Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Change in TAC ... tics?

There were three new faces on the Taxi Advisory Council on Monday who are likely to mean a change in direction. Until now, the TAC has pretty much been an owner's council. But the addition of Rua Graffis, Tara Housman and Tone Lee seems certain to challenge that dynamic.

Ms Graffis (Left) is a leader of the United Taxicab Workers (UTW) and has spent over thirty years fighting for driver's rights. She replaces non-medallion holder not on the list, Timothy Ajaegbu, who regularly missed council meetings.

Mrs. Housman (Middle photo) is a medallion holder who also takes a driver's point of view. As she pointed out at the meeting, medallion holders can also be drivers. She replaces Laurie Graham who routinely gave Yellow Cab a second vote.

Tone Lee is a leader among the drivers at the airport. He replaces Dmitry Nazarov who was a lease driver at Luxor Cab and has bought his own medallion. Nazarov, who was supposed to be representing drivers on the list, voted with President John Lazar of Luxor Cab absolutely every time.

All three of the new councilors have regularly attended and spoken at TAC meetings so that they are already up to speed. 

When you add another recent addition, Richard Hybels (owner of Metro Cab who is well-known as a maverick that sometimes sides with drivers) to the mix, the council promises to be much more evenly balanced than it has been in the past.

Council Business

The council voted to have Chair Chris Sweis and Vice Chair Barry Korengold continue in their positions for another six months.

Driver's Fund

The main subject for discussion was, what to do with the drivers fund?

This was the first time that the council has seriously discussed the issue and it was primarily a brainstorming session. The councilors generally agreed that the sum of money (currently $1,462,500) was too small to pay for medical or retirement benefits. Some ideas put forward for the fund's use were:

  • Scholarships for the children of drivers.
  • Catastrophic insurance.
  • Benefits for injured or traumatized drivers who needed time off from work.
Councilor Barry Korengold introduced a plan to use a 25 cent drop fee to build the fund more quickly but the drivers could not use their share unless they were vested for 5 years.

Christopher Fulkerson liked the idea in general but thought that the fund should be invested in an IRA that drivers could access whenever they wanted.

Tone Lee wanted to set up a lottery that would pay $100 to fifty drivers every two weeks on the provision that they showed up at TAC to collect it.

In the end, the council voted for a motion make by TAC member and general manager of Desoto Cab, Athan Rebelos, to make certain that the funds would be managed by the beneficiaries (i.e. the cab drivers) and not the MTA.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Protest: A Great Time Out

Green Cab driver Joe Mirabile was still pumped up when we finished our shifts last night.

"Biggest protest we've ever had," he enthusiastically told me. "We've never been so unified."

Very true. Three to four hundred people and over a hundred honking cabs (there would have been more except the cops started turning the taxis away after 1:30 pm) were clearly unified in their dislike of 5% credit card fees, backseat terminals and the way the MTA has been running the cab business for the last two years; and everyone was having a grand old time expressing their hostility.

When you looked beneath the surface, however, you could see divisiveness lurking.

For one thing, not everybody knew what they were actually protesting. The driver in the Luxor on the right was joyfully honking and waving. But when I asked why he was against Single Operator Permits, he said that somebody had just stuck the sign on his cab.

Another driver was holding a placard that said "Sonali Bose Must Go." I asked him who Sonali Bose (The MTA's CFO and Chris Hayashi's immediate superior) was and he said he didn't know.

In short, much of this so-called unity was orchestrated.  During the course of the protest and the board meetings. I came across people who were:
  • Against Single Operator permits.
  • For Single Operator Permits.
  • For more medallions to the list.
  • Against medallions to the list.
  • For the sale of all medallions.
  • For the end of medallion sales.
  • For the end of the list.
  • Against the Driver's Fund.
  • etc ad infinitum 
We are taxi drivers. Having our own opinions is in our DNA - and thank God for it.

Unified Themes

John Han summed up the feelings of many protestors when he said that the rear-seat terminals should be taken out and that the MTA should try to negotiate credit card fees down to 3%.

Aside from the other usual complaints (electronic waybills, etc) drivers were critical of what they took to be highhanded methods on the part of the MTA.

SFCDA President and TAC councilor Barry Korengold said that the board should not have cancelled all taxi items on the agenda because the meter increase doesn't have to be tied to additional cabs or service improvements. He also said that it bothered him that every improvement involved making money for the MTA. If they were really interested in service improvement, he wanted to know,  "why aren't they considering OTA?"

Support for Open Taxi Access was also mention by a few more drivers.

Some drivers criticized the MTA board for changing the proposals that we had worked out at the Town Hall meetings. A sentiment that I can only second. If they intend to plug in their own formulas anyway, why are they wasting our time?

Soon to depart Executive Director Nat Ford also took his lumps from the drivers. Some criticized him for they way he's treated the taxi industry. Others, to put it mildly, disliked the idea of his walking off with over $400,000 as a departing gift. My complaint against him is that he demoted Taxi Services from a division to a sub-division of the MTA, thus making it difficult for the Deputy Director to deal on our behalf with other city agenices like the police.

The former Night Cabbie Emil Lawrence, who hates Ford, came by for one last semi-sane rant against the Executive Director;  thus giving him a small taste of what his Deputy Director has been getting lately from Tariq Mehmood.

A Hayashi Love Fest

The "Strike" that Mehmood had intended to be the coup de grĂ¢ce to Deputy Director Chris Hayashi's career instead turned into what Hayashi later jokingly called a "love fest." And, compared to the abuse that she's put up with for the last few months, it was.

Taxi driver Murai (Photo, left), who is strongly against 5% credit card fees and hates back-seat terminals, told the MTA board that she missed the good old days when Republicans and Democrats would argue over policy and then go out and drink with each other later. She then spoke strongly against the personal attacks that Tariq Mehmood and his followers had been making against Hayashi.

Brad Newsham, a strong supporter of the "Strike" who wants to limit the taxi "income streams" of the MTA, praised Hayashi highly at the end of his speech.

Others who spoke strongly in favor of the Deputy Director included medallion holder Norma Greer, driver Bill Mounsey, Burmese driver David Kahn, Barry Korengold and myself.

Although they didn't include her in their speeches, both Mark Gruberg and Rua Graffis of the UTW told me and others at the protest that they strongly backed Chris Hayashi and very much wanted her to continue as the head of Taxi Services.

Shortly after people starting speaking in favor of the Deputy Director, Tariq (showing his usual respect for human rights and freedom of speech) brought a gang of his followers into the room to jeer and boo Hayashi supporters along with anyone else who expressed a thought contradicting the dogma of the "powerful and great" Mehmood.

Both Brad Newsham and Mark Gruberg (who had also backed the "Strike") were verbally hassled at the rally by Tariq disciples for favoring Hayashi. The loudest boos, however, were reserved for Burmese driver Tone Lee (an ally of Mehmood's?) when he spoke in favor of Single Operator Permits.

Final Notes

The protest and/or the public comments did have some positive effects.

SFMTA Board President Tom Nolan asked Hayashi to see if the credit card fees could be lowered to 3%. He also said that it was time for the Board to take another look at Open Taxi Access.

Murai and I spoke to the Deputy Director for a few minutes after the meeting and she said that she has been studying credit card charges and thinks that it might be possible to negotiate lower rates - especially with the MTA Board behind her.

If my daily attack comment from a Mehmood acolyte is to be believed, however, it appears that Tariq is already planning another "Strike" no matter what anyone does or does not do for the drivers.

Some Photographs

Mark Gruberg and Bud Hazelkorn
listening to Dean Clark

David Kahn of 
The Burmese Cab Drivers Association and
Taxi Advisory Councilor.

Who says taxi driving isn't glamorous?
Ivone who drives for Yellow  
and is studying photography.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On Protests and Strikes

Contrary to a commenter to my blog, I do not write in a dark room. My study is very well lit and overlooks a yard where a couple of wild cats are lounging in the uncut grass. Furthermore, I communicate with numerous taxi people either in person or via the Internet.

My resume also includes participation in numerous protests including ones against the Vietnam War (from 1964 to 1975) and every war (declared or undeclared) since then - in addition to various taxi demonstrations like the March 2009 one in the photo.

On top of that I've read a little history and watched CNN.

In short, I think that I've earned the right to shoot my mouth off on the subject.

What interests me are questions like: When is a protest justified and when is it not? When is a protest successful and when is it counter productive? Which tactics work and which don't?

But it takes money to protest and I have to drive a shift.

Sunday Morning.

This morning I wake up to discover that I'm already being anonymously attacked (see comments) and I haven't even written anything yet.

This is a symptom of the irrationality and emotionalism that has taken over seemingly everybody in the taxi business. Apparently, you no longer have to have an idea to be slandered. Having the possibility of having an idea is enough. But then, why should these people too cowardly to sign their names wait for an idea since all their slams are personal anyway?

Response to those Too Cowardly to sign their names.

If you want to know what I stand for read my blog in more detail.

As for the SFMTA seizing my medallion ... I'm one of a dozen or so people who helped stop Gavin Newsom from grabbing the medallions two years ago. I think Malcolm Heinicke still wants to do it. How is bashing me going to stop him?

Two things I stand for are common sense and fair play. I also highly value clear thinking which means I try to discuss an idea instead of attacking the person who holds it. I don't always succeed (as in the title of this section indicates) but I try.

Strikes vs Protests.

What is planned for Tuesday is protest not a strike.

A strike means refusing to work - usually for an extended period of time. Unless they are supported by a union, workers can't strike for very long. This is especially true in the taxi business where a driver loses $100 to $150 a day by not working.

When Protests Work.

Protests tend to work:
  • When they have a goal.
  • When the goal is possible to achieve.
  • When the protesters can get the public behind them.
  • When they either are not too frequent or don't go on for too long.
  • When they aren't confusing.

Protests with a Goal

The protest in the lead photo was partially successful.

It let the people in power know that the drivers were unhappy and led to a series of Town Hall meetings that resulted in the Pilot Plan. The MTA wanted $30 million for one year and ended up with $10 million in two years which means that the taxi industry paid $50 million less than the MTA originally wanted.

But, as noted by my friend Brad Newsham, it was only a partial victory and the problem still exists.

Brad, by the way, gave a pretty good example of an impractical goal at the last protest. He carried a sign calling for an end to "Cannibalism" by the MTA. If he meant that literally, I would hope that his goal has already been met. If he meant it as metaphor, the practice is unlikely ever to stop.

Newsham has clarified his goal a bit since then and now wants the MTA to channel all the money they take in from the sale of taxi's back into the cab industry. Although, this will probably take a long time and require legislation, it is possible and I'm firmly in support of it.

Goals Impossible to Achieve.

One driver told me that he was striking because he wanted "respect." Well - you're in the wrong business, dude. They don't respect me, whey should they respect you? You might get them to fear you but they probably do that already.

The Public ...

largely supported the May Protests. Most of my customers told me that they thought that 5% was unfair, and that it should be closer to 2% or 3%. They were also tipping me higher to cover the credit card fees.

When Protests Go On for Too Long ...

the public begins getting annoyed. If you inconvenience them too much, they will turn against the protesters - especially if the public becomes a direct target of the protests.

People are beginning to really complain about drivers not taking credit cards because they are being directly inconvenienced. And, they are starting to blame the drivers for this - not the MTA.

Tariq Mehmood was quoted in a newspaper as threatening to possibly block traffic as part of the "Strike."

He might want to reflect on how popular Critical Mass has made the Bicycle Coalition.

Deliberately blocking traffic would be the kiss of death for public support of the drivers.

Later: Confused messages.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

TAC Proposes: 25 Single Operator, 25 to the List, Restart OTA

On Monday, June 13, 2011 the Taxi Advisory Council held its most productive meeting so far.

It started with the introduction a new councilor, Timothy Lapp (Photo front), who replaces Jim Gillespie as the Yellow Cab delegate. Tim and I started driving taxi on the same day almost 28 years ago. I know him as a creative person who has travelled widely in Europe and Asia with a definite mind of his own. I'm sure that he'll make great contributions to the council when he's not parroting his firm's propaganda - maybe even when he is.

Then, a ghost proposal popped up. At the Town Hall meetings (of which TAC was supposed to be an extension) Peak Time Permits had been given the thumbs down and left for dead by everyone. Yet, there they were back on the agenda under the new name of "Part Time Company Permits." They certainly couldn't be peak time because they could be operated up to 80 hours a week.

Veteran MTA watchers recognized this as the handiwork of Director Malcom Heinicke. Heinicke has occasionally spoken about "transparency" but appears to have only the vaguest idea of what the word means. For the director's elucidation allow me to include a few definitions from Wikipedia:

Transparency, as used in the humanities and in a social context more generally, implies openness, communication, and accountability. It is a metaphorical extension of the meaning a "transparent" object is one that can be seen through. Transparent procedures include open meetings ....

In politics, transparency is introduced as a means of holding public officials accountable and fighting corruption. When government meetings are open to the press and the public ... when laws, rules and decisions are open to discussion, they are seen as transparent and there is less opportunity for the authorities to abuse the system in their own interest.

In short, what's the point of putting us through 3 days of Town Hall meetings and then going back door to whimsically change what the drivers had decided upon? Did the director think we wouldn't notice?

Heinicke is in danger of turning all these meetings into the farce that Brad Newsham, Tariq Mehmood and others claim they are.

Whatever - the TAC didn't like the Heinicke Corporate Cabs any better than drivers liked Peak Time Permits at the Town Hall Meetings. Thumbs down once again!

Under the firm direction of Chair Chris Sweiss, the Taxi Advisory Council voted for:
  • 25 Single Operator Permits.
  • 2 Electric Vehicle (EV) permits.
  • 25 Medallions to the top of the Waiting List.
The council also decided to urge the MTA Board to work out various ways to improve service before arbitrarily adding cabs to the fleet

TAC then voted to advise the Board to re-issue a Request For Proposal (RFP) for Open Taxi Access (OTA). This would invite bidding from tech companies to build the Open Taxi Access Platform. This would be the first step to making OTA a reality.

TAC also voted to encourage all companies to take dispatched calls.

Speaking of Tariq Mehmood (And how can one not?) ... he showed up at TAC to tell everyone that he was going on strike because, at the last Town Hall meeting, he took 9 of his friends into another room where they agreed that the Single Operator Permits should be operated at fixed times.

Most of the people at that meeting appeared to prefer a more flexible schedule.

But Mehmood, the self-proclaimed "powerful and great" leader, declared that he was in the majority, that 80% of the drivers were behind him and that, if the permits were not operated at fixed times, he would strike.

There you have it! Talk about motivation! A "powerful and great" man's gotta do what he's gotta do.

The rest of the drivers at the Town Hall Meetings had pretty much agreed with TAC's recommendations.

The upshot is that the drivers should get a meter increase and (quid pro quo) 25 Single Operator cabs should be put out to work at peak times, 25 more taxis should be added to the fleet and a high-tec dispatching solution should link all the taxis in the city in one big network.

Hopefully this will help both the drivers and the public.

We'll see.

Taxi Items Dropped from June 21, 2011 SFMTA Board Meeting

Notice from Taxi Services:

"This is to let you know that environmental review of the proposed issuance of new medallions will not be complete in time for the June 21, 2011 SFMTA Board of Directors meeting.  Accordingly, all taxi-related items, including the flag drop fare increase and the proposed issuance of new permits, will be pulled off of the agenda of the meeting of the SFMTA Board of Directors on June 21st, and will be rescheduled to a later meeting.  The Board will not calendar the item before environmental review on the proposed issuance of new medallions is complete.  Therefore, I can’t inform you at this time whether these taxi-related items, including the flag drop fare increase and the proposed issuance of new permits, will be heard at the specially scheduled Board meeting of June 28, or whether it will have to wait until the following meeting, scheduled for August 2, 2011.  I will send notice to this list as soon as I have updated information on when these items will be heard by the Board."

Perhaps Councilor Carl Macmurdo and driver Peter Witt suspected that something like this might happen when I shot them at the June 13th Taxi Advisory Council meeting.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bye Bye Electronic Waybills? Bye Bye Waybills?

Deputy Director of Taxi Services Christiane Hayashi had an epiphany during last week's Town Hall Meetings on Electronic Waybills. Since the major cab companies are already computerized and collecting data on every ride, why have waybills at all?

The real question for Hayashi is, "What information do I need?"

The MTA needs data to:
  • Qualify medallion applicants.
  • Revoke medallions from medallion holders who are not disabled and not driving.
  • Investigate criminal complaints.
  • Identify key industry statistics.
And what stats do they need?
  • Times of pick ups and drop offs to help identify busy times and slow times - including days of the week.
  • The locations of pick ups and drop offs - to give the MTA the ability to plan taxi stands and white zones for drop offs. Or, to eliminate taxi stands that aren't needed.
  • Paid vs unpaid miles - in the aggregate - broken down by times and days of the week.
  • Number of passengers - how many people are riding in taxis.
The goals for obtaining this information are to improve driver income and service to the public by increasing the percentage of paid miles and increasing the number of taxi rides.

What the MTA doesn't need is a lot information on individual drivers. 

In short,  you probably won't have to fill out daily trip sheets because companies are already generating them. Medallion holders, people on the list, and drivers who want will be able to get waybills for their own records but drivers won't have to keep records unless they want to.

The MTA won't have to keep much information on file because it's being kept by the companies. When the MTA does need to know something for one of the above reasons, they can simply get it on a need-to-know basis from the companies.

Security Issues.

Director Hayashi has already stated that the MTA has refused to open up its files for Homeland Security.

As it happened, I had some high-level security experts in my taxi over the weekend (they were discussing attempts to hack U.S. Government secrets concerning Pakistan) so I picked their brains. They said:
  • Whether or not information can be hacked depends upon how the security is set up.
  • Keeping info in different locations makes it more secure.
  • Credit cards are usually insured against theft.
There was also a point that they didn't state but hinted at ... namely that thieves generally don't steal from the poor. Grifting my identity, for instance, wouldn't get them much and, as cab drivers go, I'm filthy rich.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Single Operators? 25 More Medallions?

The spirit of compromise slowly asserted itself at the last Town Hall Meeting under Deputy Director Christiane Hayashi's patient guidance.

The meetings, which had begun with hostility, emotional outbursts, arguments, personal attacks and polarized positions, gradually became a forum where different ideas could be discussed in a reasonable manner. The results are a few proposals that most everyone can live with ... maybe.

The subjects for discussion were whether or how we should put more taxis on the street and electronic waybills.

A Few More Taxis

The original proposal sent down by the MTA Board called for 108 taxis of various kinds. By the time Wednesdays meeting started, the Deputy Director had whittled the number down to:
  • 25 Single Operator Permits.
  • 2 Electric Vehicle (EV) permits.
  • 25 Medallions to the top of the Waiting List.
The EV Permits will be for full time taxis and will go into effect once a few battery switching stations are put in.

The plan for 25 Peak Time permits was dismissed at the last meeting because nobody in the cab community wanted them.

The MTA and Hayahsi also decided not to sell  25 medallions directly at this time because their budget for the year of $10 million has already been met.

Single Operator Permits

Although many drivers remain against these permits (and some are against adding any taxis at all), I think the majority at the meetings favored them. There were two main arguments against the permits.
  1. That they give unfair competition to people on regular shifts by cherry picking the best hours. People who take this view think that more full time medallions should be given to the list instead.
  2. That the plan is financially risky and would be hard to regulate. 
In addition, medallion holder Christopher Fulkerson expressed concern that leasing the vehicles from the MTA might be the first step toward the MTA taking over the business and leasing all the medallions.

Although the plan is not yet fully worked out, the main features of the Single Operator Permit will be:
  • The permits will be leased from the MTA over a 3 year period.
  • The permits will be awarded on the basis of A-Card seniority. This will include drivers both on and off the Waiting List. This is to reward them for their years of service.
  • There will also probably be a skills test involved.
  • The vehicles will be operated a maximum of 60 hours per week.
  • For drivers over sixty - two drivers could share the vehicle.
  • Although they would not be used exclusively for dispatched calls, servicing such calls would be very important and, possibly, be given priority.
  • The amount of the lease would be reduced or eliminated if the operator took X number of dispatched calls.
  • The vehicles would be not be allowed to stay at the airport.
Things undecided:
  • Whether or not the cabs would have a special color or numbering system.
  • Which dispatching services they should be connected with.
  • Whether they should have fixed hours of operation or ...
  • Have a flexible schedule left to the discretion of the driver.
  • How to enforce the sixty hour limit?
I should point out that driver and TAC member John Han deserves credit for bringing the idea of the Single Operator Permit to the attention of Christiane Hayashi.

Adding 25 More Cabs

Although Hayashi didn't mention it, one reason for putting 25 more cabs on the street is to palliate the public under the guise of Supervisor Scott Weiner and MTA Director Malcom Heinicke.

The Deputy Director chose to push for more cabs to the Waiting List (as opposed to MTA sales) in order to help get the List moving again and help medallion holders near the top of it. The number "25" would match the average of medallions that have been put out by the City for the last 30 years. Hayashi noted that there have been no new medallions added since 2008.

Of course, there was division among the drivers - pretty much on the basis of whether or not they were on the list.

Drivers like myself feel that the public has to be shown that we are willing to accommodate them partway.

However, like many of the other drivers, I also dislike the idea of putting cabs on the street simply because there is political pressure to do so. Director Hayashi says that she is looking for an outside group of experts to study the cab situation here and have them work with the drivers to develop a more scientific manner to decide if taxis should be put on the street or not.

In short, she wants to hold real PC and N hearings instead of the farces that were held in the past.

Many drivers don't want to see any medallions added until limos and illegal cabs are taken off the street.

One new note in the meeting was a general call for citywide dispatch or Open Taxi Access. This was particularly noticeable among drivers who work for companies with poor dispatching services.

These drivers think that more cabs shouldn't be added until OTA is given the chance to improve service to the neighborhoods.

Finally, there are drivers like Christopher Fulkerson who don't think any taxis should be added for any reason at all.

Next:  Electronic Waybills

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Town Hall Meetings: More taxis? How many? What kind?

The SFMTA now is proposing that several different classes of taxis be added to the cab fleet. (See Photo.)

Peak Time and Single Operator Permits dominated the discussions during the sessions I attended so let me deal with the other permits first.

2 Electric Vehicles have been given in a grant to Yellow Cab to operate as fleet medallions. They will not be used until two battery changing stations have been set up in San Francisco.

These are not to be confused with the 25 electric vehicles that will be given in a grant to the MTA at future time.  I believe that these would be driven by Single Operators.

6 Ramp Medallions would also be added to the Ramp Taxi fleet. It's unclear as to which companies would get them.

50 New Full Time Medallions
  • 25 going to the List.
  • 25 to be sold by the MTA.
These would become part of the original "60 and 60" that is in Pilot Plan. In fact, it would almost fulfill the totals. Around 30 medallions each have gone to the MTA and the List so far.

Peak Time Permits

I'm not going to spend much time on this - mostly because no one wants peak time cabs except for MTA Director Malcom Heinicke and Supervisor Scott Weiner.
  • The Permits are supposed to be operated a maximum of 60 hours per week but the companies claim that they need 75 to 90 hours to make a profit.
  • The companies want full time, not part time, medallions.
  • Most drivers think that any permits given out should go to working taxi drivers, not the companies.
This appears to be a good subject for what I'll call the Brad Newsham test. Brad thinks that all MTA meetings are useless because everything is fixed in advance behind closed doors.

If Heinicke and the MTA put out Peak Time Permits, score one for Brad.

Single Operator Permits

This idea was much more popular at the meetings - certainly with the drivers. Many details were debated and argued with but an outline of the concept that most drivers found agreeable would go something like this.
  • The 25 taxis would be operated a maximum of 60 hours per week.
  • The driver would buy the vehicle and necessary insurance.
  • The driver could decide what hours he or she wanted to work.
  • He or she would have to join a dispatching service but would not be part of a color scheme.
  • Electronic Waybills would be used to check on the time in service.
  • The vehicles would be used primarily for neighborhood service and would not be able to pick up at SFO.
  • Fees paid to the MTA would be reduced, or even taken away, if the driver took enough  dispatched calls.
The original calculations done by Director Hayashi figured that the single operator could make $150 per shift. But this was assuming that the driver would pay to join a color scheme and also would do other things that included additional expenses.

The basis for her estimate was an hourly gross of $30. But this is low for peak time hours and a meter increase would make a more realist estimate of around $40 per hour.

The details are up in the air but this seemed a much better option to the drivers at the Town Hall Meeting than the peak time permits.

Next: arguments for and against additional taxis.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Town Hall Meetings: Indians and Electronic Waybills?

Last week Supervisor Scott Weiner talked about putting out 25 Peak Time cabs in exchange for raising the meter. This week the SFMTA wants 125. Or, is it the 108 that we discussed at this week's Town Hall Meeting? The numbers fluctuate.

Medallion holder Brad Newsham, noting this flexible and expanding taxi math, drew an analogy between the MTA's meetings with cab drivers and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs's pow-wows with American Indians. He thinks that the MTA will use the meetings to eventually steal medallions from us just as the U.S. used pow-wows to steal land from the Indians.

And, who am I to say he's wrong? There is at least one member of the MTA Board who is on record as wanting to grab all the medallions and lease them back to the drivers.

After saying that we should protest by walking out of the the meeting, Newsham went for a stroll himself - thus doing his part to turn his theory into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Brad may know a lot about American Indians but he's sadly lacking in his knowledge of the San Francisco taxicab industry's recent history - maybe because he takes too many hikes. The reason that MTA Board Director Malcom Heinicke did NOT succeed in taking all our medallions last year was because of the Pilot Plan we came up with at the Town Hall Meetings.

 In short, you can't win a negotiation by refusing to negotiate. If we had acted like Brad last year, the MTA would own all the medallions right now.

For those of us who stayed at the meeting Wednesday the subjects were: Electronic Waybills, Peak Time Cabs and Single Operator Permits.

Electronc Waybills

Although this discussion took up a lot of time, there was little that was new added to previous talks on the subject.

People, like Driver Tariq Mehmood, who are against the electronic waybills, are concerned about:
  • Security.
  • Uncle Sam.
  • Big brother watching us.
  • Unhealthy emissions.
  • The possible inaccuracy of the waybills.
Those in favor of the the waybills, like Christopher Fulkerson and myself, think:
  • The security can be managed.
  • Big Brother is already watching us.
  • Uncle Sam has better things to do.
  • The statistics and the data that would be collected could be invaluable to improving the taxicab business.
  • Accurate data would gain us more respect
  • Are sick and tired of filling out the damn waybills by hand.
Deputy Director Christiane Hayashi tried to address some to the driver's fears by saying that Taxi Services was only interested in collecting statistical data, not data on individuals, and that they would only be looking at individual waybills if there was complaint - which would be the same as the current situation. She also said that studies will be done about the emissions from the various electronic devices in the taxis and the possible effects on the drivers.
    In the end, Tariq Mahmood looked around the room at the dozen or so people in attendance and declared that 7,000 drivers are against electronic waybills and 3 are in favor of them.

    Talk about flexible and expanding math.

    To be continued.