Friday, May 18, 2012

Commentary On Recent Draft Recommendations For San Francisco Taxi Medallion Reform. By Brad Newsham.

(Brad Newsham is a medallion holder, and has been driving taxi for 27 years.)

WITH the deadline for ballot proposals just four days away, no member of the Board of Supervisors has agreed to sponsor the Stop the MTA Committee’s proposal: 1) Medallions for drivers only; 2) Allrevenue from the cab industry will be reinvested in the cab industry).

Two supervisors have not yet given Final Answers, so the possibility of a late hero emerging still does exist, but even the most optimistic committee member now feels that the ballot option is at best a longshot.

All supervisors have been sympathetic (how can one not sympathize with 5,000 cab drivers being forced to fund paychecks and benefits for 5,000 other MTA workers?) but sympathy does not get us on the ballot.

The supervisor showing perhaps the most engagement on the issue is Scott Wiener, the Board’s leading proponent of improved cab service. 

In the past, every politician who has pushed for service improvements has wound up issuing a flood of new medallions, declaring victory (even though floods of new medallions have never solved the industry’s problems), and then leaving to run for higher office.

Wiener promises that he is not that kind of politician. He says he is committed to seeing world-class cab service in our world-class City (so is the Stop the MTA committee!) and will not rest until he sees it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

State Senate Committee Votes Down Unrestricted Audio Recording In Taxicabs, Cites Privacy As Issue. (Full Meeting on Video). By John Han.

Part 1 of 7
(Note:  At the end of this article are the remaining 6 video segments of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on SB 1534, held May 8, 2012, involving audio recording in taxicabs.  This is published here in the interest of public discourse and transparency.  Total viewing time is 92 minutes.)

The California Senate Transportation and Housing Committee said Tuesday that recording conversations inside of a taxicab violates constitutional rights to privacy.  

At its Tuesday, May 8, 2012 meeting, the Senate Committee voted 7-1 in favor of a statewide amendment that, if ultimately passed, would prohibit audio recording inside of taxicabs. 

The bill SB 1534, authored by Republican Senator Tom Harman, would have allowed cab companies and local governments such as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), to keep video and audio recordings in perpetuity, as to what happens in and around taxicabs, including conversations.  

Originally, Harman's bill would not have restricted cab companies or local governments from viewing the recordings anytime, and at will.  

But instead, the Senate Committee passed an amended version of SB 1534, that would prohibit audio recording inside of a taxicab, and calls for setting limits on how long cab companies and local governments could keep taxicab video records on file.  

The senators cited privacy as a major concern.  

The most vocal being Senator Joe Simitian of Palo Alto, who sparred with San Francisco's DeSoto Cab president Hansu Kim over whether passengers would be forced to sacrifice privacy for taxis, if the cab company president got his way. 

"As a member of the public, if I want to get a cab to get from Point A to Point B, I have to surrender my Constitutional right to privacy in California under [our] Constitution," the senator said. 

To which Kim replied, "You do not, you do not have to surrender your constitutional right."

SFMTA's Draft Recommendations For Medallion Reform, And Its Strategic Plans For The Next Two Years, 2012.

Below is a copy of the SFMTA's draft recommendations for medallion reform, and draft strategic plan actions for Taxi Services 2012-2014, as items for the Taxi Advisory Council meeting May 14, 2012.  The recommendations for medallion reform is a discussion and action item.  The strategic plan for Taxi Services is under the Council Liaison's Report and is discussion only.  These two supporting documents are originally published on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency website.  Click here to go to the SFMTA's page. 

(From the SFMTA)


(a) Maintain the core principal of Prop K that San Francisco taxi medallions should go to working drivers as currently defined (800 hours or 156 four-hour shift per year for four out of the past five years). 
(b) Continue to modify or eliminate the driving requirement for medical conditions that prevent the medallion holder from driving, and then require the medallion holder to transfer the medallion if after three years the same medical condition prevents them from driving. 

(a) DO NOT “cut off” any number of qualified applicants from the medallion waiting list. 

(b) Immediately reduce the waiting list through administrative measures only (by 
removing people without driver permits, people who don’t respond to mail, existing medallion holders, etc.) 
(c) When the waiting list runs out, distribute medallions to drivers by seniority (either by purchase, or ‘earned’ medallions, see Sections III and VII below). 
(d) Dedicate all 350 remaining Pre-K medallions to the waiting list as they are returned to the SFMTA. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Money Makes Things Happen. And It Takes Money To Organize. So If You've Got It, Give It. By Brad Newsham.

File photo by John Han.
Yipes! The deadline for ballot measures is not mid-June – it’s May 22!

By then, the Stop the MTA committee needs to find one supervisor to submit our two-part bill:

1) Medallions to drivers only; and 2) All money generated in the cab industry stays in the cab industry.

We’ve held meetings with three supervisors (all sympathetic) but we haven’t found a hero yet. Next week: three more. We need a miracle…

And miracles do happen. Get this: Barry Korengold, president of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association, led a delegation to the capitol in Sacramento on Tues, May 8, and dealt the MTA its first defeat since the MTA stole the cab industry.

The story:

In 2010, the MTA approved the installation of taxicab cameras that continuously record every motion made and word spoken by all passengers with continual audio-video recorders.

When Korengold, a former television cameraman, saw the new cameras, he said, “Illegal! Before you record someone’s conversation, you need their permission.”

The American Civil Liberties Union weighed in: Illegal! The MTA threw up its hands: Nothing we can do. And the cameras kept rolling, recording every motion, and every word uttered by passengers and drivers, all of it accessible at whim by cab company managers.

SFMTA To Hold "All Taxi" Board Meeting June 5, 2012. Message From Christiane Hayashi, Deputy Director of SFMTA Taxi Services.

The following message was addressed to the Taxi Advisory Council and Taxi Services Staff on May 9, 2012. 

Hello all,

In anticipation of the “all-taxi” SFMTA Board meeting scheduled for June 5, there will be a Taxi Advisory Council meeting on May 14, to present and discuss the June 5 agenda and the medallion reform proposal that will be included on that agenda. 

There will be a follow-up Town Hall meeting on the same subject on May 22 at 1:30 and again at 4:30 pm in the 2nd floor Atrium conference room of the One South Van Ness building. 

We are working on posting the supporting materials for the meeting as soon as we can this week.

Thank you.

Christiane Hayashi
Deputy Director of Taxis
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
1 South Van Ness, San Francisco, CA 94103

(415) 701-5235

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Brad Newsham's Call For Taxi Workers To Unite, Part 1. (Online Version Of His Newsletter.)

File Photo by John Han.
(Opinions expressed on this site reflect the views of their authors, and don't necessarily reflect the views of the website's publisher.)

By Brad Newsham.


IMAGINE the government of North Korea or South Africa or Iraq or Arizona passing a law dividing the populace into Haves and Havenots. They tell the Haves, “You get our country’s riches.” And the Havenots? “You get zero – plus each of you has to pay $4,000/year to fund our gifts to the Haves.” 

Surely the San Francisco Board of Supervisors would immediately pass a resolution condemning such lunacy!

But here’s a dirty secret: San Francisco’s MTA has drawn a line down the middle of its 10,000 workers. The Haves (bus drivers, parking and traffic police, office staff, mana-gers – 5,000 workers total) receive City paychecks; sick, vacation, and overtime pay; health care; and retirement.  

The MTA’s other workers, the city’s 5,000 cab drivers?  Nothing.

Brad Newsham's Call For Taxi Workers To Unite, Part 2. (Online Version Of HIs Newsletter).

File Photo by John Han.
(Opinions expressed on this site reflect the views of their authors, and don't necessarily reflect the views of the website's publisher.)

By Brad Newsham


The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) is finalizing its dream plan to take roughly $20 million each year from San Francisco’s cab drivers to fund paychecks and full benefits for Muni drivers, parking police, and MTA management.

The public is unaware. The cab industry (no paychecks, zero benefits) is in a state of leaderless shock.

In 1978, San Francisco voters passed a law saying that taxicab permits (medallions) would go to working drivers only. Finally, cab companies had to share the industry’s profits with the workers generating those profits.  Drivers loved the law – some were able to make a down payment on a house or send a kid to college.

Cab companies hated the law – during the next 30 years they tried to change it eight times, but each time the city’s voters said, “No, we like our cab drivers. We’re keeping the law.”

Then in 2007, a group of City Hall insiders and cab company officials proposed a new law placing the cab industry under MTA control – to allow the agency’s professional managers to fix several cab industry problems, they said.  Don’t worry, Mayor Newsom told us (in writing), taxicab permits will still go only to working cab drivers.  

At a public meeting, Newsom’s aide promised, “The cab industry will not become a cash cow.”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

KTVU Reports, "High-tech Car Service At Odds With SF Cab Companies, Regulators."

Uber car service app
A new car service business called Uber is aiming to compete with SF cab companies by providing a fashionable way to get around the city, but questions about its legality have a powerful state agency investigating the glossy startup.
Uber -- which means "about" or "above" in German – is a technology startup that connects customers to professional town car and limo drivers via a smartphone app, SMS text messages and the internet.         
Eric Flynn is a San Francisco native who works as an advertising copywriter. He is just the kind of person the upstart company Uber aims its marketing towards.
"I was exposed to it through an industry party, an advertising party, said Flynn. Uber was one of the sponsors."
Uber claims on its website that it wants to make on-demand car service accessible to anyone at a lower than usual cost and advertises itself as "your on-demand private driver."
CLICK HERE to go to KTVU's full story, "High-tech Car Service At Odds With SF Cab Companies, Regulators."
SPECIAL REPORT: Tech-minded car service looks to muscle business from SF cab companies gallery