Wednesday, August 3, 2011

SFMTA Board Okays Meter Increase and 87 New Taxis

The threatened honkathon was a non-event yesterday.

Tariq Mehmood claimed that he called off his taxi strike to give the SFMTA to make changes he liked. But, I think he was really reading the same tea leaves I was. I had lunch in the plaza across from City Hall at 12:30 P.M and, in the half hour I sat eating, only 3 cabs came by looking for a protest.

But on to the business that was.

1. The Meter Increase

The topic for a vote by the SFMTA Board was actually whether or not to increase the flag drop by 40 cents to $3.50. The MTA had already okayed a meter increase of 10 cents for every 1/5th of a mile and 10 cents per minute of waiting time.

The measure was a slam dunk. Not only did the board pass it with a unanimous voice vote but hardly anyone spoke against it. A few people expressed fears that the raise would lose business and others asked for cost of living reviews every couple of years but that was it.

The raise of both the meter and the drop will equal about a 24% increase in the cost of a fare.

2. The second vote was on whether not to put out 50 new Single Operator part-time medallion permits, 25 new medallions to drivers on the List, 2 temporary electric vehicles and to sell 10 new medallions to drivers on the list.

The measure passed 6 to 1, but the ideas of the MTA selling medallions and leasing the  Single Operator Permits proved controversial.

Mark Gruberg  and Barry Korengold both attacked the idea of the SFMTA setting a precedent by selling medallions saying that the organization had a conflict of interest. Possibly - but neither of these speakers addressed the fact that the 10 new medallion would be part of the 60 medallions that the Pilot Plan allows the MTA sell - more than 20 of which have already been sold.

 The 50 Single Operator Permits, on the other, took a lot of flak.

  • Rebecca Lytle of the San Francisco Federal Credit Union and Desoto Cab owner Hansu Kim both experssed fears that allowing the MTA to lease taxis would undermine the value of taxicabs as well as lead to a future takeover of the taxicab business by the MTA.
  • Desoto manager Athan Rebelos thought that the idea of the permits was not sound from a business standpoint. 
  • Medallion holder Christopher Fulkerson expressed fears that the drivers of these vehicles would lose money.
The most entertaining objections, however, were put forth by John Lazar  of Luxor Cab and Jim Gillespie of Yellow Cab. 

First, they tried to delay the measure by claiming a legal technicality that the MTA's attorney noted but thought unimportant.

Then, the owners claimed that they hadn't had time to study the plan for Single Operators and said that the permits should not be put out without PC and N hearings. Gillespie also claimed that the subject hadn't been discussed at Town Hall or TAC meetings.

Tara Housman, John Han and I all pointed out that the measure had been debated at several Town Hall meetings in addition to being debated, voted on and passed by the Taxi Advisory Council, of which Gillespie is a member.

The idea of Lazar and Gillespie asking for PC and N hearing is comic. This dynamic duo has spent much of the last year knocking on back-doors trying to get 500 cabs put on the street WITHOUT PC and N hearings.

President Nolan of the MTA Board said that both PC and N hearing and cost of living meter increases should be done on a regular basis.

John Han (photo) was praised by members of the board for his efforts to make the Single Operator Permits a reality.


  1. Ed,

    Tariq doesn't read tea leaves. He lectures them. He would have made a good member of the Roman Catholic Curia at the Vatican. They do DOGMA good. Good seeing you again.

    Paul Harting

  2. I believe I said more than to merely express "Fears that the drivers of these vehicles would lose money;" in any case allow me here to say that such "losing money" is on their way to failure and ruined life styles, and to another market in which the SFMTA will give itself a conflict-of-interest position, in the case of the "Single Operator" permits, by renting out, rather than selling, medallions. And who will handle the complaints against those drivers? Why, the SFMTA of course. But do you think they will admit those drivers are their employees? No one believes this.

    We need industry studies before throwing more spaghetti on the wall in the form of "more cabs."

    Heinecke is channelling New York City cab politics of yesteryear. He needs to attend Medallion Issuers Anonymous. Cab medallions should only be issued after proper industry studies are done.

    We need Open Taxi Access, but of course this would only mean THE BIGGEST EMPOWERMENT OF THE PUBLIC in cab history - anyone who could go online could find every cab in San Francisco. The cab companies would then not be able to lobby for more cabs as the solution to alleged service problems.

    There is a growing perception in the public that there are enough cabs, they just need better ways to find them. The cab companies know the writing is on the wall, that upcoming technologies will soon outmaneuver their "more cabs" policies, so they are going for a huge allotment ASAP, before the technology shows what the truth was all along - we needed, still need, better dispatch, not more cabs.

  3. Hi Christopher,

    Sorry but I can't possibly put down everyone's speeches in a short blog. Thanks for going into more detail. I certainly agree that we need studies before doing things but they were going to something like this anyway and I hope we limited the damage. We have to watch this very carefully.

    I'm with you completely on OTA - that looks like a battle we can half-way win, meaning getting it to the half of the fleet that isn't Luxor or Yellow.

    Thanks for you articulate comments.