Thursday, September 16, 2010

TAC III Part 2

The Taxi Advisory Council spend much of their time last Monday articulating their goals and structuring their future meetings with the aim of having a report on the Pilot Plan ready by the end of the year. (If you click on the photo you can blow up a good summary etched by Chris Hayashi.)

 The subject of electronic waybills was also discussed. Director Hayashi pushed for them because they would end the possibility of anyone handing in fraudulent waybills and allow her to gather accurate information on taxicabs for the 1st time ever. Many drivers, on the other hand, were less enthusiastic about the idea. Council member Bill Mounsey especially disliked them because he felt that an electronic watchdog would restrict his freedom.

During public comment, Driver Eric Hattan brought up UberCab - an illegal, high-tech taxi service that is using San Francisco as a beta test before going into other markets.

But for me, the most interesting facet of the afternoon was a brief preview of the "Gates and Gas" (GG) vs Long Term Lease (LTL) debate.

Counciler John Lazar of Luxor cab showed concern over the fact that most of the buyers were opting for the LTL. He said that:
  • Because the payments for the loans were more for the buyers than they could earn from a GG arrangement, they were "forced" to go to LTL.
  • This was causing numerous experienced drivers to lose their shifts.
  • The California EDD was going after Luxor as a test case and would later go after every other company.
  • The EDD considered GG drivers employees and LTL drivers Independent Contractors.
  • This seemed to imply that it would be less expensive and more profitable for cab companies to go to LTL.
During public comment, Hansu Kim expressed the fear that the industry would go totally LTL and that the cab companies would become little more than radio services in the future. Other speakers, including myself, thought that LTL drivers didn't take radio calls and hung out either at the airport or downtown - thus reducing the level of service to the neighborhoods.

TAC decided that they needed to know:
  • How many cabs were on LTL?
  • How many were GG/
  • What percentage of buyers were going LTL?
  • The effect on public service.
People also wanted to know how many drivers had lost their jobs and what had happened to them but one of the company managers didn't think that there was any way to find out this information. Meaning they don't keep records of who works for them? Or, perhaps he meant that he didn't know what happened to the drivers after they lost their shifts.

Council member Timothy Ajaegbu (right) said that he was very concerned about this trend because he is a gates and gas driver.

A further and deeper discussion of GG vs LTL is on the agenda for next week.

If you are concerned about your shift or the future of the taxi business, you should try to be there. The turnout so far has been amazingly small. You don't know what you've been missing. This is better than Reality TV. For one thing, it's really REAL.


  1. ubercab would appear to be obviously in violation of SFMTA and CPUC regs.


  2. Absolutely - it's like limos from hell.

  3. Hi Ed,

    Very good coverage of the last TAC meeting. You nailed all the important points. I really hope more people show up for future meetings also.

    I have done some more research on Ubercab. According to and, the two big companies which track internet traffic, Ubercab's internet traffic flow has increased in the month of September by over 100%. They are receiving nearly 60,000 visits a month to their site. That is about 2,000 hits per day.

    Let's remember not long ago, the classified newspaper sections of the Chronicle and the Examiner laughed off Craiglist as nothing more than an on-line bulletin board. The Examiner is now a shell of it's former self. Do mostly to the loss of advertising revenue to Craigslist. The Chronicle long turned it's lucrative auto classified section over to

    While the Taxi companies debate their future, it reminds me of a book I read in college entitled "The Bunker". In 1945, as the Russians were banging on the door of Hitler's Bunker in the ruins of Berlin, Hitler lay dead. Yet, his henchman were held up underground fighting over who would become the next Fuhrer of a Germany that no longer existed.

    New technology can sweep away the old way of doing business very quickly. Once the young technologically advance public latch onto a new way of doing business, it may be to late to reverse the tide.

    If Ubercab is actually an illegal business, which I believe it is, the taxi industry should act decisively. We have the law on our side under Mark Leno's AB 1310 which was passed 3 years ago to address the danger of these bandit cabs.
    This company calls itself Ubercab yet denies it is a cab company. The public does not know the difference. When they arrange a ride, they unknowingly step into an under-insured, (if insured at all) limo with a driver who has not undergone any back-ground check or safety training. The passenger would probably have more protection hitching a ride on a street corner. It is going to be a tragedy when someone is seriously injured or killed and the family finds out there is no million dollar policy to cover the loss as there would have been if they were riding in a San Francisco Taxi Cab.

    This business is a serious threat. As one reviewer noted, "I can sit at the bar and watch my ride approaching on my I-Phone GPS screen. When it's outside, I can see it right on my phone. Why would I stand outside on a busy night trying to flag an empty taxi which may never come?"

    Ubercab also claims that anybody with a car, a license and insurance can join their program and start earning money picking up passengers today.

    If we stand together, we can beat this illegal bandit cab operation down.

    Erik Hattan

  4. Interesting that Lazar is concerned about too many cabs going LTL. It's widely known that at least two brokers are operating at Luxor and offering MH's way,way over what luxor alledgedly pays.
    Rathbone and Marty Smith are vocal proponents of "brokers." They think they provide a service.
    The definition of gas and gates needs to be examined. A metro MH went to Luxor a while back and put "gas and gates" on his application which leads to the impression that Luxor owns the car etc. when in fact it is a broker situation. Similarily, one co. I know of gets couple of drivers, gives them a cab and they are responsible for every gate of the month at full price. is that a gas and gates deal?


    The definition of gas and gates is qustionable.

  5. I wonder if it will occur to anybody with a title to write a letter to someone.

  6. Who say LTL is more profitable for many?

    That is the "Best Lie of the Meeting".

  7. Erik,

    I'm beginning to worry about UberCab myself. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. If allowed to continue this group would effectively de-regulate the industry and make our medallions worthless. I have to look deeper into it.

  8. Richard,

    I was also touched by John Lazar's concern about drivers losing their shifts to LTL. Especially since John tried to talk me and every other medallion holder at Luxor into going LTL a couple of years ago.

    Does this signify a change of heart or change of strategy?

    For a change of subject, I don't understand your last comment.

  9. Luxor's LTL is far more expensive than Yellow Cab's LTL.

    LTL is just bull shit by the way.

  10. Hi Anonymous,

    I wish you guys would use a name even if it's phony. I don't know how many people are writing to me.

    As for the LTL being more profitable. If it weren't more profitable why would anybody be going it?

  11. Ed,

    I heard through the grapevine that UberCab was hit with a sting operation by the SFMTA. Perhaps this will lead to their early demise.

    Hope it is true.


  12. Hi Erik,

    If they were hit with a sting, we probably owe it all to you. I've been fowarding your e-mails on Uber to Director Hayashi.


  13. Hey there,

    instead of bitching about Ubercab why didn't you guys introduce a similar service?

    PS. in the long term your medallions are not going to be worth much anyway. Expecting to maintain a monopoly in the market is unlikely over the next 5-10 years. Customers and drivers equipped with GPS renders your job a commodity so you should work towards giving value added services on top not fighting inevitable change.


  14. Greetings from tech crunch and hacker news. You can expect many geeks to chime in today.

    Back in 2000 I was the web dev for a newsweekly. I saw craigslist coming, and explained to the publishers: "they're in San Francisco today, and decimating the Examiner. They could open in our city -- all cities -- at any time. Unless we modernize first."

    Didn't work. They weren't willing to cannibalize their sales. Now they're a shadow of their old selves.

    You talk about beating Uber with the legal system, but that never works because ultimately it's not what users (or in your case riders) care about. You need to see what Uber offers from a riders perspective and graft it on to your own business.

    Aside: I'm a newcomer to Boston, and cab-riding here is an awful experience. I personally hope that no Boston services read this passage, as their entire industry deserves to be destroyed.

  15. @rodolfo - Exactly. Every cab company needs to bring out an app so I can "hail" a cab from the comfort of the bar/living room etc. without having to call a always busy number or talk to a surly dispatcher. Last night my girlfriend spent almost an hour on a dark, rainy night trying to hail a cab on the street downtown. It's not just an inconvenient, it's a safety issue for a young woman on the streets these days.

    In London their are walk-in and wait cab company offices no bigger than a corner store all over town. You just walk to the nearest one, request a cab from the teller and sit down to wait. Why don't they exist in SF?