Saturday, May 28, 2011

TAC Interm Medallion Sales Pilot Program Report

This report was put together by Taxi Advisory Council Chair Chris Sweis (Photo between councilors Richard Hybels and John Han). It summarizes and points out problems arising from the Medallion Sales Pilot Program as well as listing TAC's recommendations to the SFMTA Board.

The report focuses on the effects that Pilot Program has had on various groups in the Taxi industry. I'd like to highlight  (with of course my own views) a few things.

The Effect on Cab Companies.
  • A movement away from Gate and Gas to Affiliate operations.
  • A concern because Affiliates are less profitable for the cab companies.
  • A tendency of Affiliates to hire new and inexperienced drivers.
  • A concern about inexperienced drivers "negatively impacting" service - i.e. drivers deadheading downtown and to the airport instead of taking dispatched calls.
The Effect on Drivers.
  • A loss of shifts for Gate and Gas drivers.
  • Slower movement of the Medallion Waiting List.
The main, negative effect of the list slowing down has been felt on drivers closer to the top of the List. This is because medallions formerly became available to the List as older medallion holders died off. As many of the older medallion holders sell their medallions, the pool of medallions going to the list naturally becomes smaller.

The main, positive effect is that drivers on the list can now buy a medallion at a controlled price that allows the medallion to pay for itself.

The Effect on Medallion Holders.

Aging medallion holders are clearly the biggest winners of the Pilot Program. Medallions, that were worth nothing excect in terms of the monthly rental that they brought in, are now worth $250,000.

This has been a special boon to Post-K drivers who are either disabled or over the age of 70. Prior to the program, they either had to work 800 hours per year or face losing their medallions. Instead, these drivers now have a chance, as the phrase goes, "to retire with dignity."

The program has also reduced the stress level for younger Post-K drivers like myself (a kid of 66) because we now know that we won't be forced to drive (or pretend to drive) for the rest of our lives.

Perhaps the biggest winners, though are the Pre-K medallion holders. Having already made from between $800,000 to $1,000,000 from leasing their cabs over the last 33 years, they can now collect an additional $250,000 for exiting the taxi business.

The Driver's Fund.

The drivers fund was originally intended for non-medallion holders. It was to be a Quid Pro Quo (i.e. something that is given or taken in return for something else.)

The medallion holders were to get $250,000 and the non-medallion holders would get the Driver's Fund - now totaling over $1,000,000 with great potential depending upon how it may be fed in the future.

This intent, however, was wiped out by one of the first TAC votes.

Barry Korengold had called for a motion that would insure that the fund's money would go to non-medallion holders.

President and General Manager of Luxor Cab John Lazar, on the other hand, argued that "medallion holders are drivers too" and that the fund should therefore go to all drivers. This carried the day by an 11 to 4 margin despite the fact that some medallion holders are actually not drivers and a few, like John Lazar, have never driven a cab for a living.

What's going to happen to the Driver's Fund, as well as who will benefit from it, will be decided at future TAC meetings.

One possible use of the Driver's Fund that has been discussed would be using the money as an investment fund for drivers.


The TAC has made several recommendations that it will urge the SFMTA Board to adopt. 
  1. To merge the taxi wrap fund and any new income into the Driver's Fund.
  2. To move the Driver's Fund into a managed account that allows the money to grow.
  3. To have the Key Personnel Exemption apply to people on the Waiting List. (See Below.)
  4. To have the down payment assistance program be made available only to buyers who operate their permits as Gates and Gas cabs.
  5. To monitor Affiliate run medallions more closely and to have all medallions issued to the Waiting List be run as Gates and Gas taxis for the first 3 years.
  6. Preliminary recommendation that the sales program continue after the Medallion Sales Program is complete. (See below.)
Not Recommended.

There were also several motions that the TAC either failed to pass or refused to even discuss in addition to the vote not to give the Driver's Fund to non-medallion holding drivers.
  1. Failed to pass a motion by Councilor Barry Korengold to limit the number of medallions that the MTA could sell outright to the sixty agreed upon in Pilot Plan.
  2. Failed to pass a motion by Councilor William Mounsey that would have changed the ratio of medallions sold outright by the MTA to medallion give to the Waiting List from 1:1 to 1:2. In other words, 2 medallions would given to the Waiting List for every medallion sold by the MTA. 
  3. Failed to discuss a plan by Councilor Barry Korengold that would preserve the Waiting List by allowing medallion holders to retire and give the medallions back to the City when they died.
  4. Refused to even discuss discussing replacing the current leasing system with a split meter (along with employee rights) despite the high probability that such a change would drastically improve service to the neighborhoods.
A closer look at two recommendations.

6. The explanation written in the report says that "many members of the council are pleased with ... Sales Pilot Program and would like to see it continue ... "

Possibly but, if this is true why did it take the better part of three TAC meetings to pass the recommendation? The truth is that Dan Hinds kept on bringing the motion up over and over again until he bludgeoned it though. He basically paralyzed the proceedings by constantly calling for a vote about medallion sales no matter what other subject was being discussed. In effect, Hinds filibustered the TAC making it impossible for the council to do any other business until the voted on his measure.

In my opinion, the vote was taken more to shut Hinds up than for any other reason.

3. I'm amazed that TAC Chair Chris Sweis had the temerity to include extending the Key Personnel Exemption to people on the Waiting List in his report after being told that such a vote was inappropriate and would probably have been illegal if TAC actually had the power to put the recommendation into effect.

To put it simply - Chair Chris Sweis, Councilor Athan Rebelos and Councilor John Lazar are all on the Waiting List and thus voted to make it easier on themselves to get medallions worth $250,000 than it would be for other people on the list. In addition, Councilor John Lazar has two sons working for him who are on the Waiting List and would thus qualify for the Key Personnel Exemption.

Let me expand on this last point. Lazar's sons have never driven a taxicab. Lazar is thus trying to use a public office to try to give his children medallions worth $250,000 without the two of them ever having to drive a cab for a living.


    1. How much more inappropriate can it get than for people to vote in favor of a motion that would make them or their relatives money?
      Never mind how wrong it is to even make such a motion.
      I was not on the TAC at the time this was taken up and I'll make my opposition known in the unlikely event it ever gets even close to getting off the ground.
      I voted to recommend the program continuing as without it we are back to square one regarding getting he old guys like me out so someone else can have a shot. Of course that means I voted for selling my medallion at some point and enriching myself. I don't think that is quite the same as voting for an accountant or mechanic for example to get a medallion.
      I am also opposed to gate increase at the present time.

    2. Hi Richard,

      I think you'll have the chance to make your opposition known at the next TAC meeting. Unless Sweis takes the "Key Personnel" out of the report, you'll get to vote on it ... I hope. They voted to okay the report while you weren't there. I don't know if that was final or not.


    3. Wow people who never driven cab getting medallions , the whole taxi commission thing is completely out of control , corrupt and unsupervised. Reeks of criminality.
      Does anyone know the hierarchy at the cab commission and how I can find this out through sunshine ordinance or freedom of information act?
      For example who does Deputy Director Christiane Hayashi answer to and then who does that person answer to all the way to the top of Nat Ford and who is Nat Fords boss?

    4. There is no taxi commission. The MTA runs cabs through its Taxi Services Division.

      You can check out the hierarchy by going to SFGOV but I'll give it to you anyway.

      Hayashi's current boss is Sonali Bose who reports to Ford.

      Ford's current bosses are the Mayor and Tariq Mehmood.

    5. Ford bosses are Carl and Nate as they take
      the checks to City Hall and these checks
      comes from different medallion holders.