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.

DPT doesn’t even hand the citations to the driver or put them on the windshield wiper.  Instead, they watch from a distance, and take the license plate number down and mail the tickets in to the color scheme.  Real classy, eh?

I received two of them along the Ferry Building in October, about a week apart from each other… one for $90, that was for, “blocking crosswalk”, and another for $105, that one’s for “blocking bike lane”. 

In other words, when you drop someone off or pick up along the Embarcadero in the Ferry Plaza area, and the white passenger loading curb is all taken, you try to scoot a little bit to the right to get as close to the curb for safety and curb access as you can, and try not to obstruct traffic (Embarcadero’s a busy street), that’s when DPT is surveying you from a distance, takes down your license plate, and busts you for being in the bike lane.  Only you don't know you've just been ticketed.

The violation on the “block bike lane” ticket is VC21211.  I looked it up on the internet.  It reads as follows... and notice particularly subsections ‘C’ through ‘F’.

“California Vehicle Code VC 21211 - Obstruction of Bikeways or Bicycle Paths or Trails
21211. (a) No person may stop, stand, sit, or loiter upon any class I bikeway, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public or private bicycle path or trail, if the stopping, standing, sitting, or loitering impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist.
(b) No person may place or park any bicycle, vehicle, or any other object upon any bikeway or bicycle path or trail, as specified in subdivision (a), which impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist unless the placement or parking is necessary for safe operation or is otherwise in compliance with the law.
(c) This section does not apply to drivers or owners of utility or public utility vehicles, as provided in Section 22512.
(d) This section does not apply to owners or drivers of vehicles who make brief stops while engaged in the delivery of newspapers to customers along the person's route.
(e) This section does not apply to the driver or owner of a rubbish or garbage truck while actually engaged in the collection of rubbish or garbage within a business or residence district if the front turn signal lamps at each side of the vehicle are being flashed simultaneously and the rear turn signal lamps at each side of the vehicle are being flashed simultaneously.
(f) This section does not apply to the driver or owner of a tow vehicle while actually engaged in the towing of a vehicle if the front turn signal lamps at each side of the vehicle are being flashed simultaneously and the rear turn signal lamps at each side of the vehicle are being flashed simultaneously.
Amended Ch. 517, Stats. 1993. Effective January 1, 1994.
Amended Sec. 21, Ch. 1007, Stats. 1999. Effective January 1, 2000.
Amended Sec. 7, Ch. 127, Stats. 2001. Effective July 30, 2001.”

The last sentence in subsection 'B' is helpful, "unless the placement or parking is necessary for safe operation"   But I wanted to point out subsections ‘C’ through ‘F’ too because there needs to be added into this code a subsection ‘G’, that would include taxi drivers who are “actually engaged in” loading or unloading passengers.  We need to amend this code and we could if we were more organized. 

But for now, there’s at least some help from the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).  

Michael Harris, Division of Taxis and Accessible Services SFMTA, sent me a copy of some old Taxi Detail documents.  It’s pretty helpful and you can view all of what he sent me here.  It mainly says that taxi drivers can pull into bus zones for a few minutes if they’re present with the vehicle and are actually engaged in loading or unloading passengers. And taxi drivers can use the blue handicap zones for the same.

But it leaves open this helpful possibility as well…
High drop-off and pick-up areas… where loading zones are not available or are limited?  Sounds a lot like the Embarcadero. 

Obviously this is an older document, since it refers to the Caltrain station and nowadays, there is a large taxi zone at the 4th and Townsend St. Caltrain station.  And it works great for both taxi drivers and passengers.  When passengers get off the trains, I see how they want taxis and are able to find them easily.  That's good transit first policy.  

But the Embarcadero still has no taxi loading zones and it needs to have at least one good one along there somewhere. 

But I am not going to wait around and stop taking passengers to the Ferry Building when they ask me to, and dropping them off in front of it if they request it.  I had two requests today for exactly that.  When I told one passenger about the flurry of tickets, she said she sees people all the time trying to get cabs out there and that there is no way for taxis and passengers to hook up  easily. 

She was an early morning fare.  I picked up about two or three more times from the Embarcadero Ferry Plaza area throughout the rest of the day.  I couldn’t help but wonder if I’m going to be surprised with another $105 fine a few weeks from now.    

But thanks goes to Chris Hayashi, Mike Harris, and the rest of the MTA Taxi Services staff for helping out.  


  1. When I click on the Harris documents link, I get sent to Google Docs and see the message: "Sorry we are unable to retrieve the document for viewing." I am in Gmail and am using their Chrome browser so you think it would work!

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  4. Hey Anonymous, the link for the Harris document should work now.

  5. Thanks. I carry a xerox of a letter like one of these around in my cab just in case. I'm not sure if it would work "out in the field," but it may be useful in fighting a ticket. Unless the MTA could produce a letter rescinding these policies, I would think it would work. The harder trick is to get them not to give us the tickets in the first place.


  7. Thanks for all the work you're doing on this site, John. Great job.

    It sure is a pain in the butt to have to clear up tickets like this. Taxi driving is stressful enough, and you would think that after all we do to make the city accessible---and MONEY!!!

    ---This is the kind of thanks we get. For SHAME!!!

    I commend you on your patience,John, but how can we defend ourselves against this sort of thing? What's the best course take should receive a ticket from the Gods? Contact Chris?

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