Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Debra Johnson To Temporarily Replace Nathaniel Ford, Named Interim Chief Executive Officer.

Debra Johnson, MTA Director of Administration, Taxis and Accessible
Services, will be interim Executive Director and CEO of the agency to
replace Nathaniel Ford.  Photo by John Han.
Debra Johnson, the MTA's Director of Administration, Taxis and Accessible Services, has been named interim Executive Director and CEO of the agency.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the MTA Board will begin interviewing candidates for Ford's permanent replacement in July.  Johnson is said to be in the running for the job.

CLICK HERE to read the Chronicle's SF Gate report.
CLICK HERE to read the SF Examiner's report.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Christiane Hayashi Explaining The Medallion Sales Pilot Program. Transportation Regulators Conference 2010. (Videos)

(Click on video)

The three video out takes here are from a conference which I'm assuming was at the International Association of Transportation Regulators Conference held in Chicago in September of 2010.  Deputy Director of SMTA Taxi Services, Christiane Hayashi summarizes the history and facts of the San Francisco Medallion Sales Pilot Program.  The third video includes explanations of electronic waybills.  

This speech is re-published here as it may provide useful insight to anyone wishing to know more about the SFMTA's Medallion Sales Pilot Program - the program's purposes, its origins, how it evolved, and the controversy between Prop A and Prop K.  It is summarized here by the SFMTA itself.  The information published here is intended for educational use.  The content here should not necessarily be new to anyone who has faithfully attended town hall meetings and Taxi Advisory Council meetings since their inception.  

One comment that I'd like to add though, is that in Part 1 (meaning the 1st video) Hayashi explains how Prop A, a Muni reform measure passed in 2008, caused the dissolution of the SF Taxi Commission and brought the City's taxi industry under regulatory jurisdiction of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) (see 12:35 [minutes/seconds] on the video counter).  

On this matter, I'd like to insert views expressed by Brad Newsham in an essay he wrote titled, "Why The Taxi Turmoil?".  This is to offer a contrasting view, or perhaps an expanded view of the industry, with respects to some of the controversy stirred within the industry as a result of the passing of Prop A.  An excerpt...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Recapping The June 21st Taxi Strike And Protest. By Mark Gruberg

Photo by John Han.
(Published with permission from Mark Gruberg.  Gruberg is with United Taxi Workers)  The turnout at City Hall for yesterday's strike/protest was enormous.  For a long stretch of time, the streets were filled for blocks around with cabs, and traffic all around was at a halt. 

The S.F. Chronicle said the strike "failed to take hold downtown, where cabs were plentiful", but that assertion was contradicted by a report in the online Bay Citizen, which said that although cabs were available at 12:15 (15 minutes after the start of the strike), as it went on, cabs were much harder to find. A hotel doorman said guests were forced to wait much longer than usual, and a woman at Post and Kearny said she'd been unsuccessfully trying to flag a cab for half an hour.  

Google was less than accurate in taglining the Bay Citizen article.  The story's headline read "Taxi Strike Frustrates Downtown Travelers", but Google introduced it as "Noise at Civic Center, But No Trouble Hailing a Cab".  

Tariq Mehmood deserves a lot of credit for mobilizing drivers.  But others worked hard as well -- Saam Aryan did a tremendous amount of outreach, Brad Newsham created a wonderful photo-op of drivers roped around the flagpole across from City Hall, Dean Clark worked hard at the protest, and UTW did its part in bringing out drivers, providing picket signs, etc.  Many others worked the street and kept the enthusiasm going.

SF Taxi Drivers Strike & Rally Tuesday, June 21st, 2011, With Muni Operators. By Labor Video Project.

(Click on screen to watch video)
On June 21, 2011, many SF Taxi drivers struck and protested at SF City Hall against the cab companies who have imposed a 5% fee on every credit card transactions. They were joined by SF Muni operators and transit worker supporters who also attacked the MTA for union busting, health and safety violations and attacking all working people.

Production of Labor Video Project www.laborvideo.org laborvideo.blip.tv

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Photo Stream. June 21st Taxi Driver Strike. By John Han.

On Tuesday, June 21, 2011, taxi drivers held a two hour strike.  Drivers are mainly protesting excessive 5% credit card fees, rear seat payment terminals, and electronic waybill tracking.  All photos by John Han.

Here is what the media has put out so far... 
SF Examiner                
COMING SOON - Thoughts and analysis of the strike / protest.  For now, here's some photos.

My Letter To The Board Of Supervisors Regarding Excessive 5% Credit Card Fees. By John Han.

Photo by John Han. 
(This is a hand delivered letter to the offices of the Board of Supervisors.)

Dear Supervisors:

As you know, there will be a taxi demonstration and strike today in which drivers will circle City Hall and honk horns from noon to 2 PM, and go to public comment at the MTA Board meeting 1pm. 

The protest is mainly over excessive 5% credit card fees, rear seat payment terminals (Taxi Tvs like they have in New York), and electronic waybill tracking. 

With respects to drivers being charged an excessive 5% credit card fee, the fees are set at 5% to help pay for rear seat payment terminals in which the passengers can swipe their cards themselves from the backseat.  Taxi Tvs will also most likely play looping advertisements the same way New York Taxi Tvs do.  Many who have taken New York taxis say the commercial ads in taxis are annoying and that they immediately turn the volume off when they get in.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Taxi Drivers Invited To Meet And Speak With San Francisco's Mayoral Candidates, Monday June 20th.

2011 Candidate Meet and Greet in the Mission

You are invited and you can bring your friends to a meet and greet in the Mission on Monday June 20th!
2011 Candidate Meet and Greet

Free Tickets at:

Meet the people who want to represent the people:
We have invited the:
Mayor Candidates, District Attorney Candidates, Sheriff Candidates
Monday: June 20th, 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Gestalt Haus
3159 16th St
San FranciscoCA 94110

All candidates have been invited and are welcome to join us!

There is no charge for this event. The meet and Greet is an event where we can share ideas with the candidates and the candidates if they wish, can share their thoughts about our beautiful city we live in 
San Francisco.

I hope you all can make it!

Dean Clark

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why The Taxi Turmoil? By Brad Newsham.

NOTE: To read a longer, different, version of this article, published in San Francisco Magazine in March 2010, go to: http://www.sanfranmag.com/story/no-wonder-they’re-grumpy )

Brad Newsham, top left.  Photo by John Han.
DURING THE PAST THREE DECADES San Francisco was home to the most driver-friendly taxicab legislation on this planet. A groundbreaking 1978 law stipulated that the city’s taxicab “medallions” (the permits that allow the holder to put one cab on the streets) would no longer be held by taxicab companies but by veteran cab drivers.

The cab company owners loathed the new arrangement, and between 1978 and 2007 they crafted eight separate ballot measures intended to restore their supremacy. Eight times the city’s enlightened voters said, “No -- we like our cabdrivers. The law stays.”

BUT IN 2007, a group of City Hall and taxicab industry insiders pulled off a fast one. The principals have never admitted their roles, but here’s how the deal went down:

Support For A Taxi Strike Growing? Read The Latest Report. By John Han.

Tariq Mehmood is the key organizer of the strike likely to happen
 on Tuesday, June 21st.  File photo by John Han.
Here are some newspaper articles reporting more details about this Tuesday's taxi strike.  

According to the SF Examiner and other sources I spoke with over the phone, the protest will be at City Hall between 12 noon and 2 PM.   Taxi drivers are expected to hold themselves out of service and either circle City Hall honking horns or park their taxis during those hours.  

And the SF Weekly thinks there's enough momentum growing.

Also, medallion holder Brad Newsham will stage a photo op at 12:30 PM.  

As part of the event, a photograph of cab drivers standing together in solidarity will be taken PROMPTLY at 12:30 PM in front of City Hall.   Newsham is calling for cab drivers who want to part of the photo to meet near the American flag in Civic Center Plaza, across the street from City Hall, Polk St. side.  

"PLEASE ARRIVE NO LATER than 12:15 PM, and look for someone handing out instructions with the exact details,"  Newsham says.  Here is Newsham's message to the industry...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

MTA Board President Nathaniel Ford To Leave At End Of June.

MTA Board President Nathaniel Ford will resign at the end
of this month.  
Here is Will Reisman's article from the San Francisco Examiner on Nathaniel Ford's departure from the SFMTA.  Best of luck to you Mr. Ford.

CLICK HERE to read the full article.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

MTA Retaliating Against A Strike? Agency Takes All Taxi Items Off Of The June 21st Agenda. By John Han.

The MTA's desire to see rear seat "Taxi Tvs" is driving credit
card fees up to 5% for taxi drivers in SF.  There is reason to believe
that taxi drivers would settle down and accept a 3% fee instead.
That rate could be achieved if "Taxi Tvs"were removed from
 the City's credit card waiver requirement.
Has the MTA just made its first move to avert a strike?   On Wednesday, June 15, 2011, SFMTA Taxi Services Division informed the industry that, 

"all taxi-related items, including the flag drop fare increase and the proposed issuance of new permits, will be pulled off of the agenda of the meeting of the SFMTA Board of Directors on June 21st, and will be rescheduled to a later meeting"

I can't say I'm certain that there's a connection, but this update was sent out to the industry on the same day that the San Francisco Examiner reports that a strike is likely to happen this Tuesday.  It is the same Tuesday, June 21st, that the MTA Board of Directors was to discuss not only an increase in the flag drop and issuance of new permits, but also the allocation of credit card fees.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tariq Mehmood, Me, And An Anonymous Taxi Driver. By John Han.

Photo by John Han.
This essay is a response to an anonymous person's comment made to this blog.  The comment was made on the essay titled, "Proposal For Taxi Service Improvements, Open Taxi Access (OTA)".  

Here is the full comment, but for time's sake, I'm only responding to the portions addressed specifically to me...

"Barry and others, it is not your permit fees alone but all kind of money which will be used to buy you OTA. Barry your cab I guess is in Royal cab now and Royal do have Cabulous. Royal is on Cabulous, is that not enough. Now you will say that oh,no, now I want OTA. Tomorrow you will say that is not enough, you need another service.
Correct, get your checkbook out and buy it and enjoy the fruits. Tell all your friendly cab 
companies to stop their dispatch or share money pool and buy OTA, none of them will do it then why Yellow and Luxor should do it. 

John Han--are you really driver's representative. 

City Attorney and Mayoral Candidate Dennis Herrera To Meet With Taxi Drivers.

You are invited to this event. Please RSVP by calling Dean Clark at 415-240-2433 or getting tickets at Event Brite at:


Monday, June 13 · 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Community Room
201 Turk Street (Community Room)
San Francisco, CA

Created By
More Info

House Party for Dennis Herrera

As you know Dennis is running for Mayor this year and I want to provide an opportunity to meet with him and discuss issues related to the Taxi Industry. The meet and greet is open to the public.

The House Party is brought to you by the

San Francisco Taxi Advocates

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Proposal On Taxi Service Improvements - Open Taxi Access (OTA). By John Han.

In short, Open Taxi Access (OTA) was a one year government subsidized pilot program that would allow for internet apps like CabulousTaxi Magic, or Uber to be installed as standard equipment inside of taxicabs.  The idea was to, “maximize the use of licensed, San Francisco taxi vehicles as a form of public transit by increasing the confidence of customers in the viability of taxis”.  (SFMTA “Request for Proposals for Open Taxi Access, Nov. 16th, 2010.)

The way OTA would’ve achieved this idea would’ve been to allow potential customers to visually see available taxis on an internet map via website or smart phone app, hail the taxi driver directly, and should the driver accept, visually track the taxi driver’s progress to their location.  This would’ve bypassed a need to go through a company dispatch system.  

It would’ve also allowed the driver to visually see the passenger’s location via internet map, and enable two-way voice contact between drivers and passengers.  That's important because drivers often have the anxiety that when they get to a dispatched call, the passenger won't be there.  And passengers often have the same anxiety that the cab may not show up, and therefore, they should just as well hail a cab without canceling their order.  

Additionally, OTA would’ve enabled text/voice messaging throughout an entire participating fleet in the event of an emergency, crimes in progress or prevention, traffic congestion, etc. 

It was proposed as a voluntary measure.  However, according to SFMTA Taxi Services, the management of Luxor Cab has successfully lobbied to kill OTA, and the pilot program is currently stagnant.  The management of Yellow Cab, the City’s largest cab company, has also expressed opposition to OTA. 

However, the president and co-owner of De Soto Cab, Hansu Kim, publicly supported it. 

Misunderstandings Between Cab Companies And The Public Ridership:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Commentary On Sonali Bose's May 6th Memo To The MTA Board Of Directors, Regarding Credit Card Fees And Rear Seat Payment Terminals (Shortened Version). By John Han.

Photo by John Han.

Sonali Bose, the MTA's chief financial officer, wrote a memo dated May 6th to the agency's Board of Directors, regarding credit card fees and rear seat payment terminals.  

To get to the point, the MTA states  these reasons as purposes for rear seat Passenger Information Monitors (PIMs).

PIM units provide customers with the benefits of security of a rear-seat credit card payment system, improved passenger information, promotion of local businesses and potential advertising revenue.  Without a PIM unit there is likely to be a variety of different payment methods depending on which taxi the customer uses).”

(Memorandum:  ” Credit Card Charges:  Follow Up on Taxi Issues Raised at the April 5, 2011 Board Meeting”, May 6th, 2011.)

The following is my response as a driver to the purposes stated. 

A Commentary On Sonali Bose's May 6th Memo To The MTA Board Of Directors, Regarding Credit Card Fees And Rear Seat Payment Terminals. By John Han.

Photo by John Han.
On May 17th, the MTA Board approved the industry’s first meter increase in eight years, partially with hopes to mitigate the new 5% credit card fees now being charged to drivers, and hopes to quiet the drivers’ protests

But prior to the meter increase, Sonali Bose, the MTA’s chief financial officer, wrote a memo to the MTA Board of Directors dated May 6th.  That memo summarizes the history of San Francisco’s credit card policies with respects to its taxi industry, and details why the City is making drivers pay a higher than normal rate on card processing fees.  It also details how the fees are related to a requirement to install rear seat Passenger Information Moniters (PIMs), or “Taxi Tvs”, as they’re referred to in New York.

Sonali Bose’s full memo can be VIEWED HERE

This essay examines aspects of Bose’s memo from a driver’s perspective, and hopefully speaks on  enough behalf for of some broader citizenry of drivers. 

Let’s begin first with this excerpt regarding credit card fees.  Bose writes,