Monday, July 25, 2011
TAC Advises Taxi Companies, "Pass No Mas!"
Monday afternoon 7/25/11, by a count of 8 to 7, the Taxi Advisory Council voted to advise the SFMTA Board to no longer allow taxicab companies to pass on credit card fees to their drivers. You read right. No more credit card charges for the drivers. Now - this is a reason for honking and dancing in the streets. Only I don't hear any horns. Maybe because nobody is sure what this means ... It's complicated.
But first the play by play.
The meeting started with Tariq Mehmood loudly launching one of his patented, semi-coherent, cretinous, psychopathic rants against "staff" and was allowed to do this by Chair Chris Sweis because Mehmood didn't mention his victim by name although we all knew who he was spewing out his hatred at.
Then Councilor John Lazar and his sidekick Charles Rathbone tried to have Councilor Barry Korengold dismissed from the Council for talking during a vote at the previous meeting to limit the right of the MTA to sell medallions. When this failed Lazar tied to get a re-vote only to be told that only the winning side could ask for one.
This drama was followed by about three hours of excruciating boredom as everyone recapped their positions on 5% credit card charges and back-seat terminals (PIM's). Not that I'm knocking boredom. It's part of the democratic process.
The theme of the meeting was set by Councilor John Han who seems to have read every document, note or e-mail ever written on the subject of credit card fees and back-seat terminals. Han's research has convinced him that, if the back-sear terminals were trashed and burned, the driver's fees could be lowered to 3% or 3.5%.
John Lazar, on the other hand, claimed that the companies were treading water at 5%. An idea seconded by Councilor Athan Rebelos and Desoto President Hansu Kim although Kim did admit to John Han that the rear-seat terminals might indeed add to the charges.
Barry Korengold said that he'd never met a driver who liked the PIM's. Councilor Tim Lapp of Yellow Cab countered him by saying he had been one of the drivers testing the terminals at Yellow and loved them. He said that he was making $12 to $15 more a shift using them and wasn't going to let anyone take the one in his cab away. Hansu Kim added that he had completed his study of the PIM's vs front seat terminals and that it showed that the PIM's earned drivers about 20% more.
Councilor and owner of Metro Cab, Richard Hybels said that his drivers were making a lot more money since he'd installed front-seat terminals in his taxis. Before that Metro didn't take credit cards. Hybels also said that he'd be forced out of business unless he could pass the charges on to the drivers.
Councilor Dan Hinds said that the companies should use whatever they earned from the PIM advertisements for the relief of driver's fees.
Councilor William Minikel thought that the credit card fees should be passed on to the customers - an idea that other people in the room liked.
Penultimately, a motion was made by John Han to end the requirement for rear-seat terminals in order to pass on credit card fees to drivers and limit the fees to 3.5%. A vote was taken and the motion failed by a count of 10 to 5.
Shortly afterwards Councilor David Kahn (photo) made his motion to stop allowing taxi companies to pass any credit card processing fees on to the drivers.
Yellow Cab driver Murai, who sat next to me, and I both thought that the measure was doomed to failure and half wondered why TAC was even bothering to vote. We foresaw another 10 to 5 defeat.
Then, Wham! The motion passed 8 to 7. I mean it was staggering. The idea had hardly even been discussed because it seemed so random.
Tara Housman, who voted for the measure, later told me that she didn't even know if she liked the idea. She said that the only reason she voted as she did was to make Kahn feel better about losing.
Nobody really knows what this means. TAC is an ADVISORY council and I'm sure that (even as I'm finishing this post at 9 am) the MTA is fielding calls from desperate owners pleading, "say it isn't so."
If nothing else this vote should help the Taxi Services negotiate lower fees from the vendors.