A nice buffet which included hot wings, hors d'oeuvres and delicious hamburgers seemed to be enjoyed by just about everybody. Board member Mike Spain briefly summarized his plan for peak-time medallions and President Carl Macmurdo discussed various subjects and strategies important to the members. But the highlight of the evening was an appearance by Deputy Director of Taxi Services Christiane Hayashi.
Showing her usual charm and charisma, the director fielded questions and used them as a springboard to express her thinking on various topics. Not necessarily in order, these included:
The Fixed Price for Selling Medallions.
Hayashi said that she liked the fixed price because:
- It's unique to San Francisco and other cities have shown an interest in it.
- The price is low enough to be affordable for drivers.
- It thus allows buyers to get reasonable loan options.
One medallion holder said that the $150,000 that a holder would clear by selling the medallion would not be enough to retire on.
Ms. Hayashi responded by saying that the medallion sales were never intended to be a retirement but rather a way to help people retire in conjunction with other savings.
She added that she didn't expect the Fixed Price to go over $300,000. Otherwise medallions would no longer remain affordable for working drivers.
After hearing plans about peak-time medallions for as long as I've been in the cab business, it looks like an idea whose time has come.
Director Hayashi said that people in city government wanted to see it happen so it will - probably early next year.
Various plans for how this will happen are being discussed at TAC but she did say that her plan called for the peak-time medallions to be leased from the MTA.
Not, on the other hand, a popular idea among MHA members.
Watch Those Flashers
Medallion holder Norma Greer had recently written to Hayashi about being harassed by a policeman when she tried to drop in a bus stop. The cop also threatened to cite her for using her flashers illegally.
The director said that she looked up the law and there is indeed an obscure vehicle code against using the flashers for anything except emergencies.
Hayashi said that it was legal to drop in a bus stop - as long you pull "as far forward as possible." She also said that she would discuss enforcement policy with the PCOs (meter maids).
In the meantime, she added that you should fight any such tickets and report the incidents to her office. It's also helpful to get the badge number of the officer involved.
Electronic Waybills and Credit Cards
Hayashi said all taxis would probably have electronic waybills installed by the first quarter of 2011. She added that Luxor and Yellow Cab were already equipped to handle them right now.
She expressed enthusiasm for the new technology because "we'll be able to gather accurate information" about the number of rides and so forth "for the first time ever." This could prove invaluable to the Controller's office in helping to figure out how to improve taxi service.
Ms. Hayashi also said that systems for handling credit cards would be installed on the back seat of some cabs at the option of each company. One such system, VeriFone, would:
- Allow the customers to swipe the cards themselves.
- Prompt the customer for a tip.
- Automatically transfer the funds into a driver's bank account.
She also said owners and medallion holders could use other systems if they wanted - citing Yellow Cab that has chosen to keep their own system - but, in such cases, it would be illegal to pass the credit card charges onto the drivers.
This naturally segued into ...
Director Hayashi went on to say that every cab driver in San Francisco was required to take credit cards and, if they didn't, other drivers should report the culprits on 311. She also added other crimes such as being rude to customers or reckless driving to the list of things that should be reported.
So ... next time you see a cab driver holding up a customer with a Uzi be sure to call 311.
(Okay. Okay. Off with the sarcasm.)
I did point out to Hayashi that my information was that the taxi drivers, who were turning down credit cards, mostly drove for companies that were illegally charging the drivers 10% - 12% per transaction.
Hayashi said that we should let her know which companies were doing this.
Taking her at her word - the number to call (if your company is illegally charging you for credit card transactions) is 415.701.5235
In the past, Ms. Hayashi has promised anonymity and protection to any driver who makes a complaint against a company. I've never known her to go back on her word.