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.


  1. No electronic waybills, no backseat credit card
    machine, no more medallions, no 5 % credit card
    charge, no OTA--why Yellow and Luxor driver
    should pay for others. Why others do not join
    hands together and make a better dispatch.
    If they are not united, then why take away
    others existing benefits. Go get united first
    and then do by yourself. You are scattered
    and asking like a begger. Talk to Arrow, National, Bay, Town, Royal to make one dispatch.
    All these companies should pay for OTA together.
    Why citi money ?

  2. A gross income of $30/hr for a peak time cab is doable, but not guaranteed by a long shot. You're forgetting traffic congestion, and that can bring down that figure to $20-$25/hr. A no-go will also hurt. $40/hr is possible only if going to the airport and deadheading right back without running into any backups resulting from an accident, or a drive through at the airport.

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  4. Why citi money? 1. Because they've taken $10 million from us and should give some back. 2. Because OTA will improve service to the public.

    $40 per hour during peak time is normal for me and I never go to the airport. A driver through at the airport should equal $70 or $80 an hour.

  5. It should be pointed out that $150 a shift is not a hell of a lot considering I was making that 25 years ago.
    When I started in 1978 I was making $100 a shift right off the bat. That would be what $400 in today's money?

  6. Hi Richard,

    No 150 not a hell of a lot. But perhaps you've forgotten that the late 70's were one of the busiest times in cab driving history with a low dollar value and a flood of European tourists and only 711 cabs on the street.

    Only Mike Spain and a woman at Green make $400 a shift today.