Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Three Cheers for the SFCDA & Keep Those Photos Coming

The photos the drivers have been sending to the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association (SFCDA) are being used by insurance companies to warn drivers that they are not insured if they are driving for Lyft, Uber or the rest.

The photos are also being used as evidence in a suit filed by the Taxi Paratransit Association of California (TPAC)  against the California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) violation of the California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA).

Barry Korengold says,

"This data base has been an invaluable tool in our efforts to demonstrate the number of these vehicles and the negative impact that they've had on the environment."

Unfortunately, many drivers have recently eased off in sending in the photos. I confess to being the worst. I mean, it's a pain in the ass to keep the camera always ready to shoot whenever these miscreants turn up ... and they turn up endlessly. Cab driving is exhausting anyway. But there are more and more "S.H.I.T.S."(Smartphone Hailable Illegal Taxi Services) out there. There are an estimated five or six thousand active "tncs" woking every weekend and we need to document that fact.

The photos also help environmentalists understand that rather than taking cars off the road they are actually creating congestion and greenhouse gases.

So please keep the photos coming. For those of you who are new at shooting evil, contact Trevor Johnson at trevor@sfcda.org to find out how to upload the photos properly.

The important thing is to capture both the license plate and the symbol in the same shot – be it the pink mustache, the Uber U, the Sidecar sock or whatever.

I think it's past time to give the SFCDA the credit that they deserve. In my 30 years in the cab business I've belonged to or dealt with several cab driver organizations and the SFDCA has been by far the most effective and the most persistent of them all. They've fought for the cab drivers at the SFMTA, at the CPUC and now at the State Legislature.

So I want to give special thanks to Barry Korengold, Trevor Johnson, Jeffery Rosen, Francoise Spiegleman, Jam Khajvandi, the late Tori Lansdown and the rest for all the work they've done over the years without getting paid for it.

Three cheers! If we're still in the game we owe it to you guys.




Thursday, August 7, 2014

Uber's Phony Surcharges or the Trickery of Travis

Uber is now changing a $4.00 airport fee. This is interesting for a few reasons:

  • It's illegal for them to drop at the airport.
  • An airport fee is for picking up at the airport.
  • Uber failed to inform the customer that there was going to be a surcharge.
Therefore, Travis as in travesty, when are you going to pony up?

Just as interesting is your $1.00 safety fee. Is this to protect the customers from your drivers?
Are you going to take care of that stuff, Travis? Is that what that one dollar is for?


Let me emphasize that last paragraph,

"In the email, Kalanick blamed the media for thinking that Uber is 'somehow liable for these incidents that aren't even real in the first place.' Kalanick also stressed that Uber needs to 'make sure these writers don't come away thinking we are responsible even when these things do go bad.'"

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Conversation with Desoto President Hansu Kim

I was about to publish an interview that I'd had with Desoto Cab President Hansu Kim awhile back when local journalist's came out with the story that Kim was thinking of turning Desoto into a sedan service – one writer said that it might happen in as little as 90 days.

Mr. Kim denied that he said he intended to convert to a sedan service in  "90 days." Only that he could convert in 90 days if he had to. But has "no intention doing so."

What he was doing was giving an "if" scenario.

"What I'm saying is that the taxi business as we know it will not be in existence in 18 months 'IF' the industry continues to be deregulated as it is."

"I don't believe that the taxi business will ever disappear but it could be that full service, dispatch-centric companies will no longer be in business as they are today."

"My feeling is that in a deregulated environment, it would be a race to the bottom."

Aside from usual sensationalism and inaccuracies that one has come to expect from the local media on the subject of  taxis, the coverage of Kim's statements lack context and understanding of what deregulation of faux taxi services like Uber x really means. What Kim and the other cab companies are spending money on is public safety.

Uber and the rest are endangering the public by cutting corners. To use a metaphor from the construction business I grew up in, what they are doing (not carrying proper insurance, not fingerprinting drivers, not guaranteeing the safety of passengers or pedestrians) is the moral equivalent of pouring sand into the foundation of a building in order to save money on concrete.

Friday, July 11, 2014

May the Farce Be with You.

When it comes to Uber, Lyft and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) I never know whether the appropriate comparison is Alice in Wonderland or Orwellian doublethink.

I went to Thursday's CPUC meeting filled with optimism because it looked like the Commission was finally going to make Uber, Lyft and the other faux taxicab corporations take some responsibility for clogging the streets with tens of thousands of amateur drivers in underinsured vehicles.

Commissioner Michael R. Peevey's (photo) Proposed Decision called for Million dollar insurance limits as long as the faux taxi driver had the app turned on (not ideal but a step in the right direction). The policy would also have given million dollar uninsured motorist coverage, $50,000 coverage for both comprehensive and collision, and $5,000 medical payments for driver or passenger.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

State Senate Committee on Insurance Votes for $750,000 Partial Coverage for TNCs

The bill, AB2293, that the committee passed on for a later vote on the Senate floor was disliked by almost everybody.

Uber and Lyft lawyers spoke against it because they want to limit coverage to only the time when their drivers are logged in with a passenger. They do NOT want to cover their drivers while they are logged in but don't have a customer. This makes economic sense. In that way the TNC's would save money on insurance premiums and wouldn't have their rates raised the next time one of their drivers kills a pedestrian while looking for a fare.

Taxi people spoke against the bill for several reasons:
  • It drops coverage from $1,000,000 to $750,000.
  • TNCs would not be covered if they pick up off the street or carry private customers.
  • As to whether or not a driver was logged in when an accident occurred could be manipulated by either the driver or TNC companies like Uber & Lyft.
  • Full-time commercial insurance is the only safe option for the public.
  • The bill would codify "TNC" as a separate form of transportation than what already exists. It would create a new category of "charter party carriers" and pre-empt the court challenge of the CPUC's decision by the Taxi Paratransit Association of California (TPAC), which is already in the California court of Appeals.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Interim Director of Taxis and Accessible Services Appointed

From the new Interim Director of Taxis and Accessible Services. (Don't have a photo of her. It's Ed Reiskin at right.)

Dear PCC Members and Friends,

I am writing to let you know that my role at the SFMTA has expanded - I have been appointed Interim Director of Taxis and Accessible Services. This is a very exciting opportunity to lead a dynamic division at this critical time, and I am honored to have been selected.  It has also been an honor to have worked with the PCC for the past 15 years. Although my role has changed, I am not going away, and I will still work on Paratransit issues, albeit in a different capacity. I have enjoyed working with you all during my tenure as Paratransit Manager and I look forward to working with you in my new role as well.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Finally – Regulators Start Regulating & Fining Uber, Lyft et al

Most cab drivers are aware that SFO is starting to crack down on Uber, Lyft et al but you may not know the details or realize that this is happening in other parts of the county. To help correct this oversight, I'm sharing some links on the subject – a few of which overlap but nonetheless help fill in the picture.

To me the two most hopeful signs are the fact that the tncs have turned the person most responsible for  legalizing Uber & Lyft, CPUC President Michael R. Peevey, against them; and that San Francisco Mayor Ed (Lyft Day) Lee refuses to come to their aid despite hefty campaign contributions from Uber-friendly Libertarians like Ron Conway. A sign that the world is turning against the worms?

Enjoy the links.