Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Airport Commission Nixes Airport Plan

President of the San Francisco Airport Commission, Larry Mazzola, sent the Airport's plan to end shorts back to the drawing board after listening to airport and MTA spokesmen as well as seventeen members of the public.

Tyg McCoy, Deputy Airport Director, presented the plan saying that the airport had worked together with a committee of twelve people from all aspects of the taxi industry to formulate the plan which would pay cab drivers a minimum of $17 for all rides, pass $3 of the $4 airport fee back to the drivers, and eliminate shorts. He said that, although there were numerous ideas floated during the committee meetings, the "vast majority" of the drivers were behind the SFO plan.

Linda S. Crayton, Vice President of Airport Commission, asked him if he'd done a survey of the taxi drivers. He said that he hadn't but felt confident that the plan had a broad consensus in its favor.

Then, during public comment, all 17 of the  speakers trashed the plan. Medallion holder and advertising star Brad Newsham, even threatened to lead a strike against the SFO on February 5, 2010 if the plan went into effect on February 1st.

The opposition to the plan was not a case of one group organizing a protest but rather a true consensus of the real "vast majority" of the industry. Speakers against the airport's plan included: members of the United Taxicab Workers, the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association and the Medallion Holders Association as well as Marty Smith, who is a manager at Luxor Cab, and myself.

Among the reasons given for attacking the plan were:
  • It would drastically reduce driver income.
  • It would stop many drivers from working the airport.
  • It would thus hurt service to the public.
  • It would not stop cab drivers from racing.
President Mazzola, reading the writing on the wall, ended public comment after one hour and instructed McCoy (and presumably us) to come back with a plan that actually had the support of the drivers.

Even Javis Murray of the MTA, who spoke in favor of the plan, told me after the meeting that he and the MTA backed the plan primarily because it would end "time-based shorts." He added that he would back any plan that would stop dangerous driving on the part of cab drivers.

Both Barry Korengold of the SFCDA and medallion holder Murai, who were on the Airport Committee, told me that that the Airport's presentation was misleading.

It sounded, for instance, as if the plan called for a minimum of $17 plus a $3 charge back on the $4 airport fee which would equal $16 (17+3-4) to the driver.

Actually, the plan calls for the $17 figure to include the $3 charge back, meaning that the drivers would only get $13 (17-4). ($13 an hour is approximately how much is costs a cab driver to operate a taxi.)

The SFO also plans to move airport shuttles down to the same level as the cabs thus putting them in direct competition with the taxis. This wasn't mentioned during the presentation and is vehemently opposed by cab drivers.

Most of the people I talked with who attended the Airport Committee meetings felt that (with the exception of McCoy) SFO spokesman negotiated in bad faith and used the committee to create the illusion of a consensus. SFO officials pretended to listen to the drivers and then went ahead with basically the same plan that they started with in the first place.

Korengold and Murai also pointed out the Airport Committee had voted overwhelmingly to support a distance-based short system like they have in New York City - only to have the SFO shoot it down without further discussion.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article Ed, thanks for the recap. I'm glad to hear the result.