Thursday, August 25, 2011

How To Make Cab Companies And Medallion Holders Go Livid At The Same Time. My Vision Of a Near Perfect Taxi Industry. By John Han.

Photo by John Han.
The other day I contemplated a formula for how to make cab companies and medallion holders both want to run someone out of town for good.  

It involves a vision for a close to perfect taxi industry as may be possible for San Francisco.  

It goes something like this....

The City and County of San Francisco would revoke ALL traditional full-time medallions back to itself and act as the holder.  For the ones already sold, it would buy them back.  Single operators are another story.     

As holder of all 1535 full-time regular medallions, San Francisco would lease all of its medallions directly to licensed cab companies at the same rate as cab companies are currently paying out to individual holders.  

This could conceivably eliminate illegal brokering.  (You industry savvy people should be able to see why it could eliminate illegal brokering.  The brokers would have to do business with the City regulators, and not individual holders who may be out of range of regulatory resources.  If, hypothetically, a City regulator were to be caught doing unwarranted business with non-licensed brokers, the accountability could be far greater for the administrator than would be for an individual holder, because things of that nature tend to make news headlines.)  

At a loose, and rough average of $2000.00 a month per medallion, 1535 full-time medallions would generate $3,070,000.00 per month in revenue, or $36,840,000 in revenue per year.  At $2200 per medallion, that loose figure would be $40,524,000 per year.  And at $2500 per medallion, it would be $46,050,000 per year.   

The imperative part of this is that the money would first be used to provide qualified, full-time drivers with healthcare and pension industrywide.  Smart people at the MTA could do the research and determine what the actual costs would be.  (What if there was enough money in there to include part-time drivers?  Probably not, but what if?)

Some would say that this is exactly what MTA Director Malcolm Heinicke attempted to do when the MTA first took over regulation of the industry.  He wanted to take all the medallions back and turn them over for profits for the MTA.  

I think Heinicke was halfway on the right track.  But he's not a cab driver so how could he know the full story?  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

SFMTA May Seek A Share Of Taxicab Advertising Revenues In The Future. By John Han.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) may explore ways to get a share of taxi advertising revenues in the future. 

Recently, the United Taxi Workers (UTW) filed a public information request, and obtained materials regarding the City's regulation on 5% credit card fees, rear seat Passenger Information Monitors (PIMs), and electronic waybills.  

Included in the material was a copy of an email sent by MTA Deputy Director of Taxi Services Christiane Hayashi dated March 25th, 2011, and addressed to Sonali Bose, the agency's chief financial officer, and other recipients. 

In that email, Hayashi responds to two questions being posed at her by Nathaniel Ford, who was the MTA chief at the time, and backed up by Sonali Bose, regarding the distribution of ad revenues generated by rear seat PIMs. 

Bose’s first question to Hayashi was, “Who negotiated the 90%-10% split and under what authority?”  Her second question was, “Why isn’t the MTA getting a portion of the ad revenue?”

The following is an excerpt from the email in which Hayashi answers Bose’s two questions…

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Consulting Firm Is Researching 5% Credit Card Fees, Rear Seat PIMs, and Electronic Waybills For The MTA. By John Han.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has hired Nelson Nygaard, a transportation planning firm, to research 5% credit card fees, rear seat Passenger Information Terminals (PIMs), and electronic waybills.

The consulting firm is conducting interviews on an invite only basis with persons from San Francisco's taxi industry, including representatives from Yellow, Luxor, De Soto, Green, Metro, National, Black and White Checker Cab, the Medallion Holders' Association, the San Francisco Cab Drivers' Association, the Burmese Cab Drivers' Association, Tariq Mehmood, and a handful of others.

Interviews began on Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, and are scheduled to continue until Thursday, August 18th.

Taxi protest outside of City Hall, June 21, 2011.   Photo by
John Han.
Although the credit card fees, rear seat PIMs, and electronic waybills are being supported by a share of the industry's cab companies, the items were the main targets of four taxi protests staged by cab drivers between April and June of 2011.

At least two of those protests were major in size, involving hundreds of cab drivers circling City Hall in their taxis and honking horns for hours.  Another one of the protests also involved taxis circling City Hall and honking, but was smaller in size.

In the past, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) consulted with Nelson Nygaard in a report titled, "Making Taxi Service Work In San Francisco".  That report was dated in 2001.

It includes recommendations such as returning to a "split-meter" system, claiming that a split-meter would give cab companies direct financial incentive to improve service, carry more passengers, and expand markets.  The 2001 report says that with direct financial incentive to service the public, cab companies would become true taxi providers again, rather than remaining simply as car rental companies that do not necessarily provide services to the public.

CLICK HERE to view that report.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Exploiting Cab Companies And Cab Drivers? Taxi Advisory Council Says 'NO' To Illegal Taxi Brokers. By John Han.

Photo by John Han.
The Taxi Advisory Council (TAC) passed a motion recommending that the MTA take action to discourage unlawful brokering of vehicle leasing in San Francisco's taxi industry.  

At its regular Monday, August 8th, 2011 meeting, the TAC voted 14-1 on the item, the lone dissenting vote being council member Tone Lee.   The motion was made by De Soto Cab general manager and council member Athan Rebelos.  

Rebelos' motion targets brokering from the view that a Long Term Lease (LTL) holder, could otherwise act as a "broker" who does not drive the cab and manages multiple arrangements.  

Long Term Leasing (LTL) in itself is legal in the San Francisco taxi industry.  But it is said to be hard for companies and local authorities to regulate the LTL system, and their are anecdotes that those who engage in long term leases don't always play by the rules.

For example, state law prohibits taxi drivers from operating a taxicab for more than 10 consecutive hours within a 15 consecutive hour spread (VC 21702(a))

Despite this, some Long Term Lease drivers are said to be allowed to lease a taxicab all daylong on weekends, thus potentially letting drivers go far longer than the state's 10 consecutive hour restriction.  
(On the other hand, even cab companies operating taxicabs as daily 'gate and gas' leases are said to sometimes allow their drivers to continue driving for up to 12 or even 14 consecutive hours on the sly.) 

Another aspect about Long Term Leases is that it is said to be hard to regulate the 'gate fee' cap. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

MTA Approves Flag Drop Increase, And Authorizes 87 New Medallions. By John Han.

Image from SF GovTV
The MTA Board of Directors gave San Francisco taxi drivers a 40 cent increase in the taxi meter flag drop rate at its Tuesday regular meeting August 2nd, 2011.

This means that passengers will pay an increased starting rate from $3.10 to $3.50, when entering a cab.  The flag drop meter increase comes on top of a previous distance and time rate increase approved in May.

According to the SF Examiner,  the total increases will mean that a three mile cab ride with a three minute wait time will go up from $10.75 to $12.85.  And, according to The Sacramento Bee, an average trip from downtown San Francisco to SFO will go up from about $35.00 to $41.00.

The rate increase was approved by the Board unanimously.  It is the first raise that taxi drivers in San Francisco have received in eight years, and will reportedly go into effect in about 30 days.

The MTA also voted overwhelmingly to issue 87 new medallions.  This will will include 50 "single operator" medallions, 35 full-time regular medallions, and 2 electric taxi vehicle medallions.

Director Bruce Oka was the dissenting vote in a 6-1 majority vote, citing the new 50 "single operator" medallions as the grounds to oppose.  He was in favor of more full-time cabs.  Oka had also previously said in a May 17th Board meeting that a meter increase should not be granted without a gate increase to the cab companies.

(MTA spokesperson Paul Rose told the Bay City News that the paperwork will be complete for the issuance of the 85 new taxi medallions in 90 days.  The Bay City News article is published in the Bay Citizen