Monday, October 31, 2011

Tragic Collision Between Taxi And Bicycle. Bicyclist With Life Threatening Head Injuries. By John Han.

A heartrending collision occurred between a taxicab driver and a bicyclist, leaving the bicyclist in critical condition, with head injuries considered to be life threatening.

According to SF Gate, the bicyclist was crossing Cesar Chavez and Guerrero streets just before 2am Sunday.  A "Yellow Town Taxi", (most likely meaning Town Taxi), heading east on Cesar Chavez, ran a red light and struck the bicyclist, leaving the bicyclist lying in the intersection head down, bleeding profusely from the mouth, and in critical condition .  CLICK HERE to read the Chronicle's coverage.

An article published in the SF Examiner says the driver stopped at the scene and cooperated with the police.  According to that article, the driver was cited but not arrested.  The vehicle was towed and is being held for investigation.  To read it in the SF Examiner  CLICK HERE.

If that weren't staggering enough, ABC Local is reporting that on Thursday, a taxi ran a stop sign at the intersection of Pacific and Jones.  The taxi is being blamed for clipping another car, and causing that car to crash into a store, resulting in over $20,000 worth of damages for the store's owner.

No one was reported to be injured in that crash.  But the store's owner told ABC Local that the damages are devastating, and that it could be anywhere from a month to six months before the business may open again.

A nearby surveillance video caught the taxi running the stop sign.  The ABC Local story may be viewed HERE.

Proposed Schedule For Upcoming Taxi Town Hall Meetings.

The following is a proposed schedule put out by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) for seven taxi town hall meetings.  

Date and Time:


November 14, 2011:
TAC Meeting 1 - 4pm.
Town Hall Meeting 6 - 8pm.
Consideration of proposals for the future of taxi medallion sales.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Do Window Mounted Cameras Deter Crime? Another Taxi Driver Has Been Robbed... Violently.

File photo by John Han
The SF Appeal is reporting that a taxi driver was struck in the head with an unknown object and then robbed Thursday night. 

The violence occurred at the intersection of 25th St. and De Haro.  The suspect is reported to have fled and has not been found as of this morning. 

CLICK HERE to read the article.    

The violence comes after a string of eight robberies were committed against cab drivers between July and September of this year.  Those robberies were believed to have been committed by an individual serial robber.

That suspect was eventually caught, largely due to still photos taken by a window mounted camera.  However, the images did not prevent the robberies from being committed in the first place.

Window mounted video cameras have their value in the taxi business.  They record accidents and can help insurance companies, cab companies, and cab drivers that have been involved in an accident, to prove whether the incident was at fault or not.  

But no data has been released publicly as to how well the cameras perform in deterring crimes from happening.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

SFMTA Officially Says Taxis Can Pick Up And Drop Off In Bike Lanes! By John Han.

File photo by John Han.
It's been more than a year in the making.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will be issuing bumper stickers to all of the City's taxicabs, indicating that taxis may legally pick up and drop off public riders in bike lanes, and should not be ticketed.

The agency put out a memo dated October 18, 2011 instructing all of San Francisco's taxi companies to notify their drivers about the plan.

The memo, signed by Deputy Director of Taxis Services Christiane Hayashi, says not only will the SFMTA issue the bumper stickers, but it has also issued "guidance" to the Parking Control Officers (PCO's) instructing them not to ticket taxi drivers who are actively loading or unloading in bike lanes.

In 2010, taxis (mainly day drivers) were grossly targeted by the PCO's along main boulevards such as the Embarcadero (in front of the Ferry Building) and along downtown areas of Market St.  Both of those boulevards have bike lanes, with Market St. having what is known as a "separated" lane.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Commentary On Supervisor David Campos' Resolution Urging MTA To Reconsider 5% Credit Card Fees. By John Han.

October 13, 2011:  Supervisors committee voted 2-1 in 
favor of resolution urging the MTA to reconsider passing 
5% credit charges onto drivers.  Photo by John Han.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on a resolution next week urging the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) to "reconsider" a policy that allows 5% credit card fees to be passed from cab companies to cab drivers.

The Board's three person Government Audit and Oversight Committee voted 2-1 in favor of the resolution last Thursday, and is now expected to go to the full Board at its regular meeting on Tuesday, October 25th, 2011.

The resolution, introduced by Supervisor David Campos, would be non-binding should it pass next week, because the Board of Supervisors does not regulate the taxi industry.  The MTA does.

The resolution urges the MTA to, "reconsider and abandon the decision to shift the burden of credit card merchant charges to the city cab drivers", citing that it overturns an existing transportation code forbidding such practice, and that it would be "unfair" to pass such legitimate costs of doing business onto the industry's workers... workers who typically do not have benefits or pensions.  

The resolution includes other reasons and may be read in its entirety by CLICKING HERE. 

Campos' Resolution and the Importance Of Last Thursday's Committee Meeting:

During last week's committee meeting, Supervisor David Campos expressed three key reasons for introducing his resolution.  In the following text I, (apologize for its length), elaborate and assess Campos' ideas.  

1)  The Fairness Of It.    Campos said he was concerned about the fairness of 5% credit card fees.  Is he right?  We'll examine and you can decide for yourself...

Two NY Taxi Medallions Sell For $1 Million Each, According To The New York Times..

The, "million dollar taxi is here", according to the New York Times.

The article follows the, "decades of astonishing growth," in the value of medallions, and the recent sale of two New York medallions for $1 million a piece.

CLICK HERE to read the article.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Supervisor Scott Weiner Asks Mayor For Large Increase In Taxis. And... MTA Not Ready To Vote Just Yet Whether To Expand Medallions Sales Pilot Program. By John Han.

San Francisco interim mayor Ed Lee (right) answers questions from
Supervisor Scott Weiner (left) during Q & A at Tuesday's Board of
Supervisors meeting, regarding the issuing of more taxi
medallions.  (Images from SFGovTV)
San Francisco interim Mayor Ed Lee answered questions Tuesday regarding public policy, during the Board of Supervisors meeting in which once every month, there is a Q & A session with the mayor.

With respects to taxis, Supervisor Scott Weiner asked the mayor whether he would look into the amount of taxi service already in San Francisco, and whether or not he would support a "significant increase" in issuing new medallions.  The supervisor said that even with the 87 medallions already approved to be issued in the near future, the numbers would still be inadequate.  

The mayor responded saying that a "Public Convenience And Necessity" study would determine the adequate amount of medallions needed to accommodate San Francisco's "growing population".   Mayor Lee says that the City expects to award a contract with a consulting firm by January 1, 2012, and that that firm would hold stakeholder interviews and "industry best practices" studies.

According to a poll by the Bay Citizen, Ed Lee is on pace to win the mayoral race by a landslide margin and become the City's next mayor.  Although, some doubt the poll.  Click here for more on that.

Here is the quick transcript of Mayor Ed Lee's response to Supervisor Weiner.

Supervisor Weiner:  We will never truly get people out of their cars without reliable taxi service but this has been over a decade since we significantly improved service. The current levels are inadequate and unacceptable.  There will be approximately 85 new permits.

Understanding the California environmental quality act—analysis may be required to have a larger increase in the number of taxis. How will you make certain that you look into the amount of taxi service?  Will you support a significant increase in the number of taxi permits.

Mayor:  Thank you for your sustained attention to the issues of the taxi industry.  The taxi system is a critical part of the transit network and a key component to the transportation policy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Frustrated Passengers Invent Ways To Improve Taxi Service. One Passenger's Method Encourages Taxi Sharing. By John Han.

Android App - Taxi Share San Francisco lets passengers see each other on
a Google map.  It also lets cab drivers see where people are hailing cabs
on the street.
Recently, I was contacted by a man named Dan Fedor, a Chicago attorney who, on an internet search, happened upon the Taxi TownSF website.  But Dan is more than just an attorney from Chicago.  

On the side, he's a co-founder of a fairly new Android app called Taxi Share San Francisco.  And like the app's name suggests, it's designed to help people in San Francisco find ways to share a cab.

As a cab driver, I initially like the idea when I was contacted about it.  I think a lot of passengers would too.  

Although I think there could be many cab drivers who might not.  For example, if two separate parties shared a taxi to the airport, that means only one taxi driver could go to the airport, whereas without the app it normally would've been two taxi drivers going.  

That may be a big turn off to drivers.    

On the other hand, it's said to include a feature that lets cab drivers see on a Google map, the potential customers on the street trying to hail cabs... kind of like a reverse Cabulous.  In other words, in contrast to passengers seeing where the empty cabs are, (like what Cabulous offers), with the Taxi Share app, cab drivers who are empty could see where the hailing customers are.  

With this kind of feature, a cab driver's range of vision could increase by city blocks when searching for fares. 

For a better idea of what the app can do, I got a chance to briefly chat with Dan, and ask about its features overall.

Here's what he had to say... 
Taxi TownSF:  How did you get the idea for the app?

Dan Fedor:  The idea for the app came to me when I lived in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood (about 3 miles from downtown).  On busy days when I would be running late for work and try to hail a cab, I noticed that cab after cab was going by me with a lone passenger most likely also headed downtown and when there are no open cabs to be found, that is a very frustrating situation.  So I began to experiment with the concept of cab pooling.