very interesting and valid responses.  And I felt compelled to go ahead with Part 2 of that blog.  So here goes...

With respect to all my fellow cab drivers, I have no problem with the concept of what Uber is doing... to offer a medium through which people can order limousine services without having to call a specific company.  That is a type of centralized dispatching system in itself, only it’s for the limousine industry not the cab industry.  Cabulous is a similar type of centralized dispatching system, except it’s for the cab industry.  They are both fine concepts and I applaud the entrepreneurs who developed them.  

Whether Uber is implementing and administering its business model in compliance with state laws that regulate limousine services, I have little to say about that, as I am not an attorney or a regulator and have little knowledge about the inner workings of the company.  I would prefer to leave that up to the regulators, the attorneys, and the company’s CEO.

So why is Uber so threatening to San Francisco’s taxi industry?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cabulous, Uber, and San Francisco's Poor Taxi Industry, by John Han.

Photo by John Han
SF taxi driver Erik Hatten sent in this link to an article published on TechCrunch entitled, "Uber, Not UberCab, Launches Android App." by Evelyn Rusli.

Apparently Uber, formerly called UberCab, is ramping it up, cooperating with regulators, and doing fine.  Well good for them.

But if I may indulge in the opportunity, both Uber and Cabulous are indications to those of us in the cab business that San Francisco's taxi industry needs to start evolving.

One of the ways it can do this is through the controversial 'centralized dispatching system'.  It is a long held idea that passengers phoning in for service deserve the option of calling their favorite cab company, or, if not, may choose to call a central dispatch number that would dispatch the closest available cab, regardless of what company it is, since all meter rates are the same.  Many drivers want this, local politicians have said they wanted it, policy studies have recommended it, and the public seems to want it enough that that some of the more entrepreneurial ones are trying to invent their own versions of one, i.e., Cabulous, Uber.

The ones who seem most adamantly opposed to the idea are the also the ones who control almost all of the radio dispatch services in the City... the cab companies.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Phantom Cab Driver Phites Back, by Ed Healy

Thursday, October 28, 2010

TAC Votes to End the Driving Requirement for "Key" Cab Company Personnel on the Waiting List ... Or the End of Daly/Ma?

Photo by Ed Healy
At the 10/25/10 meeting, the Taxi Advisory Council voted 12-3 to recommend ending the driving requirement for key cab personnel on the Waiting List. From the discussion leading up to the vote, "key" here means, not only managers, but mechanics and dispatchers as well. Only driver representatives John Han, David Kahn and Bill Mounsey voted against the motion.

There is a lot to be said about this motion but first I think you need to see the agenda item under which it was voted upon.  Read More>>

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Electric Taxis Are On The Way.

Click Here
All electric, 0% green house gas emissions taxis are on the way.  According to the Associated Press, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved $33 million in federal grant money Wednesday to fund green pilot projects throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.  Those projects include all-electric vehicles to be used as taxis in San Francisco and San Jose.  A company called Better Place, which provides electric vehicle charging stations, will own the vehicles.

Read the Associated Press article on SF Gate.  Also read the SF Chronicle's article.  According to this article also in Wednesday's Chronicle, the all electric Nissan Leaf will get anywhere from 62 - 138 miles of distance per charge depending on things like speed, weather, and air condition use.  Considering that as taxis, they would power the computerized dispatching system and CB radio, as well as FM radio and CD player or I-Pod, the Leaf would likely offer taxi drivers a low range of distance per charge, probably in the 60 miles category.   As a taxi driver, I'd say I drive about 150 miles per shift on average. What do you think drivers?  Are these cars going to be good as taxis?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Taxi Drivers Never Had It So Good.

That's according to Carl Macmurdo, president of San Francisco's Medallions Holders Association,  the title tongue in cheek.   He sent in this article about rickshaw drivers in Calcutta, India published in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2002.  Check it out.

Click here to read the article.

The Phantom Cab Driver Phites Back

San Francisco is trying to protect gas and gates through the Medallion Sales Pilot Program.  Read Ed Healy's conversation with Rebecca Lytle, vice president of lending at the San Francisco Federal Credit Union (SFFCU).  SFFCU is an approved lender by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to participate in the Medallion Sales Pilot Program.  Click Here to read more...

Friday, October 22, 2010

SFMTA Issues "Cease and Desist" to UberCab.

According to Chris Hiyashi of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), "cease and desist" letters have been issued to UberCab on Wednesday, October 20th.  UberCab is a San Francisco based company using an i-phone app to offer on-call limousine services to passengers.  The notice was issued by a joint team of investigators from the California Public Utilities Commission and the SFMTA Taxi Service and reportedly hand delivered to UberCab CEO Ryan Graves.  The investigators say that the company has been operating in San Francisco without proper limousine or taxicab permits and may be subject to criminal prosecutions, fines, or both.  

To view the notice issued by the California Public Utilities Commission click here.
To view the notice issued by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency click here.

Read more on Ed Healy's blog.