Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Why Do You Have to Wait for a Taxi? Part 1

The short, cheeky answer is: because it's a taxi not a private limo. A fact obvious yet profound and usually ignored by people who profess to study taxicab service.
  • When Assistant Director Jordana Thigpen of the San Francisco Taxi commission reported the findings of a 2007 taxi study, she couldn't understand why cab drivers broke out laughing after she told them that a doorman of the St. Francis Hotel had complained that he sometimes had to wait for cabs.
  • The reason that they laughed was because the St. Francis has a line of cabs sitting in front of it 95% of the time - and that's a low estimate. It's like somebody complaining about the weather because it's 75 instead of 74. In the real world, the only way to improve the service at that hotel would be to eliminate the doormen. I'm not talking anything untoward here but the preening they go though as they work the passengers for tips slows everything down.
  • People also complain when they wait for cabs: during conventions, on Friday nights, when the opera breaks, when concerts get out, when the ball games are over, in out of the way places, when it rains, when the bars close.
  • I'm going to tell you right now that this never going to change no matter what you do. You could flood the city with cabs and hire The Heroes to do the driving and people are still going to wait for taxis.
  • Why? Because we're cab drivers not your private chauffeur. We can't anticipate when and from where you will call. We can't control traffic, weather or a dozen other things that affect service.
Am I saying that the cab service in San Francisco couldn't be better?
  • Given the way cabs are allocated, the system by which cab drivers earn their money and the circumstances under which they work - yes, that is indeed what I'm saying.
  • Whether medallions are sold or not would make no difference whatsoever - except that if you were to follow Newsom's plan and suddenly replace veteran drivers with newbies, the service in the neighborhoods would badly deteriorate.
More later.

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