Thursday, December 8, 2011

SFMTA Board Looks at PIMs, 5% & Electronic Waybills

Will Rodman, who conducted the study for Nelson\Nygaard, presented his finding before the SFMTA Board on Tuesday 12/6/2011.

It was a three topic study of credit card fees, backseat monitors (PIMs) and electronic waybills. 

Since you can find more information on the subject at and elsewhere, I’m simply going to hit on some of the high points of the meeting.
The basic recommendations made by the SFMTA Board were:
The SFMTA should look into ways of lowering the cost below 5%.

  •  Rodman’s research showed that the actual cost of processing may be as     low as 2.35% to 3% not including tech and customer support, installation charges and so forth.
  •  The big question mark is how much of the room between processing costs and the 5% is profit. Since the companies are claiming that they need relief from credit card charges, they should not be profiting at the drivers' expense.
  • New York City is considering lowering the charge to the drivers to 4%.
  • John Lazar of Luxor Cab is on record as saying that the cost for him to process $1,000,000 per months of credit card receipts is $40,000 which equals 4%. And, he has the most expensive Personal Information Monitors (PIMs) around.

CFO Sonali Bose said that the MTA would be running an RFP (Request for proposal) on credit card fees to see if they can be lowered.

(To read the rest of this article, click below.)
Taxi Companies will no longer have to install backseat terminals in order to pass credit card fees onto their drivers.

  • This should make drivers happy and unhappy.
  • Happy because - This means that most drivers probably will not have to use the PIMs, which are a symbol of oppression for many.
  • Unhappy - The drivers at all companies will now have the credit card charges passed on to them.
In reality, the companies without the PIMs were either charging their drivers up to 10% for processing CC receipts or refusing to process them at all. So the drivers at these companies should be no worse off economically than they were before - probably better.

Customers or drivers should be able to completely turn off both audio and video on the PIMs.

Almost all the members of the Board said they had been taking different kinds of cabs so they could get hands on experience of the various kinds of equipment. Their opinions of the back seat terminals differed just as if they were cab drivers.

Chairman Tom Nolan, who had been riding in a Luxor cab with a TV monitor PIM, complained that the audio wasn't loud enough for him to get Jay Leno's punch lines.

Director Joél Ramos, on the other hand, couldn't stand the same monitors and, when he tried to turn his off, it turned itself back on again. The director said that he enjoyed talking to cab drivers who, as you know, tell wonderful stories and he didn't want anything to interfere with that experience.

In the end, the Board decided to let both customers and drivers create their own environments.

Despite the fact that Rodman's report suggested that the Square should be used only as a back up to in-vehicle equipment, the MTA Board supported its use.

  • Representatives from Square said that the device was secure and that problems with chargebacks and customer complaints can be addressed.
  • Yellow driver and medallion holder Anne McVey seconded this by saying that, if a customer has a problem, they can call Square and Square will contact the driver. She said that she’d had two chargebacks and that they were both cleared up with little difficulty.
  • The biggest advocate for Square,however, turned out to be Director Ramos who said that Square and other such devices were so commonly used throughout the culture that he thought that they had to be secure.
The Board gave the okay for the use of Electronic waybills

  • The MTA's position on Electronic Waybills is based a compromise worked between Deputy Director Hayashi and the drivers at the last spring Town Hall Meetings. 
  • Members of the UTW, the SFCDA, the MHA, myself and others approved this compromise.
  • Tariq Memood and his disciples didn't like it.
  • Mehmood tore down all copies of the MTA's position paper, called The Facts About Electronic Waybills, when it was posted at the airport and talked whoever was running Taxi Services in the interim between Ford's and Reisman's leadership into sending out an e-mail apologizing for having posted the document. (Did my favorite demagogue threaten a strike?)
  • Mehmood then proceeded to lie about, misrepresent and trash the document to drivers, calling it "propaganda". Then, he kept showing up at MTA Board meetings claiming that 99% of the drivers were against Electronic Waybills.
  • All true.  Ahhh! The joys of bureaucracy?
  • Personally, I think the measure is as brilliant a compromise between seemingly intractable positions as I've ever seen.
  • Its thrust is that it allows the MTA to gather the statistics it needs to improve service WITHOUT INCLUDING ANY INFORMATION ABOUT INDIVIDUAL DRIVERS.
  • But read it for yourself ... now that you finally have the chance.

1 comment:

  1. Until cab dispatch is in the hands of the PEOPLE, any major addition of cabs is PREMATURE.

    The public needs to know that the cab companies are not in the business of providing the people with cab service. The cab companies are in the business of leasing cabs to drivers. So the cab companies do everything they can to promote the public perception that more cabs are needed. Yellow Cab even adds a three minute wait to every phone order, to create the impression that there is just too much volume for them to handle, and that there is therefore a need for more cabs. Yellow Cab does this 24/7/365. Deny this at peril of your cedibility, Yellow. We know better.

    Electronic data collection, which is no longer correctly called "Electronic Waybills," is a vital part of any PLAUSIBLE development of the taxi industry. Without the reliable business studies that are only possible through the use of properly collected information from the marketplace, there can be no reasons to continually believe the cab companies' claims that "more cabs means better service." The product is mobile: it disappears. And there are grave disappointments for drivers at the geographic extremities of the city: within a few days of becoming a cab driver, you learn that there is no business in the far west and south. "More cabs" will never motivate cabs to these places. You can NEVER improve service through more cabs alone, and there is still no genuine effort actually working to improve dispatch on the order at which it is needed, by empowering the whole population.

    If and when more cabs are ever genuinely going to solve service problems, the claim that they are needed must be made in a reasoned and factual way, not by constant knee-jerk shouts for more cabs by Richie Wiener or Scott Wiener. Without proper industry studies SUCH AS WE HAVE NEVER YET HAD, thoughtful people will simply not have reason to believe their claims.

    At this time there are no service problems that would not be served by two things in tandem: 1) customer-driven dispatch in the form of some kind of "Google Maps of Taxi Dispatch," and 2) guaranteed bonuses to drivers to drive the extra distance to the geographic extremes of the City. I and other drivers believe that these two innovations would COMPLETELY OBVIATE any need for more cabs.

    If I and other drivers are wrong, you have to demonstrate it to us using proper industry studies. Until you do, you sound like snake-oil salesmen telling us to watch your perpetual motion machine just a little bit longer, and a little bit more after that. You aren't saying anything new, and you aren't saying anything that has worked in the past to get cabs to where they're needed, when they're needed. Only dispatch does that, and the best efforts of the dispatchers we now have are not up to the efficiency we would have if most of the population were able to find and see all of the cabs, all of the time.