Sunday, December 18, 2011

An Outline for Making the Pilot Plan Permanent

I'm in my old home town of St. Paul, Minnesota for the holidays. As incredible as it may seem I'm related to most of the lovely women in this photo. In other words, this genetic pool is not responsible for my face.

But, on to 

My Plan.

I think the Pilot Plan as it is benefits most of the people in the industry and should continue with the following modifications:

(Click "read me" to continue reading post.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

TAC Votes for Taxis to Have Own Division

The Taxi Advisory Council voted 11 to 1 to advise the SFMTA to return Taxi Services to a Division status within the SFMTA.

Taxi Services came into the MTA as a Division and was demoted to a subdivision by former Executive Director Nat Ford because he thought that sucking up to Gavin Newsom would help his résumé. Last I heard Ford could't find a job and opened a consulting firm, although God only knows what subject that he's qualified to consult on - certainly not taxicabs.

There is no rational reason to have the Deputy Director of Taxi Services under the control of people who don't understand the cab business - as is the situation now. The biggest problem is that everybody thinks that they understand taxis (A member of the Citizen's Advisory Council was insulted when a cab driver tried to educate him about the business, saying "I've ridden cabs for years.") and make absurd decisions based on their ignorance of this unique and complex industry.

It's untimely a matter of power and respect and, until Taxi Services does become a division, we will never have the leadership we need.

For more on the subject click here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Two Hearings & a Meeting

On Friday December 2nd, two administrative hearings were held regarding John Nesbitt Baker (photo) of Yellow Top Cab Company in San Leandro and Salim Soltane of Day Cab fame for illegally picking up fares in San Francisco. Henry Epstein was the Hearing Officer. Michael Harris handled the prosecution for the MTA and Investigator Eric Richholt testified as the arresting officer.

An administrative hearing is much more relaxed than a civil or criminal trial. But it's actually more powerful. There appear to be no attorneys or jurys allowed for the defendants. There also is no appeal against the Hearing Officer's ruling. The British used administrative justice to control their empire for over two hundred years. The English statesman Winston Churchill reputedly wanted to have Mahatama Ghandi killed by administrative fiat. Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed.

Not that there was anything nefarious going on at room 400 in City Hall.

Baker was charged with picking up a man on Ceasar Chavez street and taking him to Palo Alto for $100; Soltane with picking up investigator Charles Castillo on Polk street between Post and Sutter streets and taking him to Sutter and Gough.

(To read the rest of this article, click below.)

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.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

SFMTA Board Okays Sales for K Medallion Holders Over 65

I should subtitle this : "But Not For Pre-K's - Among Other Things."

Specifically the Board okayed the following legislation changing the transportation Code:

1. Creates a ramp taxi enforcement program to hold ramp taxi medallion holders responsible to
ensure all drivers of the vehicle are qualified, and to require service to at least eight wheelchair users per month, with a $150 penalty for non-compliance, and provision for 90-day suspension for repeated violations;
2. Eliminates six month notice requirement for leaving the ramp taxi program;
3. Waives application and renewal fees for two battery-switch electric vehicle permits; 
4. Creates documentation requirements for applications to transfer a color scheme permit; 
5. Eliminates mandatory December 31 permit expiration date for permits; 
6. Eliminates the financial responsibility inquiry for driver and medallion permit applicants; 
7. Eliminates jitney bus provisions left over from the Police Code; and 
8. Re-opens the opportunity to sell medallions to individuals subject to the full-time driving
requirement who attain the age of 65 or older as of December 31, 2011, or who have a disability that prevents them from fulfilling the full-time driving requirement, clarifies that a medallion purchaser may sell regardless of age or disability, and that a medallion seller can be removed from the list of qualified sellers if they decline to sell their medallion within 15 days after an offer is made.

The item that interested most people was number 8. Since the legislation only opens sales to "individuals subject to the full-time driving requirement ... or who have a disability ..." it excludes all Pre-K medallion holders. Twenty or so of the Pre-K's (along with several K's) spoke to the unfairness of the measure. My favorite was the Pre-K who concluded by saying, "Why don't they just gas us?"

Indeed, why not? The poor dude would only get $3,000 a month for the rest of the his life, a figure that would warm the hearts of most people - except, of course, those who work for the MTA.

Please excuse the levity. Watching one Pre-K after another obsess about the injustice of their fates has been one of the more amazing aspects of the entire Pilot Plan process. These guys have made between $800,000 and $1,000,000 off a $10,000 or $20,000 investment and, as near as I can tell, they haven't stopped whining about it for thirty years. 

Or, as John Milton put it in Paradise Lost,

     "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."

On the other hand, there was no separation between the K's and Pre-K's in the Pilot Plan and no warning was given that something like this might happen. If there had been a warning, most of the Pre-k medallions would have already have been sold.

The legislation on this particular matter lasts only until the end of the Pilot Plan and is designed to keep medallion sales going until a final plan is adopted. Otherwise I probably would have been against the measure. 

Barry Korengold felt no such compunction and favored the legislation because he thought that it would give earned medallions to drivers on the Waiting List.

The MTA was divided on the issue and wanted to know Deputy Director Christiane Hayashi's reasoning.

(To read the rest of this article, click below.)