Since I still don't know anything about SFO, Barry Korengold of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association (SFCDA) has been kind enough to share this article with me. The photo is also his.
I should point out that "a short" is technically a ride where a cab driver can drop off a customer and get back to the airport cab lot within 30 minutes. If they make it within the time limit, the drivers go to the front of a waiting line for customers.
Originally designed to help drivers who get short rides, it has been both abused by and abused drivers over the years. If traffic is heavy, drivers often can't make it back to the airport on time. Conversely, it is possible to go from the airport to some hotels in downtown SF and get back to SFO within 30 minutes if one drives 90 mph. Thus the practice has led to much road racing and some accidents. (See my own experience as an airport player.)
The SFO administration wants to end the practice because of the racing.
Over a hundred drivers showed up at the meeting held in the airport museum at SFO on May 13th. Airport Commissioner Larry Massola attended, as well as Deputy Airport Director Tryg McCoy, Assistant Deputy Airport Director Henry Thompson, DAJA (ground transportation) General Manager Abubaker Azam, Jarvis Murray from the SFMTA and a lawyer from the City Attorney's Office.
Tryg McCoy opened the meeting by explaining the reason they need to get rid of the time based short system, which is basically because it leaves SFO open to lawsuits if they have a system which encourages drivers to speed. He also explained that a small group of driver reps have been meeting and will continue to meet to discuss alternatives and hammer out details. He wanted to make it clear that they understand that for economic reasons most drivers want some sort of short system, but that a time based system is out of the question.
They let all drivers speak for 3 or 4 minutes, and those who wished, came up a second time for shorter comments. There were some new ideas as well as ideas that had been discussed previously by the smaller group. Though the mood and suggestions of drivers varied, the general feeling of the room seemed to be acceptance that the 30 minute short system is ending and we'll wait and see what else they come up with.
I explained that although we'd like to see a GPS system, it's not feasible at this point and that in the meantime, the system that seemed to go over best with all the people at our previous meetings was one where the starters would give tickets to the passengers that are going to certain designated local cities, who would then give them to the cabdrivers. This would be done before they reach the cabs, to avoid drivers making deals with passengers to lie about where they are going. Details of this plan, would be discussed at future meetings between the airport and cabdriver reps.
One idea I think is worth contemplating, was presented by John Han. It would be to not have a time limit at all on the tickets, so that if you got for instance a Daly City trip, then got a radio call in southern SF, you could take the call, and use your short ticket later. This could be limited to the same day or not.
I think it's commendable that the airport is holding these meetings and consulting cabdrivers about how to replace the current system. They're not just dumping something on us that they dreamed up out of the blue. Deputy Airport Director McCoy also wanted to make it clear that they aren't holding to the July 1st deadline for eliminating the current system and that more meetings with drivers will be held before they decide what will replace it. They must then present the plan to the Airport Commission for approval.
Barry Korengold -