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.
One discordant note: the protest was, unfortunately, scheduled at the same time Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi was presiding over a children's event on the City Hall steps. He was drowned out by the horn honking, and let it be known that he didn't appreciate it. Apologies were owing, and have been made. We need to make very effort to avoid this kind of conflict in the future.
Since the MTA had pulled all taxi items off its agenda (saying an environmental impact report hadn't been completed), the only opportunity to address the MTA Board came during public comment. A couple of dozen drivers spoke, and Board Chairman Tom Nolan signaled that the Board was listening. He indicated that he would like to see the 5% credit charge reduced, and wanted to reopen discussion of the proposed Open Taxi Access system, which would put prospective passengers in direct contact with drivers.
MTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford (who is on his way out the door) said the postponed taxi matters would be heard on Aug. 2. That, of course, delays a final decision on a meter increase for over a month. Add another month for the new fares to go into effect, and we're looking at September at the earliest.
I think a decision on further protests should await the MTA's reponse to the issues now on the table -- credit fees, back-seat terminals and electronic waybills. And, of course, implementation of the meter increase, as well as their upcoming decision on adding cabs. (More on this last point soon.)
United Taxicab Workers