Tuesday, March 1, 2011

MTA Board OK's Peak Time Cabs; Supes Spank Cabbies

The MTA Board and the Board of Supervisor both met yesterday and both dealt with similar cab issues - changing and clarifying the transportation code so that it would be easier to stop illegal activities - including doormen selling rides to illegal vehicles and illegal cabs and limos stealing rides from licensed taxicabs in San Francisco.

The legislation had the support of almost everybody in the taxi industry (drivers, owners, managers and medallion holders/drivers). It seemed like no-brainer and, for the MTA, it was. Malcom Heinicke spoke highly of the measure.

The Board of Supervisors, however, had a different take on the subject. Two amendments were added to the legislation by Supervisor Scott Wiener of District 8. One of them called for Taxi Services to report about progress in improving service 4 times a year. The other called for reducing penalties given to illegal limos and cabs from $2,500 to $5,000 down to $1,000.

Directory of Taxi Services, Christiane Hayahsi was unable to attend the meeting because she had jury duty. Attorney Michael Harris was supposed to speak in her place but apparently was unable to do so because the amendments were approved prior to the meeting.

Nothing like transparency, no?

What was the reasoning of Supervisor Wiener and the rest of the Board? The illegal vehicles are supposedly filling a niche and thus doing a public service???

There is more than a bit of irony here:
  1. Supervisor Wiener is from the Castro - that's right! The second or third best served district in San Francisco. Cabs flood the area 90% of the time and I've never seem an illegal taxi there. Well ... everyone has their servant problems.
  2. The amendment would give tacit support to a group of people who pay no license fees or business taxes and put customers at risk by not being insured. Or, is the paltry $1,000 Wiener's idea of a business tax?
  3. The only service I've ever seen illegal taxis and limos do is steal my fares - often with the collusion of doormen who apparently would also have their fines reduced.
  4. The only reason illegal cabs and limos have a niche is for the same reason prostitutes do - their expenses are almost non-existant and nobody has systematically gone after them.
  5. After backing the amendment, members of the Board spent a fair amount of time urging each other to support low-paid workers of various kinds. Apparently they don't think cab drivers, who are among the lowest paid workers doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, are worthy of such consideration.
This isn't a done deal. The proposal with the amendment has to be "read" again at next week's board meeting and then will be voted on the week after that. As I understand it, unless the legislation goes back to a subcommittee, there will be no public comment allowed on the subject.

This might be a good time to remind our respective supervisors that we are not the uncouth, illiterate serfs that they appear to think we are. It might be good to let them know that we are voters - voters who talk to around 15 or 20 other voters each every day. ( The math is 1500 cabs x 2 shifts x 20 = 60,000 potential voters a day.)

Drivers can find the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of their respective supervisors at SFGov.org. You can find the voters in your taxis.

Peak Time Permits

The MTA Board also passed a resolution to send a proposal for Peak Time Permits to the Taxi advisory Council in order to work out a plan.

Director Malcom Heinicke was very happy because this was his baby and he was very pleased to see drivers as different as Tone Lee, Carl Macmurdo and myself all backing the idea.

However, there were, and are many drivers, who are strongly against putting additional cabs on the street - including possibly myself. My position depends upon what they do, how they do it, and who benefits from it. The devil is in the details.

At any rate, the TAC meetings should be interesting for a change. The next one's  on March 15th - the  Ides of March - the date when Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C.

Should we beware the Ides of March?

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