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 |