Taxi Triology: District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener is Correct – San Francisco Needs Peak-Time Taxicabs

Maybe 500 or so for starters.


That is all.

Oh, wait, they’re hiring so you can become a hack today. But, so is MUNI, generally, and that’s a much better gig, even if you’d generally rather work for yourself instead of The Man.

Just saying.

Remember how jarring this scene was, back in the day? Look, it’s the Taxi of Yesterday:

Click to expand

Oh, wait, here’s the Minority Report, below, sort of.  (Oh, and here’s another one, one about increasing the price of fares….)

Anyway, this is fresh from this morning. (500 more paratransit cabs? Sounds like a lot…)

“I wanted to alert you to a rather ominous development. At today’s meeting of the Paratransit Coordinating Council (which advises Muni and the city on the paratransit program), representatives from Yellow, Luxor and DeSoto proposed and got passed a recommendation for 500 more cabs, with the medallions going not to drivers, but to . . . guess who . ? . the very companies making the proposal! (And maybe a few others as well).

It’s not a typo: five hundred. And it’s not coming from some sector of the public that feels underserved. That might be understandable, even though the number is preposterously high, because the public doesn’t have a grasp on the economics of our job or the variety of factors that influence the level of service we provide. This is coming from our own industry, people who understand (though they obviously don’t give a shit) how hard drivers work, how little they make, and how devastating this would be to them. This is about the most callous, cynical, self-serving proposal I’ve seen in my 25-plus years in the industry.

We don’t know where, if anywhere, this idea will go from here. The MTA, which has decision-making power, is currently considering a modest proposal for a pilot program of perhaps 25 peak-time cabs. I believe peak-time medallions are a sensible alternative to full-time cabs, and I could support a limited experiment with the idea, provided the medallions go to drivers, not companies; that a thorough evaluation is made of their performance before any additional medallions are approved; and lastly — and most importantly — that the MTA commit to and fund a serious study of a centralized or integrated dispatch system. Such a system could provide substantial service improvements and put more money in drivers’ pockets by greatly increasing the efficiency of the existing fleet.

The city has always fallen back on more cabs as the glib and easy answer to service problems. The fact is that you can never put enough cabs on the street to address the complexities of the service equation. If that number were ever reached, the job of cab driving would simply not be worth having, not even to people starving for work. Greater efficiency is the solution. Systems like Cabulous and the proposed Open Taxi Access can go a long ways toward that goal, and so can an integrated dispatch system. We must insist that the city adopt these approaches before approving any significant increase in the number of cabs.

Lastly — need I say it? — in my mind, the principle that medallions must go to those who are out on the streets, putting in the long, grueling hours, serving the public, rather than to companies that have relegated themselves to the role of rental agencies, whose every interaction with their drivers, from the assignment of cabs and shifts, to the providing of dispatch, to the collection of gates, is performed with a corrupt hand reaching into the driver’s pocket; that principle is sacrosanct, and worth whatever fight it takes to keep it intact. I trust you agree.

Mark Gruberg
United Taxicab Workers”

Oh, wait, 25 peak-time cabs? That doesn’t sound like much at all.

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