Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Recap of Monday's Taxi Advisory Council Meeting, September 12, 2011. By John Han.

The San Francisco Taxi Advisory Council, (TAC), discussed, but did not vote on whether the Medallion Sales Pilot Program should allow some older medallion holders to pay money in exchange for reducing their driving requirement.  

The proposal titled, "Limited Driving Requirement", was introduced by Barry Korengold of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association (SFCDA).  

Under current regulations, medallion holders typically must drive at least 800 hours per year in order to keep their medallions.  Exceptions would be if the medallion holder also manages a cab company, or is disabled.   

The SFCDA proposal would adjust the Medallion Sales Pilot Program to allow medallion holders who reach the age of 55 to pay $100 per month ($1200 per year), in exchange for reducing their driving requirement to 600 hours per year.
Drivers who reach 60 years old could pay $200 per month ($2400 per year), in exchange for reducing to 400 hours per year.  And drivers who reach 65 years old or become disabled could pay $400 per month ($4800 per year) and eliminate their driving requirement altogether.  

The money would be split between the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), and the Drivers Fund.  

The payments would be on a voluntary basis.  Drivers who meet the sellers' qualifications could still elect to sell their medallions.     

The SFCDA plan also proposes to limit transferable medallions to one-third of the total fleet.  The group's proposal reads as follows, 

"Because of the slow movement of the list, [top of the list] we feel two-thirds of the medallions should continue to go to the top of the list without purchase."  ("Limited Driving Requirement", SFCDA, introduced to TAC Sept. 12, 2011.)

The plan reinforces the notion that the SFMTA should no longer sell medallions outright as a direct seller to buyer, as was voted by the TAC recently for recommendation.  

This is said to be because of possible conflicts of interests.  Since the City regulates the taxi industry, (including the number of new medallions that can be issued), some say it would be a conflict of interests to allow the City to also be the primary seller of the newly issued medallions (at $250,000 each) and profit from the sales.  The idea is that issuing new medallions should be based on transportation needs, not on revenue needs for dealing with budget deficits.   

The SFCDA plan met with some severe opposition from other TAC members and the public.  One member of the public described it as, "a terrible idea".   Taxi drivers strongly in favor of furthering medallion sales showed up for public comment to express their sentiments, outweighing visible support for the SFCDA plan.     

I, through the chair, asked council member Dan Hinds what parts of the SFCDA plan he was specifically opposed to.  I asked him if he was opposed to allowing medallion holders pay extra in exchange for having their driving requirements reduced, if it was strictly on a voluntary basis.  

His answer, as I understood it, was to the effect that doing so would allow medallion holders to hold on to their medallions longer than if they were to sell... until they're dead even... and that that would slow down the overall movement of medallion sales.  This is how I understood the answer.  I'm not sure if that is what he actually meant. 


IRS 1099K Forms -  

Jarvis Murray, SFMTA Enforcement and Legal Affairs Manager, filled in for Deputy Director Christiane Hayashi as Council Liaison. 

He reminded everyone that starting in 2012, cab companies will have to issue IRS 1099K forms to all of their taxi drivers indicating gross income from fares paid by credit and debit cards.  Under the new federal tax regulation, one credit card transaction is enough to oblige cab companies to issue the 1099K forms to their drivers.

To view the IRS instructions on 1099K forms, CLICK HERE.

Illegal Taxi And Limousine Enforcement -  

Charles Castillo, an SFMTA illegal taxi and limo enforcer, said the City has issued 50 citations so far to limousines illegal parked in white zones in front of downtown hotels.  Castillo said that about 15 to 20 taxi drivers a day are now getting airports from those hotel lines, whereas before, the airport rides were going to the limousines illegally.  

He said the new enforcement efforts have also busted "a couple dozen" illegal taxis, including one trip from San Francisco to Palo Alto in which an illegal taxi driver was issued a $5000.00 citation. 

Castillo said enforcement efforts includes plans to target limousines parked in yellow zones as well. He said currently there is no authority to impound vehicles operating as illegal taxis, but that the SFMTA is working on it.  Castillo also said the SFMTA expects a fourth enforcer to be hired soon.  

Rear Seat Credit Card Machines - 

Numbers were issued to the TAC regarding tip percentages generated by Rear Seat Passenger Information Monitors (PIMs) and their tip prompters designed to increase tip percentages.  

The SFMTAs numbers indicate that the average tip from a tip prompting PIM ranges anywhere from 15.5% to 18%.  The SFMTAs numbers also suggest that an average tip for taxi drivers without the use of  PIMs may range as low as 7% to 12.8%.  Thus, based on these numbers it would seem that PIMs increase tip percentages.  

My personal experience would say that PIM tip prompters seem to roughly average around 20%-25% tips.  However, my personal experience also would say that this may not represent an overall increase in tips, at least for me, since this is about where I would average my tips in the first place.  

The other day a woman gave me $15.00 on a credit card fare that was only $7.00 and some change on the meter.  That was without the aid of a tip prompter.  On the same shift, another woman gave me $50.00 on a credit card fare to the airport for a fare that was $38.00 and some change without the aid of a tip prompter... roughly 28%.   On a cash fare of $10.00 and some change, a passenger gave me $13.00.  Since I haven't quite memorized the new meter jumps yet, I haven't calculated the exact percentage.  But that's roughly 25% to 30%.  

These are not uncommon tip averages for me and represent my personal average.  I would guess other drivers average something similar... some worse, some better, and some around the same.  

I have heard other drivers say PIMs give them better tips on longer fares like airports, but not necessarily for shorter in-town fares.  Some drivers I've talked to have said they're getting overall better tips from PIMs.  Others have said they haven't noticed much of a difference.

I say the real increase in driver income has come from the meter rate increase.  

Report To Recommend Continuation Of Medallion Sales Beyond The Pilot Program? - 

The question was asked why there had not been any report yet issued by the TAC to recommend to the MTA Board of Directors the continuation of medallion sales after the pilot program is completed.  At the April 24th, 2011 TAC meeting, the TAC voted 9-5 in favor of a preliminary recommending to continue selling medallions beyond the duration of the pilot program, and to continue selling indefinitely. 

It was brought up that one possible reason for not having issued the report is because the TAC also voted in favor of recommending that the SFMTA no longer act as direct seller to buyer on newly issued or revoked medallions, and that this may have caused a delay.  On July 11, 2011, the TAC voted 8-6 in favor of that motion. 

Shop-A-Round Taxi Program In Effect - 

During public comment, representatives of San Francisco's Taxi "Shop-A-Round" announced that the program is now in effect.  The "Shop-A-Round" program allows senior citizen and disabled passengers to use taxis as a low cost transportation option to and from grocery stores.  It will have a 10% tip option for the taxi driver the same as Para-transit.   


  1. Good report. thanks John keep up the good work.

  2. On June 28th, in response to a complaint I made to it, the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force found that the Hinds/Macmurdo motion of April 24th, mentioned above, was IN VIOLATION OF BOTH CITY AND STATE LAWS regarding actions taken on agenda items. (Specifically, Sunshine Ordinance 67.7, 67.21E, and Brown Act Section 2, 54954.2.)

    The Hinds/Macmurdo motion is thus OFF THE TABLE.

    The TAC report containing it is OUT OF ORDER. Chairman Sweis is CORRECT not to have finally put it forward at an MTA Board meeting. (Councilmember Hinds is WRONG to have tried to give the appearance of doing so during Public Comment.)

    The "right thing to do" is for the TAC to (continue to) hold the discussion it was supposed to hold but could not, due to the Hinds/Macmurdo filibuster, which occupied three full meetings, and was a flagrantly unethical blockage of public meeting time. Through the Hinds/Macmurdo motion, the TAC reached a "conclusion" without having engaged proper discussion - to use cab terms, it charged us for a destination without having driven us there.

    I call for the MTA Taxi Division, WHICH DOES UNDERSTAND THE IMPROPRIETY OF THE HINDS/MACMURDO MOTION, to point out the necessity of revising the report according to the finding of the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. I call for TAC Chairman Chris Sweis to do the right thing and resume the preparation of the report from before the time of the ILLEGAL motion sponsored by Messers Hinds and Macmurdo. (Again, because some of the items that should have been discussed have since been discussed, it can be observed that "starting at square one" has already happened.)

    Everyone knows that various City offices and committees like to try to ignore Sunshine Ordinance findings. However when asked a second time the Task Force is known to uphold its decisions. I ask you, members of the TAC, will you let this be a one-act drama, in which you surprise the public and do the right thing? Or will you insist on a multi-act farce?

    I urge the TAC to adopt correct procedures, and to act according to the finding of the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force.

    I'm sure you will want to say that this is a waste of time, but as anyone who was there knows, the damage of wasted time was really done during those three meetings during which nothing got done except the vote in favor of the illegal motion. Many items since then have been out of order. Since then, some of the issues have been discussed, though most items concerning the effect of the Medallion Sales PILOT Program on the rank-and-file drivers are being blocked by the companies. Again, I urge you all to "do the right thing." The TAC is not supposed to be a special interest party in favor of the landlords.

    I also urge that MUCH greater care be taken to adhere to Robert's Rules of Order. Claims such as that a chairman may not present material are an absurd embarassment to their makers.

  3. thats true. Every small and big transportation company is bound to receive 1099-k form from their bank reporting annual gross receipts from credit card transaction proceeds during year 2011. Under the aggregate payee rule, a transportation company who has cab drivers hired on contract basis must provide to each driver form 1099-k to report the gross proceeds from credit card payments. There are IRS approved service providers such as offering 1099-k form filing service for businesses and PSEs online.

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