Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Recap of Monday’s Taxi Advisory Council Meeting, July 11, 2011. By John Han.

Photo by John Han. 
While the Municipal Transportation Agency is busy hiring a new executive director, and even put out an online survey to get the public’s input on a new chief, life continues to go on relatively normal everywhere else in the world, including in the SF taxi industry.

The Taxi Advisory Council (TAC) passed two motions Monday.  The first was to recommend to the MTA Board of Directors that it remove the electronic waybill requirement from the credit card fee waiver.  Ruach Graffis made the motion.  This passed nearly unanimously with only two dissenting votes – Bill Mounsey and Athan Rebelos.

If the MTA were to adopt this, it would mean that cab companies that want to pass credit card fees onto their drivers could do so without having to have the capability to produce electronic waybills.  
For those who do not want electronic waybills, this may be a good thing.  

Additionally, the July 1st, 2011 deadline to implement electronic waybills industry wide was postponed indefinitely.  This was to allow time for Taxi Services Staff to conduct research and outreach regarding concerns raised by taxi drivers.  The MTA is expected to revisit electronic waybills after 120 days from the original July 1st deadline.  To read more background about the SFMTA credit card waiver and electronic waybills CLICK HERE.

The second motion that passed was by Barry Korengold. 

Korengold’s motion was to recommend to the Board that any further sales of medallions beyond the Medallion Sales Pilot Program only be transferred from a driver to another driver and no longer from SFMTA to buyer.  This would apply to revoked medallions, returned medallions due to death, and new issues.

Currently, the SFMTA can sell up to 60 medallions directly to taxi drivers under the Pilot Program and receive all of the revenue from each sale, minus the 5% to the Driver’s Fund. 

Revenue from these direct type sales was designed by the agency to generate emergency funding for the agency’s fiscal crisis of 2010.  During 2010’s fiscal year, the SFMTA generated more than $10 million for itself through the sale of medallions, including those by SFMTA direct sales to buyers. 

If the MTA were to adopt this TAC recommendation, it would mean that the SFMTA could no longer sell medallions directly to drivers and receive mostly all of its revenue beyond the limited 60 medallions allowed under the pilot program.  This would largely be to prevent any possible conflict of interests that the SFMTA may issue new medallions in the future based on the need to generate new City revenue, rather than valid transportation needs.  

The motion passed on an 8-6 vote.  The ‘No’ votes were – John Lazaar, Dan Hinds, Carl Macmurdo, Tone Lee, Athan Rebelos, and John Han (myself). 

Timothy Lapp was absent for the vote. 

(My ‘no’ vote was not because I didn’t support the motion, but because I remained uncertain about specific details.  I wasn’t decided yet whether the motion should apply to returned and revoked medallions.  But as Korengold put it later, “don’t sacrifice the good for the perfect.”)

Council Liaison’s Report:

Acting Liaison Jarvis Murray of Taxi Services Staff, filling in for deputy director Christiane Hayashi, informed the council of a memo regarding “Taxi Citations and Stands”.  This memo was issued by Sonali Bose, CFO/Director of Finance and Information Technology, SFMTA, and is dated May 26, 2011.   

Photo by John Han.
Bose addresses the escalation in the number of citations issued to taxi drivers while they are loading or unloading passengers, especially along the Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building. 

Bose, in her memo, says that before the SFMTA took over taxi regulations in 2009, the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) and the SF Police Department (SFPD) put out training bulletins that allowed taxis to pick up and drop off in bus zones and blue handicapped zones as long as it didn’t pose a safety issue, and the driver was in immediate presence of the vehicle.  Ever since SFMTA took over, these policies were no longer being followed by the Parking Control Officers (PCO’s), and many drivers have been getting cited for tickets of about $100. 

According to Bose, SFMTA is expected to issue a “reading clip” to the PCO’s informing them that taxis may use bus stops and bike lanes to load and unload passengers.  This would include allowing taxis to use segregated areas along Market St. 

Bumper stickers would be placed on all taxis stating that taxis have a right to use the lane.  Additionally, Taxi Services is expected to meet with the Port Commission, which regulates the areas in front of the Ferry Building, to discuss a taxi stand be installed in that location. 

The memo acknowledges areas still not being addressed – red zones, unpaid metered parking spaces, yellow truck zones, crosswalks, or driveways. 

Acting Liaison Jarvis Murray also said that next year’s A-Card renewal should go smoother than this year’s did.  The year 2011 was the first year that drivers renewed their A-Cards under the SFMTA’s jurisdiction.  Drivers under the SFMTA’s first year typically waited 30 minutes to several hours as opposed to the matter of minutes it used to take to renew before the MTA took over.  Murray said that in the future, to expedite renewals, A-Cards renewals would be available through mail.  And he reiterated what Christiane Hayashi has stated in the past that the deadlines to renew would be staggered to match a driver’s birth date rather than an industry-wide deadline in January. 

Finally, Taxi Services Staff introduced three new investigators hired by staff to crack down on illegal limousines and taxis.  One investigator named Charles, (didn’t get his last name) said he wanted lots of dialogue and input from the taxi industry on what are the best ways to crack down on them. 

However, he also said that the investigators will be checking for badges and A-Cards from drivers lined up in hotel lines, even if the drivers are driving San Francisco taxicabs.  


  1. Thanks for always keeping us updated, John -- you are providing a very valuable service for those of us who can't attend (or can't stand sitting through) every minute of every MTA or TAC or Town Hall meeting, of which there are an awful lot. In a perfect world, or even in a reasonable world, you and the others who are not getting paid to attend (quite the opposite!) would get paid for what you do.

  2. I heard from a reliable source that electronic waybills are a dead issue and were before the TAC met and made the moot motion.
    Bruce Oka addressed the TAC and said "the list is dead and that is final" which makes the motion passed against MTA selling medallions a dead issue as well.
    It occurs to me that Oka saying the list is dead reveals a sunshine act violation. These things are to be decided and discussed at MTA bd. meetings.
    Years ago Willy Brown met with some drivers hours before the taxi Comm. was going to decide on putting out more cabs. Brown told the group that 50 would be put out revealing the Comm was just following orders just like they did when they voted for an illegal transfer of medallions to John Lazar and and the Welch heirs.
    Looks like the TAC is window dressing and Tariq is the only one with power.

  3. Thanks for doing this summary. It saves me the trouble of doing a post on it myself. I listened to the tape and that was enough.

    You did leave out the part where Chris Sweis refused to let Tariq Mehmood make his usual, boring personal attacks as well Tariq's screaming about his upcoming strike.

    I didn't quite understand his diction. Did he say "it was going to be the mother of all strikes?"

    Anyway - A sign of civilization on Swies's part. A sign of growing hysteria on Tariq's.

    Ed Healy

  4. Your account of the July 11 TAC meeting is way too generous toward your colleagues on the council, John.

    After John Han cast his "No" vote, Barry Korengold and others disrupted the meeting by shouting at John and trying to get him to change his vote to a "Yes."

    There was bedlam as people shouted back and forth across the table, and fresh debate on the motion broke out. This was right in the middle of a formal vote being counted.

    It was as undemocratic a spectacle as I have ever seen in a public meeting. It was a shameless and unethical attempt to intimidate voters right in the middle of a vote being cast.

  5. John, I love your pragmatism. Keep up the good fight.

  6. Charles, your account is somewhat embellished. Nobody was "shouting" and there was no "bedlam". It was more like a communal gasp and a mumble mumble that John would vote for the SFMTA to sell the medallions that would otherwise go to drivers on the list as "earned".

    Tara had made a comment before voting, which confused John. Some of us tried to clear it up, but the chair quickly reminded us we were in the middle of a vote. It did not change his vote. Those of us who know John were right in feeling that was not how he meant to vote, but should next time bite our tongues.

    Sorry you feel the MTA should be selling medallions instead of letting drivers earn them, as you did.

  7. Let me rephrase that and say those of us who know John were right in feeling that had he given it more thought, he would not have voted against this motion. It did not make sense, given some of his past positions.

  8. Johnny walker sez

    I find Healy and korengold opinions to be " hysterical " and "disruptive" when

    They are Not constantly engaging in a agenda with Hayashi, which is hidden

    The rest of the drivers.

  9. I find these anonymous personal attacks to be knee jerk and "disruptive". If "Johnny walker" attended any meetings, he would see the agenda is right out there on the table. What's more, he could address Hayashi, Ed or myself in person, if he wasn't afraid to do so.

  10. Charles,

    I don't think Barry disrupted the meeting. And I think there was NOT an attempt to intimidate voters. I did not feel intimidated.

    In my view of an ideal world, the SFMTA would not be making money off the direct sale of medallions. If transferable medallions are inevitable, then I support revoked and returned medallions going to the waiting list as 'earned' medallions at no cost, and allowing those drivers at the top of the list who would receive them to be able to sell them later in life.

    I also support newly issued medallions going to the waiting list at no cost and allowing drivers who would receive them being able to sell them later in life. This would seem to me the proper way to grandfather in transferable medallions, after 30+ years of 'earned' medallions issued to a waiting list. And this was Barry's motion.

    I support the idea of the change being gradual.

    I was not certain of this at the time of the vote. But now I'm sure that this is what I support.

    To stand on the principles stated above flies in the face of the agency's wishes, and against the wishes of elected officials.

    But I'd be lying if I said I didn't believe in these principles.

  11. Hi Johnny Walker,

    I think Barry did a good thing with his motion. In my opinion, you shouldn't knock him.

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  14. Hi Johnny Walker,

    In my humble opinion, I don’t think Barry has a hidden agenda. I think he has made enormous efforts to work within the avenues and constructs of the industry to fight on behalf of the rank and file taxi drivers. He is one of the few medallion holders who has been doing this throughout the Medallion Sales Pilot Program and even before so.

    As co-founder of SFCDA, Barry introduced alternatives to the sale of medallions that includes restricting the number of transferable medallions to one-third of the fleet, and allowing older medallion holders to buy their way out of their driving requirement, with parts of the money going towards a Drivers’ Fund. He also introduced an idea to grow the Driver’s Fund by suggesting that drivers chip in to a 5-year plan, after which, drivers could cash in or borrow from the fund.

    Whether you agree with these ideas or not, Barry has stood nearly alone to protect taxi drivers at the top of the waiting list by going against the grain of most others pushing for unrestricted, free-auctioning of medallions.

    This is what Barry said to me recently...

    “When it became apparent we didn't have the forces to stop sales of medallions, we (mostly I) attended almost all 175 hours of Town Halls and managed to end up with the limited "Pilot Program". I'm not happy with it, cause there needs to be a cap on the number of transferable medallions or it won't be long til there won't be any more going as "earned". Also, there needs to be an alternative to selling, such as getting out the driving requirement, as we suggest in our plan.”

    Johnny Walker, I deleted your last post because it had a line in it that I thought was inappropriate. However, I don’t want to censor people’s views. Everyone is entitled to opinions including you, and you may express them here. Here is your comment that was deleted minus the harsh language for which it was deleted…

    “Johnny walker sez,__
    Now mr Han, if korengold wants to do “good things,” well great, all korengold needs to do is explain his hidden agenda to the readers and I will stop attacking him. Also, please take notice korengold demands that I tell him my identity have no merit and merely deflect from the question(s) at hand. The fact korengold demands to know my idenity merely shows how weak his arguments truly are.” (END OF COMMENT)

    No one is perfect or without reason to criticize. And criticism is important as long as it’s constructive. But Barry has put himself out there to do more than most on behalf of people like us, even though he does not have to.

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  16. Hi Johnny Walker,

    I agree with you that the 5% fee is a disaster. I am appalled that SFMTA tried to sell this idea to us as some kind of good thing for us, when it was really about benefitting large cab companies first. Yes, that is insulting to us. Therefore, if anyone wants to praise and defend Taxi Services, they should also acknowledge this negative aspect of it as well.

    Tariq is the main figure who stepped up to the plate to bat for us regular drivers on that issue. Despite his outbursts at public meetings, he deserves good recognition for this. He does not deserve to be ridiculed by others.

    I am against anyone making personal attacks, including people making attacks against Tariq. It is wrong.

    Meanwhile, Barry isn't the one to cause the 5% fees and rear seat PIMs and impose them on the drivers. And he never supported them. Talk to him, and you'll know his views on them.

    Given that, as president of SFCDA, he also never took a strong stance AGAINST them either. For this, he and SFCDA deserves SOME criticism. SFCDA is supposed to include representing rank and file drivers. Therefore, in my opinion, it should have taken a stronger, more visible and vocal public stance to oppose the fees and PIMs, on behalf of its drivers. Instead, SFCDA was relatively quiet on the issue.

    But that doesn't mean the SFCDA and its cofounder and president should be banished to hell.

    Given that, I also agree with you that no one should praise the SFMTA's Taxi Services Division, and defend it so staunchly, without at the same time pointing out the flaws of the agency and it's negative impact on drivers as well, such as 5% fees and PIMs.

    All that said, Barry has worked very hard in many respects trying to protect the interests of ordinary drivers, much more so than most. There are only a handful of people in the industry that have taken the role that he has. He's one of the few friends ordinary taxi drivers have in this industry. He deserves to be respected.

  17. In addition, Mr Han

    In my opinion, other than servicing the SFMTA and cab companies, the TAC

    Has done very little, if anything substantial, for the drivers at large.

    It's a classic case of the drivers being able to see the Forrest through the trees

    As opposed to the TAC committee members.

    These issues in my opinion can and will be resolved in federal court, the

    Drivers have few options left.

    Johnny Walker

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  19. Hi Johnny Walker,

    What policies are you talking about that you say Korengold supports, that affects the drivers' bottom line? Can you be specific? Otherwise, they just seem to be unsubstantial claims.

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  21. Hi Johnny Walker,

    Would it be fair to say that your problems could now be summarized so far with a couple of key issues? ...

    1) SFCDA and its president, who is also a voting member of the TAC, is perceived as a drivers'/medallion holders' group that either too easily endorses most of the taxi policies proposed or adopted by the SFMTA, or otherwise remains passive on them, and therefore in effect, undermines the interests of a greater number of taxi drivers affected by the polices?

    (Not necessarily saying that this statement is true or untrue, but that this is what some drivers perceive to be the truth about the organization and its leadership)

    2) SFCDA does not put out any type of regularly updated publication either online or in print. Whereas other driver groups may update a weekly or monthly website, blog, or printed newsletter, SFCDA does not. But it does put out messages to its members via email. Therefore, communication may be lacking between the group's leadership and its members. And therefore, it may be unclear what the group's message or "agenda" is to many drivers who may have heard of the organization known as the SFCDA, but do not receive its email updates, website updates, newsletter, etc.? Hence, there is confusion, misunderstanding, uncertainty, guessing, etc.

    Would this summarize your complaints about the said issues? If it is say 'yes', and perhaps the organization could elect to address these issues.

    Here is the organization's phone number (415) 606-2585.

    BTW - a personal attack is a personal attack. No one's personal attack is better than another's. It is wrong to make personal attacks against Tariq, as some people have done. It's wrong to make personal attacks against Hayashi, as Tariq and some others have done. And it's wrong to do the same thing against Barry.

  22. Here is the SFCDA email contact...

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