Sunday, April 25, 2010

Supershuttle and the Airport by Murai

I haven't played the airport in years and don't know what is going on there now. Murai has always been an airport player and is closely involved in recent developments so I'm turning this post over to her.

Cab Drivers give great service!
Cab Drivers deserve fair pay!

Super Shuttle prices to Millbrae, So SF and San Bruno
  • $18 - One passenger
  • $28 - Two passengers
  • $38 - Three passengers
  • $48 - Four passengers
If we had a minimum of $25 plus a $3 pass through fee to the customers, It would still be a great deal. This would be the same as two people going to Millbrae on Super Shuttle.

One person can take BART or Super Shuttle to Millbrae if they have two hours to spare in order to save themselves $10. However, I personally experienced the following:
  • BART does not go to Millbrae until after 7 pm and on weekends.
  • In other words, no BART train goes directly to Millbrae during working and commute hours.
  • You have to go to San Bruno and transfer.
I spent two hours trying to get Super Shuttle to take me to the Millbrae BART.
  • The starter at Super Shuttle International suggested that I take the free shuttle to the Airport BART and then take the BART to Millbrae, not mentioning that I would have to transfer at San Bruno.
  • The 2nd time I tried, a starter told me that I could walk up a long walkway and get a free bus ride to Millbrae BART. A woman standing there told me that there would be a 25 minute wait for the bus. I called the airport and was told that the bus was only for employees.
  • The 3rd time, the starter asked me if I really wanted to pay $20? I told him that that was not the correct fee but I did want go to Millbrae. He said that he could make a reservation but there would be a seven minute wait.
  • I then went to Super Shuttle at the United domestic terminal. Two empty shuttles were parked in line. The starter told me that she'd need the zip code before they could take me to the Millbrae BART. I told her that I didn't know the zip code. She said that she didn't know the zip code either. I insisted that she look it up. Then she said she could order me a shuttle but it would be a 5 to 15 minute despite the fact that the shuttles were still sitting there.
I wish someone else with renewed energy would try to get a Super Shuttle to Long Term Parking, San Bruno or South San Francisco to see if that would be easier.

Calling for information is useless because they will probably tell you that there is no problem as long you book ahead and pay by credit card.

Later I went to the alternative shuttle stand (Laurie's etc) and was told that they don't do short rides.
  • They only go to the city.
  • The starter suggested that I take the free bus to the Airport BART and take BART to Millbrae.
What wrong with this picture? Much:
  • They get $18 for the service.
  • Taxis get as little as $13.
  • Furthermore (adds Ed Healy) we can lose our jobs for refusing to convey while the shuttles are apparently allowed to turn down fares with no penalty.
I suggest:
  1. A minimum fare of $25 for taxi rides.
  2. Cab drivers pay a $4 airport charge for each ride but charge $3 for each trip back to the customer.
  3. For prompt door-to-door service, it is a fair price.
A minimal fare would improve moral on those disappointing after 11pm rides when you seldom get another trip to the city.

Cab Drivers give great service!
Cab Drivers deserve fair pay!

Will They Sell? Will They Buy? ... Is the Pope Catholic?

There were two critical schools of the Fixed Price Sale: One said that drivers wouldn't sell because the money would not be enough to retire on; the other held that that no one would buy because the price was too high.

So much for philosophy.

As of noon yesterday, in one day and a half, Taxi Services had received around 40 Sellers' Participation Forms and about twice as many Buyers' Participation Forms.

The oldest potential seller was born in 1913.

Some of the wanna-be buyers offered the full 20% up front. Others offered 5% or 10%.

In order to protect their rights to sell in case of accident etc, the sellers rampaged through San Francisco looking for "Powers of Attorney" forms. By late yesterday morning, the city's stockpile of such forms had been exhausted and there were none to be found.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

MTA Board Unanimously Passes Pilot Plan

With a vote of 7-0, the MTA Board made history by unanimously okaying Prop-K reform and passing the Pilot Plan.

The meeting, which didn't start until almost 5 PM, had the air of a foregone conclusion about it. The room was half full and only three people spoke against the plan. The usual people, with the addition of Murai, spoke in favor of it.

The people who are financing the loans (called "my suits" by Chris Hayashi) confirmed that they were willing to grant loans on the basis of a Fixed Rate of $250,000.

Director Heinicke asked them if they would be willing to grant loans for a higher amount of money and their spokesman said that $250,000 was all that they would be willing to loan at this time.

That's it folks. It's a done deal. Now we'll see how it works out.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program Notice- Page 2

I just got off the phone with Director Chris Hayashi who says that Taxi Services was besieged by drivers with their names written on scraps of paper who want to participate in the Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program. It's all my fault. I thought I was just giving you guys a heads up but I didn't give you nearly enough info.

Relax dudes. Your notification forms are in the mail. Click on the photo and page 2 should appear to answer many of your questions.

The notice you receive will include a participation form for buyers and a participation form for sellers. It should have your name written on it.

When you receive your notification, fill out the appropriate form and return it before May 14, 2010 at 5 pm.

If you don't receive a letter by Friday, then you can call Taxi Services.

Sorry for the panic.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program Notice

The SFMTA has send a Notice to participate in the Taxi Medallion Sales Program to eligible drivers. You can get a copy of the notice from Taxi Services.

I'll try to cover a few highlights:

The Fixed Price will mostly likely be $250,00, subject to approval by the SFMTA on May 3, 2010.

Sellers - Medallions holders who are at least 70 years old by December 31, 2010 or are permanently disabled and unable to meet the driving requirement.

Buyers - Drivers who meet the same requirements as a Prop-K medallion applicant.

1. Medallions will be offered for sale to the buyers by order of seniority on the waiting list.
2. No one will be forced to buy a medallion.
3. If a driver decides not to buy, she or he will maintain her or his position on The List.
4. Drivers who already hold a medallion are not eligible to participate.

Loans - Buyers who take out loans from participating lenders must qualify for their loans.

1. The Medallion will serve as collateral on the loan.
2. Buyers must have some history of financial responsibility such as two years of federal tax returns and no major screw-ups.

Loan Terms have not been finalized but:

1. A group of credit unions and banks have apparently agreed to work together to spread he risk.
2. The rate will probably be 7%.
3. This would mean that payments could be as low as $1,800 per month with a 20% downpayment.
4. Or, payments could be as high as $2,100 a month with a lower downpayment.

Fees From the Medallion Sale

1. The transfer fee will be 20%.
2. SFMTA will receive 15%.
3. 5% will go to a Driver's Fund.

Drivers who purchase medallions - will be able to resell them.

Drivers who want to participate must return their Participation Forms to the SFMTA no later than May 14, 2010 at 5 P.M.

Drivers who sign and return the form will not necessarily have to buy or sell a medallion. It simply means that they will be eligible to buy or sell.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The True Story of the Town Hall Meetings: A Radical Approach, A Revolutionary Plan

We people who took part in the Town Hall Meetings, who developed the Pilot Plan, know that we did things new and extraordinary. We looked at an industry where almost everyone was at odds with everyone else, where no two cab drivers could agree on anything, where there were at least three sides to every issue, where even the taxi companies needed two associations instead of one because they couldn't get along with each other and we forged a consensus, a compromise plan that gave something to every single faction and is backed by the vast majority of people in the taxicab business.

Even more remarkable was the fact that we got the SFMTA to sign off on the plan instead of stealing all the taxis and selling them like Mayor Newsom originally wanted.

This was an amazing, unprecedented accomplishment and I'll be proud to be associated with it until the day I die.

I was therefore stunned when I read press coverage describing a Pilot Plan that had nothing in common with the one we actually created.

Of course we all now know that the UTW, the one taxi group that refused to go along with the plan, had embarked on a campaign of misinformation, disinformation and downright lies for the benefit of local journalists.

It must also be said that many of these "journalists" were only too eager to be sucked in. I believe that this was mostly because Mark Gruberg and the UTW fed the press clich├ęs with which they were familiar (evil owners and oppressed workers.) On the other hand, these pundits didn't exactly raise a sweat trying to discover the truth behind the lies.

My favorite one of these characters was Barbara Taylor of KCBS who reported that the plan called for auctioning off medallions and would lead to the taxi companies owning them all. I called her on the phone and got involved in the following conversation:
  • Me, "You got the facts wrong."
  • BT, "That's your opinion ... what I do is collect opinions. You have your opinion and they have their opinion."
  • Me, "But all you have to do is read the document."
  • BT, "I'm a very busy woman. I don't have time to read."
  • Me, "But what you said was false."
  • BT, "That's your opinion."
Then she hung up the phone. When I e-mailed her a copy of the Pilot Plan she spammed it.

We've been on the defense ever since. I think it's about time we change this dynamic and tell the world what the Pilot Plan really is and how it came about.

The first thing to know is that Plan is the result of negotiations involving every group in the taxicab industry that took place over a period of months and included: drivers on the medallion list, drivers not on the medallion list, medallion holders, taxi company personnel, the UTW, the MHA, the SFCDA, Director Chris Hayashi and members of the public.

Therefore the Pilot Plan is NOT Mayor Newsom's or the SFMTA's or Malcom Heinicke's or the taxi companies' or the "owner's" or Chris Hayashi's. The plan is a product of negotiation, it's a compromise, between all these people and groups as well as working cab drivers. It's our plan.

Coming Soon: How the Pilot Plan's provisions were arrived at.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Phantom Answers Anyonymous

Lately I've been besieged with comments from a character hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. Sometimes he gives a name like "Dave" or "Anonymous #1" but more often he refuses to give a name claiming that he's afraid of retaliation from the companies or the Taxi Division.

As an ex-non-medallion holder who openly tried to form a driver's union and openly criticized policies of the companies I worked for, I can't say that I admire his courage. However, I believe that the main reason he is being anonymous is that he's one person pretending to be several and thus bogusly claiming to represent "how members of the Taxi community really feel."

He's hostile to the Pilot Plan and keeps looking for weak points to attack. If you respond to one of his jabs, he comes back and attacks from a different angle. Some of his rhetorical assaults are beyond ridiculous. For instance, he claims that if people who buy medallions are forced to follow a driving requirement, they would lose their medallion if they had to go away for five years to take care of a sick relative.

What can I say? ... Anybody who left any business for five years would probably lose it. At least a medallion owner would be able to sell the medallion and would be a lot better off than a driver who would lose his or her place on the waiting list.

Having answered that pseudo-question, I'm sure I'll have to field another equally ridiculous one in response. It's like dealing with an eight-year old who knows he's smarter than you are. However, I do think that he has some legit questions or concerns that I'll try to address:
  • Buyers of medallions will be able sell them right away: They will not have to wait until they are 70.
  • Director Chris Hayashi is not sitting on medallions. Since she's taken over she's put them out at a rate consistent with the years in the past as you can see from this chart.

YEAR # of Medallions Awarded
2000 85
2001 83
2002 26
2003 53
2004 28
2005 18
2006 52

2007 56
2008 106
2009 55
2010 9

  • In the year since the SFMTA took over, the Taxi Division has put out 37 medallions. They will be putting out 5 more on April 20th.
  • 2000, 2001 and 2008 were all years where new taxi medallions were issued. If you remove these from the equation, the average number of medallions issued per year is 41.
It is true that the Taxi division has a backlog of about 25 medallions but Hayashi says that this is only because she has been unable to hire enough staff to investigate and issue the medallions to new owners.

Anonymous is certain that the real, the true reason is that the SFMTA wants to hold onto the medallions until the Pilot Program is over, when the nefarious Hayashi intends to sell the medallions instead of giving them out to drivers on the list.

There are a few things to say about this:
  • On April 16, 2010, SFMTA will be interviewing people for the investigator positions that Director Hayahsi needs.
  • The medallions being held now are being given out on a basis of one medallion to drivers on the list for every medallion sold by the MTA. That is to say that she can't sell the medallions if she doesn't also give them out.
  • Therefore it doesn't make any sense for her to hoard them.
Anonymous has also criticized the Fixed Price sales plan as leading to a possible bankruptcy tsunami like what happened when the old Yellow went down the tubes in the mid 70's.

When the final financing plan is my hands (hopefully in the next few days) I'll go into more detail, but the above scenario is very, very unlikely to happen for the following reasons.
  • Old Yellow owned most of the medallions in the city. It's hard to see how 300 or so individual medallion holders could conceivably all go bankrupt at the same time.
  • The failure rate of loans to cab drivers in New York City is 1/2 of 1% (0.5%) and New York sells their taxis at much higher prices than they will sell for here.
  • Although I don't have the final figures, I've been assured that the loan payments the medallion holders will have to make will be about the same as the amount these medallion holders will be paid for leasing out their medallions when they aren't working them.
  • Thus the medallions will pay for themselves. If anything, I would expect the failure rate on these loans to be even less that it is in New York.
For now, I guess that is it.

I've enjoyed the comments that I've had on this blog but I really don't want to continue to deal with the silly little games that this character has been playing. I would appreciate it, if in the future, people who want to post here would identify themselves in a consistent manner. Not that you have to use your real name (I'm not using mine on this blog) just that you do use a name and use the same one every time.

Thanks in advance.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Pilot Plan: Heinicke and 60/40 - Not!

Director Malcom Heinicke

started a flood of panicked rumors at the March 30th MTA Board meeting by implying that the final percentages of the Fixed Price sale were yet to be determined. Coupled with earlier statements by Heinicke, this had led to the wide-spread fear that the final draft would contain a provision taking 40% away from the sellers instead of the 20% that everyone had agreed on.

As it turns out this was wishful thinking on the part of Marvelous Malcom.

The 20% figure has already been passed by the SFMTA Board on February 26th when they passed the Pilot program. Changing this percentage would require either an amendment to the Pilot program or a new plan of Heinicke's. In either case, the board would have to pass the new provisions instead of the ones they've already voted yes on.

Neither of these scenarios are likely to happen. The Force does not appear to be with Director Heinicke these days.

Sneak Preview

The financing on the Fixed Price sale is just about finalized. A group of six or seven credit unions and banks will be involved in order to spread the risk.

It appears that the magic number will be $250,000, the loan rate will be around 7% and the monthly payments will probably go from $1,800 to $2,100 depending upon how much money the buyer puts as a down payment.

The final figures and provisions of the plan should be available next week; and of course public hearing have to be held before the SFMTA Board can vote on the measure.