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.

    1 comment:

    1. I don't think I mentioned this at the meeting, but I am in favor of the electronic waybills also recording the fare amounts. The waybill is a driver's best defense against fraudulent claims, and many undesirable scenarios can include accusations that the driver has mischarged the passenger. In this respect the credit card usage is best, and I never put a shadow over a passenger's desire to use one. "More business" is a good mantra here. (And that's why we need Open Taxi Access.)
      About Mr. Mahmood, it is a pity that someone with such passionate ferver for the drivers' welfare cannot see that increasing their accountability is good for them, and that he does not realize he is LOSING credibility through his repeated orally violent and unreasonable attacks on Christiane Hayashi (TM, very loudly and rudely: "Why you did not do this two years ago?" CH, in simple though slightly wavering tone: "The problem did not exist two years ago."). While it is possible for me to understand, though not quite to sympathize with his fight againd credit card charges, Mahmood's antipathy to electronic waybills works against the drivers' longstanding effort to achieve credibility. Hello, look beyond the Government, we have to get the banks to learn to trust us!
      With regard to the much-touted fears about Big Brother, I have not yet heard a complaint against sonic, visual, or electronic recording that doesn't sound to me like an expression of the drabbest kind of "performance anxiety."