San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener’s Thoughts on Increasing Taxicab Medallions in San Francisco are Utterly Laughable


The idea of adding cabs to city streets has long been opposed by many taxi drivers, who say competition is already fierce enough for a job that has never offered a lucrative payday. Wiener said the hearings can address those concerns. He wants to convince drivers that more cabs will increase their earnings, since passengers will be more willing to call on taxis if they believe service is reliable.”

The idea that increasing the number of medallions would increase the earnings of existing drivers* is utterly laughable.

The lazy sit-around-all-day cabdrivers** of San Francisco:

Ergo, one is forced to assume that Supervisor Wiener isn’t talking to the drivers, oh no. He is actually addressing the people who would otherwise feel sorry for the drivers.

It’s unfathomable that he would actually believe what he’s talking about, so that means he’s lying. (It’d be like Hitler telling the Cossacks how great Operation Barbarossa is going to work out for them.)

Just saying.

*It’s not impossible to observe a network effect or something like that in some systems (like when a Starbucks moves in next door to your existing coffee shop, for example), but it _is_ impossible for an increase in medallions, by itself, to increase the earnings of existing San Francisco cabbies.  

**The other place to look for lazy cabdrivers is at SFO – hundreds of them lazing about smoking cigarettes and playing card games and complaining about how little money they’re making.*** Most hacks in SF aren’t lazy like that. Most hacks drive around looking for fares and, for that reason, end up making more money. 

***Back in the day, there was a hotel sitting on SFO property so driving there from Terminal 3 would take one minute literally. It was a three dollar fare. The airport would allow the returning driver to cut to the front of the line in this situation, but that generally would not make up for the loss of the driver waiting more than an hour for a one-minute ride. Faced with this situation, some of the drivers would pop the trunk, take out your bags and drive off in a huff. Truth. 

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8 Responses to “San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener’s Thoughts on Increasing Taxicab Medallions in San Francisco are Utterly Laughable”

  1. Cap. Obvious says:

    Here’s the crux of the issue: the whole medallion program is designed to enrich the politically connected dynasties in SF.

    Next time you’re in a cab, ask the driver: does s/he own the cab? The answer will almost always be, “no”. I have yet to meet an owner of a cab driving the cab.

    What you see here, folks, is the equivalent of share-cropping. Drivers pay $200 per 8-hour shift to rent the cab. That’s $600/day. All to some guy whose grandpappy paid a few 100 dollars to buy a medallion decades ago.

    Enough with this system. The City should get out of this business, and just auction off medallions for 5-year terms (a rolling stock of 20% medallions being auctioned off every year). The savings in the bureaucracy alone will be worth millions; and the annual take for the City would be much higher.

    But then this would mean that the City would have to piss off the Powerful and the Connected; which ain’t gonna happen anytime soon….

  2. sfcitizen says:

    Uh, is there anything I don’t know about taxicabs in San Francisco? I don’t think so.

    Take 50% of the cabs off the road on a Sat. night and the remaining cabbies would make more, put 50% more cabbies on the road on a Sat. night and the average cabbie would make less.

    And, oh yes, Recall Jean Quan.

  3. Dean Clark says:

    I myself live in Hayes Valley and find it difficult to find a cab, in addition I worked as a cab driver for seven years plus. We do need more cabs on the street. Will the drivers make less money I do not believe that to be the case. I think people really need to think about our current taxi system the way it is and the reasons why we can not get a cab first, then to be concerned of the incomes of drivers who so openly cried out about electronic waybills. One of the main reasons cabbies cried out was not so much about the fourth amendment but that they would actually have to pay taxes on their income and report what they earn. Folks taxi drivers are making record money right now, if they drive the streets like they should instead of sitting at the airport, they can make from 200 to 300 per day after expenses of the cab (gas and rental of the car) If a driver works 5 days a week that is almost 1000 to 1500 per week. Which calculates to 4000 to 6000 a month. The city of San Francisco is stating that taxi drivers are only making on average 25,000 a year which is wrong. Tax free dollars of 4 – 6 thousand a month will calculate out to as much as 6-8 thousand dollars a month. When the taxi drivers actually start paying their taxes then they should be taken seriously about worrying about losing income, We are sacrificing tourism that other industries need by not letting our tourists get a cab. We are also missing out on revenues to help the much needed poor and services from taxi drivers not paying their fair share of taxes.

  4. pchas says:

    SF Citizen, looks like you know a lot about SF taxicabs after all…

  5. George says:


    Who can afford a taxi?

    Now maybe if I was at a City hack administrative job….like Bevan Dufty. (sigh)

  6. sfcitizen says:

    Now you’re on the trolley!

  7. Megan says:

    As a resident, I assume that I cannot get a taxi, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. Since reliable public transit goes offline at midnight, that’s out too. I usually ride my bike (not a great option when drinking) or stay within walking distance. If I knew I could catch a cab, I would both do so, and get out of the neighborhood at night.

  8. sf-proud says:

    San Francisco has the greenest taxis. Indeed, that is something to be proud of and something to build on.

    San Francisco also has the most expensive, least reliable, and least predictable taxis in the country. And even when taxis can be seen and apparently available (with their taxi ‘available’ light on), often drivers ignore you or give some excuse like “I’m not going that direction.”

    We have a world class city but a taxi system not even on par with the developing world.

    To fix it, I propose 2 solutions:

    1) a paid taxi subscription service
    a) first, model the taxi system as in Singapore, the most affordable, modern, and reliable in the world. There, you phone in your reservation. The system automatically recognizes you from your last call and suggests you might like to go to the same destination as last time but lets you change the destination easily. Once you book, you receive an SMS confirmation and your taxi number. When the taxi is about to arrive, you receive an SMS notice. Upon arrival, you receive another SMS or call. if you no longer need the taxi, you need to cancel it or be charged a fee.
    b) IF we need to raise money to support a better system, I would gladly pay a $10-50 monthly subscription (that gives credit for the rides taken) for access to such a reliable taxi service. I’m sure a large part of the population would too.

    2) Abolish laws against REAL jitney services
    Jitneys are car services provided by any citizen with their own vehicle. I propose that drivers and passengers must first apply to meet appropriate jitney membership criteria (background check – there are services to automate that easily and affordably, valid driver’s license, etc.). Jitneys were a popular service in the early 1900s across the country. Local governments regulated them away to promote public transportation service like busses and trams. Ironically, MUNI is struggling and cutting services while increasing fees. And the taxi system is in utter disarray. Jitneys are a common way of life in Moscow, and London (even though it has black cabs, it has gradually re-embraced jitneys, they call them “mini-cabs,” and legalized them.)

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