Friday, May 1, 2009

The MTA Backs Off

At the April 30th meeting, the MTA backed off from it's attempt to either raise $5 million by imposing a transferability fee of $50,000 a pop or raise $20 million by putting one hundred new cabs on the street. 

The budget projection was officially dropped from $20 million to $15 million but the amount is less important is than the attitude. In the original budget, the MTA was handing out an either/or mandate. In the revised budget, on the other hand, the operative words were "will depend upon", "might be collected" and "if."

In short, the MTA is throwing the ball back to the Chris Hayashi and the Town Hall meetings to come up with a plan that may or may not give the city revenue. The MTA has a "contingency" plan to reduce their budget $15 million if no funds are raised from the taxi industry.

Board member Malcom Hienicke summed up the MTA position by saying that changes in the cab industry  "should be driven by" a need for "reform," not by a need to raise "revenue."

It would appear that San Francisco's cab drivers have won a major victory in their collective desire, one way or another, to decide their own fate.

I don't like using words like "appear" or "seem" but I don't see where I have any choice. This seems such a complete reversal from the MTA position of just nine days earlier that it is hard to know what is really going on. The MTA appears to be an agency with innumerable back doors and endless hush-hush maneuvering. It appears that they have decided that it is not politically wise to be stormed by a host of cab drivers every few weeks.

It also possibly appears that Mayor Newsom might not like the adverse publicity that these same cab drivers would inevitably bring him during his quest to become President.

In sum it would appear that:
  • any plan to put 100 new cabs on the street is dead. No one at the Town Hall meetings, no one inside the taxi industry, is interested in selling medallions that they don't hold or own.
  • any plan to hit up medallion holders for huge fees is unlikely to succeeded. The only group in favor of this is the UTW and they are a distinct minority at the Town Hall Meetings.
So, it would appear that some of us can breath a sign of relief - if the meetings aren't a dog and pony show.


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