Monday, July 21, 2014

Chris Hayashi Goes Out in Song

In keeping with her tradition of never quite doing anything like anyone else, the former Director of Taxi Services Christiane Hayashi (as the White Rabbit in photo) turned her retirement party into a buffet concert.

The food, which was contributed by people from Russia, Brazil, Africa and Latin America among other places, would've fed four times the hundred or so of Chris's friends who stopped by.

The bands which came from Burma, Russia, Africa, Brazil among other countries played rock music as well as works from their native lands. Each was better than the other and they were all good. Several musicains also played with other groups.

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.

In addition, I was buoyed up by Commissioner Peevey's ruling that "all ex parte <back door> communications be reported ..." This meant that there wouldn't be any sudden changes like there were last year when the CPUC lifted cease and desist orders against Uber & Lyft before the hearing on ridesharing started. Certainly the arguments put forth by Uber, Lyft & Sidecar in their comments weren't intelligent or convincing enough to cause a rational, knowledgeable, unbiased person to change anything in the faux taxi corps' favor.


When I got to the hearing room, I sat down next to Mark Gruberg of the United Taxicab Workers and learned that the rules on ex parte communications did not apply to Commissioner Peevey himself. The coverages had been magically changed to:

A). $100,000 per person and $300,000 for more than one person, and $50,000 property damage for the period when a faux taxi driver has the app on but is not matched with a customer. It is also Excess Commerical liability insurance and only kicks in after the driver's insurance pays (or not?) – meaning that it would take a long time for the victims to collect their money.

This is the same situation as when Sophia Liu was killed by the Uber driver. The bills for the Liu accident have already reached about $200,000 and will go way over the $300,000 limit.

B). $1,000,000 Primary coverage will only apply in cases where the faux taxi driver is either carrying a customer or has accepted a match with one.

C). There will no longer be any coverage for uninsured motorist, comprehensive, collision or medical.

Peevey Shows His Prejudice

Although most taxi people were unaware of these changes before they came to Thursday's hearing, the ex parte hotline clearly had been open to Uber & Lyft.

Of the 30 speakers at the hearings, the faux taxi drivers outnumbered real taxi people by four to one.

As one faux speaker after another came up and said his or her piece they were roundly applauded by the others - which is unusual. Normally people are told not to do this at meetings but not always.

However, when taxi driver Barry Toronto started speaking he said something that the faux drivers didn't like so they booed him, talked over him and shouted him down.

Then, something happened that I have never seen before at any kind of public meeting. Commissioner Michael R. Peevey, the moderator, DID NOT TELL THE HECKLERS TO CEASE AND LET TORONTO SPEAK.

Mr. Toronto had shout out that he had the right to speak himself. In fact, he had to tell this to Peevey three or four times before the Commissioner finally said, in bored voice, "Please quiet down."

The White Rabbit

When Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the red queen's off her head
Remember what the door mouse said
Feed your head
Feed your head
                          Grace Slick

For me, the highlight of the hearing was the parade of Uber & Lyft drivers who got up to trash real cab drivers and praise the insurance modifications that would strip medical and collision benefits away from these geniuses – the speakers themselves.

Uber & Lyft management types had apparently told their drivers that Uber & Lyft would have to go out of business if they had to pay for normal commercial insurance coverage.

A large number of these speakers said that they'd be homeless if it wasn't for their driving jobs. Given yesterday's sample of their critical thinking powers, one can see why. If (let's make that "when") some of these untrained drivers in their mechanically under-inspected cars get injured in accidents – thanks to Trevor Kalanick & John Zimmer not to mention Michael R. Peevey – they'll have a damn fine chance of becoming homeless once again.

Coming: Arguments that I didn't get a chance to give.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Taxi Driver Appreciation / Chris Hayashi Retirement Party

It has finally arrived!!! 

You are invited to the Chris Hayashi Retirement / Taxi Driver Appreciation Celebration on Monday, July 7, 2014, from 5pm to 10:00pm at the Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa Street, San Francisco.

As all cab drivers know that's between Potrero and Hampshire. So why am I mentioning it?

Chris has four hours of bands lined up. There will be at least one juggler and maybe other performers.

There will also be a variety of foods from the exotic locals that cab drivers hail from. I'm paying homage to my heritage by contributing an Irish seven course meal.

A little known fact is that the retired director is a musician who was earning her living as a Salsa singer in Mexico shortly before taking over as taxi chief. I was watching the practices yesterday and these people are good. Chris says the Burmese band is dynamite. Or should that be "bad" or "sic"?  I'm out of touch. Anyway this party was four years in the making. Check it out!

Taxi Driver:  Free with a A-Card

Otherwise it's $25.00 at the door!.  

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.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Taxi Myopia Blues

I offer this photo as a balm to those who've taken umbrage at my comparing San Francisco taxicab company owners to dinosaurs. I think this analogy is more accurate. Besides, it also applies to many cab drivers (far too many) as well.

Let start with the owners.

One could write a fat, non-fiction novel on the short-sightedness and petty greed of the people running S.F. cab companies – especially Yellow and Luxor. But for this article, I'll restrict myself to their opposition to an universal app or Open Taxi Access (OTA).

When John Wolpert first introduced Cabulous in 2010, it should have been obvious to anyone with an entact frontal lobe that, if adapted throughout the taxicab fleet, the app had the potential to both drastically improve service to the neighborhoods and create business for the drivers.