Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chris Hayashi on Illegal Taxi's Etc

I called Director Chris Hayashi of  the MTA'S Taxis and Available Services to find out when her Town Hall Meetings would resume but she couldn't give me an answer. Her office is swamped with numerous problems such as moving personal from the Taxi Commission and re-checking the qualifications of almost every driver who ever had dealings with Officer Makaveckas. It'll be at least a few weeks before she'll be able to plan the meetings.

She did say that soon after June 19th her office will start issuing the thirty or forty medallions that have been backlogged by the Proposition A changeover to the MTA. Most of the medallions come from either the deceased or revocations and will be handed out to drivers on the list ala Proposition K. 

Hayashi's department is also gearing up for a crackdown on illegal limos and taxis. They'll start by going after the cabs which she says are, "on the front burner right now." "The "initial stages" of the operation are already in planning. This entails a a lot of administrative detail. "The best work requires the best preparation ...  the groundwork is being laid so that we know when we do hit the ground that we are effective. I don't want to just chase them (the illegal taxis) around."

These preparations sound incredibly complex and include:
  • Putting the Traffic Division under the control of the MTA which "will get more responsiveness from traffic cops on MTA issues and taxis is now one of those issues."
  • Coming up an enforcement plan. "The airport has one," Hayashi said, "so we're going to do our own for downtown ... we want that before we turn the police loose because ... we want to make sure that we have what we need for the district attorney to prosecute."
  • "We want to talk to the District Attorney's Office first, give them a heads up that these cases are coming , let his office know how important it is to prosecute these and find out what they need in order to make sure they can prosecute effectively."
  • And of course they need to identify and find the addresses of the illegal taxis.
Hayashi's team is compiling a list of illegal cab - including four that I gave her. Drivers can help in this effort by sending their photos of taxicabs that they think are illegal to: or they can call 415.701.4400 for with other information. 

Some things you might look out for are:
  • A fleet of taxis with a 333-3363 phone number pretending to be yellow cabs. If would be helpful if the MTA knew exactly how many bogus taxis are in this fleet. So if you see any of these cabs try to photograph them. 
  • Any location where you see illegal taxis parked - especially if it looks like a base address.
  • Try to get license numbers, vehicle numbers, color schemes, phone numbers and any thing else that might help to identify the fake cabs. It might also be useful to take down the cross streets where and the time when you saw them.
  • For now, focus only on the taxis. The limos are a more complicated issue so the MTA is going after them later.
One thing drivers should avoid, however, is any kind confrontation, vigilante action or citizens arrest. I can attest to the wisdom of this.  One limo driver I photographed last year threw a punch at me and another one tried to run me off the road with his limo. While I personally found these events entertaining, I sensed that my customers didn't. As Hayahsi puts it, "avoiding fist-fights is a good thing."

She would also like all drivers to check their brakes before starting a shift. San Francisco's cable car fleet is small.

Hayashi thinks that she can get $5,000 for every illegal cab she catches. She's looking forward to this "because the city needs the money." 

Once director Hayashi has "all my stuff in order ... it'll just be a matter of going out and mopping up the floor. We'll swoop down and pick 'em off one by one."

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