Saturday, December 15, 2012

Drug Testing - A False Positive?

Was the driver of the above vehicle (photo by Corey Lamb) on a medical marijuana break?

Not coincidentally, the SFMTA's drug & Alcohol testing policy was the high point of last Tuesday's Town Hall Meeting.

The basics of the policy will be:

1. Every new A-Card holder must pass the test to become a cab driver.
2. Every driver will be given a test at random at a location yet to be determined. Rumors is that you'd have to show up within an hour.
3. Drivers would have to be tested after accidents: involving loss of life, when a citation is issued within 8 hours, when there is bodily injury or the vehicle is damaged so that it needs to be towed.
4. Drivers might also be tested for the infamous Probable Cause or Reasonable Suspicion of drug or alcohol abuse. This is to be based upon specific, contemporaneous observations by trained company (MTA?) officials.

The drugs tested for are: PCP, Opiates, Amphetamines, Cocaine, Marijuana (and alcohol?)

A driver testing Positive will be immediately removed from service,  suspended for 30 days and refereed to substance abuse professionals for follow up.

If a driver refused to be tested he or she will be considered guilty with the above consequences.


On the MTA handout it says that the cost will be $125 per driver per year. Needless to say this wasn't popular with the drivers at the Town Hall meetings.

Director Chris Hayashi said during the meeting I attended that neither the cost nor having drivers pay for it are set in stone. She said that that no - the MTA will not make a profit on the test and that she got the price from one testing service. She said that she would look into others.

She also said that both she and her boss, Director Ed Reiskin, felt that charging the drivers for the test was unfair in light of gargantuan amounts of money that the MTA is already taking away from the drivers. She said that they were seeing what they could do about it.

Editorial Comment

I am against anybody driving under the influence of any drug including over-the-counter pills likely to make a people sleepy or slow down their reflexes.

If I have a cold severe enough to require pills I won't go to work. In fact, that's why I'm sitting here writing this on a Friday night instead of driving. In order to buy the medicine at Walgreens I had to show my I.D. I have yet to look up which substance required this law but, whatever it is, I clearly shouldn't be driving under its influence.

I don't drink any more but I have been an Irish drinker in the past.  However, in 28 years of cab driving, the only time I ever drove a taxi with alcohol in me was after a New Year's Eve party. I waited two hours before I started work so I think was under the legal limit. I still wouldn't recommend it. A killer hangover set in at around 4 am. That was over 20 years ago.

As for marijuana - as a child of the sixties I've been partaking in the pleasure since I was 19. This reminds me of a story about Louie Armstrong. When he asked if he thought marijuana was addictive, the great jazzman reportedly said,

"No man, it ain't addictive. I've been smokin' it for forty years."

I've always been an infrequent social user and now rarely smoke at all. There was a time when I would allow my customers to beguile me into having a hit or two in my taxi but I've long since concluded that this was a bad idea. (See The High Way to the Airport)

Nevertheless, I think that including a test that cannot measure intoxication levels, that cannot tell within reasonable parameters when a drug was used is worse than useless. PCP, Opiates, Amphetamines and Cocaine are all out of the system in two or three days. These are addictive and destructive drugs. In the Seventies, all the "creative" people I knew thought coke was the "hippest thing". Most of them ended up using the other stuff as well and most of them died before they reached fifty. Nobody driving a taxi should have a touch of these drugs in their  systems - for their own good if no one else's.

It's hard to ignore that marijuana is a drug of a different category. There is no such thing as medical PCP or Meth or Heroin or Cocaine. Marijuana use is socially acceptable and on its way to becoming legal everywhere. It's also common to have customers who have been using it or want to use it in the taxi.

Yes - of course you don't want people driving a cab when they are stoned but unless a test can demonstrate the difference between a person who smoked a joint thee weeks before the test and a person using it an hour before, the test is not fulfilling its purpose - to keep stoned, and only stoned, cab drivers off the road. As it is, anybody being treated with medical marijuana or who uses the drug on a regular basis or even once in a while is likely to test positive whether they used the drug driving a cab just before a random test or not.

The argument that these tests are being used everywhere else in California is not convincing. There was a time when everyone had to swear a loyalty oath in order to get keep their jobs. A bad idea doesn't become good because everybody does it. As it is, these tests are designed to turn up false positives if the question is whether or not people were driving intoxicated.

I have started researching the subject and, on one web site, there appears to be argument that you can determine the THC levels in the blood and use these to tell whether or not the marijuana was 2nd hand smoke. Another site sugggested that they could tell the difference between recent marijuana usage and residual use. I intend to investigate this further and I hope that Taxi Sevices will do the same.

Unless or until there is such a test, marijuana should be left out of the equation except in the case of accidents or probable cause.

The only time I smoke weed these days is sporadically with a friend of mine who uses it medicinally to calm her anxiety. I'd hate to have to give up a friendship I value to keep my job.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ramp Medallions & Leased Permits

The MTA held Town Hall Meetings last week Lead by Director Chris Hayashi concerning Ramp Medallions, the MTA's leased permits (8,000 series) and leasing in general.

The chart on the left shows the options open to Ramp Medallion Holders (RMH's).

1. They can keep their Ramps which are worth about $2000 per month subject to driving requirements.
2. Depending up their positions on the List they can buy a regular Medallion;
a. If they are in the top 200 to 300, they can buy the $150,000 medallions and end up with $90,000 before taxes if they transfer the medallion immediately.
b. They can buy the $300,000 medallions which they can sell for a profit of $240,000 before taxes.
3. If they are over 60 years of age or disabled, they can trade the Ramp for a "Surrender" medallion which would give them $200,000 before taxes.

The probability of the Ramps only going to a few companies like Luxor and Desoto was put forward as a possibility because they are the companies that fill most ramp orders anyway. I wasn't at the afternoon session but Marty Smith of Luxor reportedly offered to take all the Ramps off the City's hands for nothing. Desoto countered by offering to buy them all.

Director Hayashi discussed various ways to motivate the Ramp drivers to pick up more rides including paying the drivers extra for pickups or making them employees thus giving them benefits.

I mentioned that being employees would enable companies to send the Ramp drivers on orders insuring that most of the customers would be picked up. Desoto manager Athan Rebelos countered by saying that Las Vegas drivers are all employees and they don't pick up all the calls. But he and I have been having this discussion for years. Hint: I'm right.

The MTA's Leased Permits

They are a numbers of rumors going around about these permits. Having processed similar rumors for the 3 year life of my blog, I think you could get a better handle on what's going on in the taxi business by randomly asking the first 12 year old you see walking down the street.

Of course Jim Gillespie of Yellow Cab should know what he's talking about, and I'm sure he does, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he's going to tell us. Nor does it mean that he necessarily understands what's happening.

At the TH meeting, Gillespie said the he no trouble filling his night shifts but he couldn't fill the day shifts because day drivers need the airport to make a living. His solution would be to the allow the 8,000 series to pick up at SFO.

Greg Cochran, who does the hiring at Desoto Cab, seems to have a better take on the situation. Contrary to rumor, by the way, Desoto has been filling its shifts with the 8,000's and otherwise. In fact, I couldn't get out last night.

 Desoto still has a large number of the new permits on the way and Mr. Cochran does think that it will take some time before all the shifts will be filled. He pointed out to me that over 600 new shifts have been created and thinks it will probably take until late spring or early summer before the companies are flush.

There are possible influences as well:

  1. Many drivers have gone to Uber because they have been able to get better situations over there then they were getting at companies like Yellow.
  2. If you include the S series around 800 new shifts have been created.
  3. There will soon be over be over 1,700 taxis on the street when we are already into winter with the seasonal drop off of business.
  4. Drivers now have real choices for the first time in years and will naturally gravitate toward the companies that treat the them best. There is a good possibility that Yellow Cab won't act as a magnet for many of these drivers.
One hot rumor on the mail sites is that Royal Cab couldn't fill its shifts and had turned the 8,000 series permits back to the MTA.

I called Chris Sweis of Royal this morning and he said that he'd been filling his 8,000 shifts for two months. The rumor he'd heard was that Desoto and Luxor couldn't fill their shifts and didn't want the permits.

You can check out Luxor for yourself.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The 200: What Are They Really Getting?

The top 200 on the Waiting List will be eligible to buy (or whatever arcane verbiage the SFMTA uses) a medallion for $150,000. These drivers will then be able to turn around and sell (or other abstruse verbiage) it for $300,000. This would leave them with $150,000 minus $60,000 for a 20% transfer fee on the $300,000 or $90,000.  ($300,000 - $150,000 = $90,000)

The San Francisco Federal Credit Union will wave the usual 20% downpayment fee and the terms of the loan can be for as long as 30 years. This would work out to payments of about $850 per month. At the moment most companies are paying $2,500 for leasing a medallion from a medallion holder. This would give the (we need a new name - "Last of the List"?) holders a profit $1,650 per month or $19,800 per year. And, this doesn't include the pluses like getting the best shifts and not having to worry about being fired.

On the negative side: In the unlikely event that they actually kept the medallion for 30 years, they'd double the cost of the loan. On the other hand, they'd also have made about $600,000 during the same period.

Is this good deal? As my uncle Victor might say, "It's better than a slap in the belly with a wet fish." It's certainly better than being number 201 on the List.

My poster boys William Mounsey #82 (top photo) and Brian Rosen #50 were breathing big sighs of relief when I spoke to them. The both had been sure that they would get nothing. Rosen calculated that that he could pay off the loan in five years and he'd have $240,000 to retire on.

I also spoke with number 300 on the List. I told him that he might be able to get one because about one-third of the people in front of him would be ineligible. He responded by saying,

"I'm so disgusted by the whole thing that I don't even want one."

Monday, November 26, 2012

MTA Kills "Earned" Medallions: Waiting List's Top 200 Can Buy for $150,000

On Tuesday, 11/20/2012 the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) ended a 34 year old program that rewarded cab drivers with a medallion for signing up on a waiting list and driving a taxi for 10 or 15 years. There was no arrangement like it in the country and probably not in the world. Its like is unlikely ever to be seen again.

For experienced SFMTA Board watchers the List's demise was a foregone conclusion. The Board has been making all its decisions behind closed doors for the least six months. Its members apparently have neither heard of the Sunshine Ordinance nor the word "transparency." If they have, they either don't know what the words mean or don't care. They barely discussed the issues and the members where not individually asked to vote. At the end of the meeting, Board President Tom Nolan simply looked at his colleagues, muttered something like "that's it," tapped his cudgel and "free" medallions were dust.

Eloquent Speakers

There was a small turnout which surprised some people but I think it was a sign that most drivers had already taken the measure of the MTA and decided to save their breaths. However, the ones who did speak were eloquent. These included the usual suspects - Tara Housman, Brad Newsham, Barry Korengold, Carl Macmurdo, Tariq Mehmood - as well as several drivers who will be directly effected by the legislation. Peter Kirby, number 397 on the list, spoke of starting a ballot measure "to kick the SFMTA" out of the taxicab business. He can be reached at (415) 624-5967 or

Some drivers on the list spoke with anguish about how they had planned their lives around getting the medallion and how the loss of it would ruin their futures; about how it would be impossible to start over again in their 50's and 60's; about how it would become impossible for them to pay for their children's education.

Sonali Bose, Director of Finance and Information Technology (shown here with former MTA Director Nat Ford), who makes in excess of $200,000 a year, will get a city pension when she retires and helped calculate the amount of money that the MTA will take away from cab drivers appeared to find these displays of emotion and distress highly amusing.

"Bargain" rates for 150 medallions

The only agenda item that was really in play was whether or not the MTA would sell 150 medallions to the top 150 drivers on the Waiting List for $150,000.

It seems possible that the speakers may have had an influence on raising the number of drivers who would be offered the deal. Board member Christina Rubke, who appeared to be moved by the drivers' angst, made a motion to increase the figure to 200.

On the other hand, the rest of the Board OK'd the change so quickly and without debate that it looked like another detail that the members already had ironed out before they walked into their hallowed chamber.

Whatever. The end result is that 200 drivers on the Waiting List will be given an opportunity to purchase a medallion for $150,000 that they can sell for $300,000 minus 5% for the Driver's Fund and 15% for the the sticky-fingered MTA. In other words, if a driver bought the medallion and immediately sold it, he or she would turn a profit of $90,000.

No down payment will be required for the purchase and the new medallion holder can keep it and work it for as long as he or she likes - or until death.

Other News

The MTA Board's Vice Chairman Cheryl Brinkman said that she wanted to make certain that more funding would be given Taxi Services. A desire easily realized.

Taxi Services Director Christiane Hayashi said that will be beefing up enforcement.  She currently has four investigators and will soon be hiring four more.

Hayashi also said that she was developing a plan to use the Drivers' Fund to help lower payments on medical insurance for taxi drivers.

Coming soon: A post summarizing and commenting on recent MTA legislation.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Taxing the Lower Classes

President Obama recently won his election with a popular plan to raise taxes on the rich in order to help balance a budget that includes medical care for all citizens. In doing so, he put himself firmly in the Democratic tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" - aimed at helping working people and the unemployed - and the "War on Poverty" of the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson. 

San Francisco’s supposedly “liberal” Democratic politicians, however, appear to be suffering from dyslexia. They've declared war on the poor instead. 

Having spent several years criminalizing homelessness, they've recently moved on to cab drivers with a plan to take taxi medallions, that had been intended as a reward for drivers who'd worked and served the public for 15 or 20 years, and sell them to pay  down the city’s debt that has been partially created by under-taxing corporations like Twitter. As a result the politicians are effectively turning San Francisco’s taxi drivers, who make about $25,000 a year in a town where the average salary is $63,000, into the most heavily taxed group in the city, possibly the country. 

In addition to grabbing the medallions the City also intends to charge usurious fees for the transfer of a medallion. While New York takes a 5% cut, San Francisco wants from 15% to 33.33% to 50%. In addition, both cab companies and drivers are already paying high and rising business taxes and licensing fees. 

It’s ironic that much of these fees, including money which could go to giving pensions and benefits to drivers, would be used to pay for the benefits and pensions of city employees, many of whom make in excess of $100,000 or $200,000 and upward a year. 

What we here, then, is the opposite of a graduated income tax. Not only that but the amounts involved are humungous and unheard of. Obama only wants to increase taxes on the rich by 3%. This is so bizarre - at least in a democracy - that I don't know what to call it. Taking the racial and ethnic makeup of the majority of cab drivers into account how about, "Robbing the Hood?"

As some of you know, this didn’t just happen by accident. It is the brainchild of former Mayor Gavin Newsom and Malcolm Heinicke, who is currently a Director on the Board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). As far back 2005, the pair targeted cab drivers for what Heinicke has called a “revenue stream.” 

However, this was impossible at the time. From 1978 until 2010, taxi medallions were not for sale in San Francisco. They were given out on the basis of one per driver, and the drivers could only keep them for as long as they kept working. In reality, this meant that the driver kept the medallion until he or she died, at which point it would then go back to the city and be given out to the next working driver on the list. Cab companies and medallion owners didn’t like this very much. Between 1979 and 2000 they put six different measures on the ballot to allow the sale of medallions—all of which failed.

In 2007, Newsom backed a ballet measure named Proposition A for “Transit Reform, Parking Regulation and Emissions Reductions.” Tucked away as a rider that wasn’t mentioned in the Voter’s Digest was a paragraph that gave the SFMTA the right to regulate the taxicab business, including the power to supercede  “all previously adopted ordinances.” The SFMTA intended this language to give the agency the power to do anything it wanted.

Prior to the election, Mayor Newsom had publicly promised, that under Prop A, taxi medallions would not be sold. After Prop A passed, Newsom proved himself a politician’s politician and reneged on his vow two months before the law even took effect. In January 2009, he presented a scheme to take all the 1,500 taxi medallions away from the drivers/owners and sell them at an auction to cover San Francisco’s $576 million debt. At the same time, he fought against a 1.395% tax on businesses, including businesses he owned himself.

Newsom caught heavy flack, backed off and set up a series of Town Hall Meetings to study “taxicab reform” under the leadership of Director Christiane Hayashi, who had been chosen to head the MTA’s new Taxi Services division.

Armed with a copy of "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In," Hayahsi amazingly got an industry—where nobody ever agreed with anybody on anything—to compromise on a plan where some medallions would be sold for $250,000 with 15% going to the SFMTA and 5% going to a Driver's Fund. Older drivers were able to “retire with dignity,” younger drivers were able to buy into the business, and a waiting list was kept alive for aging drivers.
Newsom and Heinicke, not surprisingly, wanted to trash the waiting list and the Drivers Fund. But Hayashi somehow convinced them that what Heinicke would later call “appeasement” was better than lawsuits. Thus, a temporary agreement called the Pilot Plan came to be.

The Pilot Plan proved generally popular with the drivers and put over $20 million into the city’s coffers. Everyone assumed that, with a few tweaks, it would be would be enacted into law. Hayashi came out with a tweaked version that most drivers found acceptable. Heinicke, however, found it totally unacceptable and came out with his own plan that would give SFMTA up to 33.33% or 50% of sales in some cases, dilute the drivers fund and kill the waiting list.

Talk about shock and awe! The new plan meant that hundreds of cab drivers, who put in so many years of service, would have their future stolen from them to pay for the benefits of people who make five or ten times more money than they do. 

The drivers protested and the SFMTA backed off. Or maybe not. The scenario keeps changing. Maybe they’ll give out 100 medallions to the list before they kill it. Maybe they’ll give 50. Maybe they’ll give 25. The latest is that they won’t give any “earned” ones but they’ll let 150 drivers buy medallions for $150,000 a piece that they can then sell for $300,000. This means that the drivers will be able to retire someday in the second most expensive city in the country on $150,000 minus interest on loans to buy the medallions and about 25% in taxes

But word on the street is that Heinicke doesn’t want to give any money away. “The medallions are our assets,” he once said,” and we can do what we want with them.” But we don’t know for sure. Heinicke likes to do his planning behind closed doors in violation of San Francisco’s strict Sunshine Ordinance. As he put it in an earlier e-mail to fellow board members:

"... most of all we all need to come to agreement on this (the MTA's plan) as best we can BEFORE IT IS FORMALLY PROPOSED." (my capitalization)

“... we need to get our agreed plan and then sell the Mayor and the Supes."

"... Chris (Hayashi) is significantly limiting the revenue to the MTA and sending more to the amorphous Drivers's fund ... The MTA should get revenue. And, if we do not push for that, we are sacrificing the needs of the City to placate a few cab drivers."

In other words, Heinicke doesn't mind sacrificing the futures of several hundred cab drivers to pay off a debt that they had no hand in creating.  An idea apparently backed by Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors - Democrats all.

FDR, Lyndon Johnson and the Kennedys must be turning in their graves.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

S. F. Board of Appeals Rejects UTW Appeal

On Wednesday, the San Francisco Board of Appeals turned down Mark Gruberg's and the United Taxicab Worker's (UTW) appeal to have the Board decide if the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) has the right to lease a 150 taxi permits to cab companies.

The only person on the Board who was important for these proceedings was President Chris Hwang (photo) who had missed an earlier hearing on October 24th and was the swing vote on the matter.

The question at issue was whether or not the Board had the right to judge policy created by the MTA.

Gruberg argued that the MTA had a financial interest in the taxicab business and should not be allowed to make policy without the checks and balances of the Board of Appeals.

Director of Transportation, Ed Reiskin, argued that: (1) the voters had spoken on Proposition A to give the MTA the exclusive right to make policy; (2) that the complexity of the MTA's balancing of its various divisions of buses, bikes, taxis et al made it almost impossible for outsiders to judge its decisions; and (3) that it would be impossible to function if all its policies were reviewed by an outside agency.

Numerous speakers countered by pointing out that the part of Proposition A that the gave the MTA control over taxicabs and the right to set policy for the industry was buried deep in the voter's pamphlet. In fact, the MTA's takeover of the cab industry wasn't even mentioned on the front page of the ballet digest.

What I mentioned was that, by Reiskin's logic, the Supreme Court would not be qualified to make judgements on laws created by Congress.

 Several other drivers, pointed out that the MTA had made its decisions with no input from cab drivers or the cab industry and before a study of the taxi industry by Dan Hara & Associates was even completed. They also argued that the main interest that MTA had in taxis was to take money from cab drivers to balance its budget. 

Twenty or so drivers spoke, mostly to the point, although a few brought up their personal despair, which wasn't to the point, but should have been.

President Hwang seemed sincerely sympathetic to the plight of the drivers and even suggested that we organize against a situation that she clearly thought was unfair. Nonetheless, she also thought that she had no right to make judgments over the policies of the MTA and cast the deciding vote against Gruberg's appeal.

One good thing

The Board of Appeals will continue to hear appeals by individuals concerning medallions and other cab issues as they have in the past. This was a concern for many drivers.

Notes and Thoughts

 - Supervisor Scott Wiener, who appears to have no policies other than public nudity and improving San Francisco's taxi business, stopped by to praise the MTA plan, saying that it was a "step in right direction." Yes - there's nothing like having a couple of thousand demoralized, bitter and angry cab drivers on the street to improve service to the public.

- Director of Taxi Services, Christiane Hayashi argued that these 150 permits were for only for a three year time limit and couldn't go to cab drivers anyway because they were temporary and might be taken back.  

She held out the possibility that, if the Hara study called for more cabs, these might go to drivers on the list. 

- I don't really believe that this decision was not that much of a loss. Like Reiskin, I think that this matter might be too complex for this Board of Appeals to handle - although for very different reasons than Reiskin's. The taxicab business is unique and complex both in the way it operates and its history. It would very difficult for an outsider to understand what's happening, what's been going on, what the issues really are.  

- President Hwang gave an indication her lack of understanding when she asked the MTA if they were "transparent" which of course the MTA said they were pointing to Town Hall meeting and, incredibly, the Taxi Advisor Council (TAC). Hwang asked this question after a dozen drivers had told her that the MTA refused to pay any attention to driver input and that half the members of the TAC had resigned in protest because the MTA refused to even hear their recommendations.

Well ... the Town Hall meetings are still being held and the public can have it's minute or two to comment but all the decisions and polices are clearly being made behind closed doors - often in violation of San Francisco's Sunshine Ordinance.

But don't take my word for this. Take MTA Board Director Malcolm Heinicke's.  On May 17, 2012, he send an e-mail to fellow MTA Board members Tom Nolan and Cheryl Brinkman as well as MTA secretary Roberta Boomer with a Cc to Diector Ed Reiskin saying,

"... most of all we all need to come to agreement on this (the MTA's plan) as best we can BEFORE IT IS FORMALLY PROPOSED." (My capitalization.) 

"If that means we need to move this piece of the overall package to a latter meeting, so be it, but we need to get our agreed plan and then sell the Mayor and the Supes."

The MTA Board has obviously been coming to agreements before anything is "formally proposed" for at least the last 6 months.

In the process, the Board's attitude toward taxi drivers has become more and more "transparent." As Heinicke put it in the same e-mail,

"... Chris (Hayashi) is significantly limiting the revenue to the MTA and sending more to the amorphous Drivers's fund. I understand why she is doing this but it is not good policy in my view. The MTA should get revenue. And, if we do not push for that, we are sacrificing the needs of the City to placate a few cab drivers."

Some other form of appeal has to be found or the MTA will suck every cent it can get from taxi drivers.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Will You Be Owned?

I've never done this before but it appears to be in a good cause.

As reported in The Atlantic (a highly respected magazine). the Supreme Court will be hearing a case where they will decide whether or not people can legally resell items that they have legally purchased, such as: iPad's, watches, Macbooks, cameras, etc.

Apparently certain corporations want you to get permission from the manufacturer before you can resell any copyrighted item made or assembled in another country. Since I intend to start reselling my Japanese made cameras soon, it is a subject that is dear to me.

The case will be presented to the Supreme Court on Monday, October 29th and some political types are organizing an online protest.

Click here to learn more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

SFMTA Wants the Waiting List Killed

Actually they phrased it differently.

"Staff recommends that the Board adopt amendments to Transportation Code Sections 1103 and 1116 to authorize transferring taxi medallions to the first 150 qualified taxi drivers on the taxi medallion waiting list at a discounted medallion price, and to provide that the SFMTA will no longer issue taxi medallions to drivers on the medallion waiting list at the cost of the application fee." 


"Staff recommends that 150 medallions be transferred to the first 150 qualified applicants on the waiting list at a price of $150,000 each, and that no further medallions be distributed to applicants on the waiting list for the cost of the application fee." 

You can find the entire draft proposal at the url below.

Please find attached a draft proposal for the medallion waiting list, to be considered at the Town Hall meeting of October 30 (see , and the SFMTA Board meeting of November 20.  

Driver's Sue to Stop MTA from Killing the Waiting List

Cab Drivers Bill Mounsey (photo), Iza Pardinas and Jeffrey Grove along with the United Taxicab Workers and the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association filed suit against the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to prohibit the SFMTA from legislating a Taxi Medallion Transfer Program pursuant to Resolution 12-110 and to compel the issuance of taxi medallions to Plaintiffs and other qualified taxi drivers on the medallion applicants’ Waiting List.

The Plaintiffs argue that the Resolution:
  1. is an unconstitutional legislative act by an administrative agency;
  2. is an unconstitutional tax and otherwise unconstitutional and unlawful means of generating revenue for the City and County of San Francisco (CCSF) and the SFMTA’s general fund;
  3. that the SFMTA unlawfully has transferred or intends to transfer medallions to the detriment of qualified applicants on the Waiting List;
  4. that the Plaintiffs have been or will be unlawfully deprived of taxi medallions - and the economic or other benefits possession of a medallion provides - on account of the Resolution’s and defendants’ unlawful actions and the representations and promises made to them. 

The Complaint goes on that “the SFMTA and CCSF are in violation of the Constitutions of the United States and the State of California, the Charter of CCSF and applicable City ordinances, regulations and regulatory decisions, have acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and in excess and abuse of regulatory authority and have wrongfully induced taxi drivers on the Waiting List to rely to their detriment and financial harm on a long established system which SFMTA now unlawfully refuses to administer.”

More later

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Franz Kafka on the Waiting List

This comes to me from Carl Macmurdo who said that this passage reminds him of the plight of drivers on the waiting list.

(To read the passage click below.)

MTA Permits Town Hall meeting

A Town Hall meeting was held last Week on Monday concerning the new permits leased by the MTA to the companies. It was led by Taxi Services personal Mike Harris (photo), Jarvis Murray and Scott Leon.

I'm going to China tomorrow and I'm pressed for time so I'm just going pass on some notes.

TAC member Carl Macmurdo said the MTA gave themselves medallions. 

Former TAC member Bill Mounsey (82 on the List) and driver Naim Malik strongly objected to giving out the permits instead of giving medallions to working drivers on the list.

Mike Harris said that he had talked to Director Reiskin and that the List had not been killed, implying that more cabs would go to the List. According to Harris, the permits are different than medallions in several ways.

The permits: are leased for a three year period, are restricted to gates & gas, can drop at SFO but can't pick up, cannot be leased and will have different numbers.

People at the meeting said that the way to guarantee that the cabs will be used properly would be to: look at actual figures - who buys the cab, who pays the insurance, who gets the gate payments, who pays the gates and where the shift changes are made - must be made at the company.

Tom Stanghellini of Luxor cab said that it would give the companies the chance to reward veteran drivers with good shifts. 

Allocation of the permits to the companies ...

will be on the basis of dispatching records and other factors. such as treatment of drivers would be used to decide how many cabs would be given to what companies. The discussion centered on dispatching records on Monday.

Harris emphasized that it was a preliminary draft and that the numbers could be changed.

At this point the 155 would be put out thus:

  • 50 to Luxor
  • 45 to Yellow
  • 35 to Desoto
  • 10 to Arrow/Checker
  • 5 to Comfort, Green, National
  • 0 to everyone else
Hansu Kim, owner of Desoto Cab strenuously objected to the fact that the statistics were self-reported. He said that there was no way Luxor should get 15 more cabs than Desoto. He said that Desoto was being audited by the City's controller and all other companies should do the same.

Jarvis Murray said that they would stay with self-reporting until electronic waybills because the norm.

Stanghellini said that Luxor had no objection to being audited.

A point of amusement is that Yellow Cab appears to have cost themselves 20 or 30 permits by deliberately giving poor service on the theory that this would give them more cabs

Richard Hybels was upset about getting none. "All my cabs are gates and gas and there's no tipping ," he said. "Some of these companies don't even have workers comp." In addition he said that the figures were wrong. He was listed as having 29 medallions when he only had 23.

Mark Gruberg of Green said that the pick ups that Green drivers make on Cabuolus weren't recorded in the stats and should be. Hybels could make the same complaint about Metro, which also uses Cabulous..

Hansu Kim said that the $1,900 per month that the MTA will charge to lease the permits was closer to a realist figure than the $2,500 that Med. Holders are getting now. Kim thinks that the numbers have artificial been driven up by brokers and illegal subleasing.

I suggested that the MTA should poll the drivers anonymously to find out which companies engaging in illegal practices like tipping.

This was met by great enthusiasm by ordinary drivers and total silence by company owners and stockholders.

Tom Stanghellini turned toward me and said something to the effect that nobody could find any tipping money in their office. He used different words but his meaning was, if people are tipping where is the money?

I mean he was looking at me when he said that as if to disprove that I ever put  the $20,000 that I put through Luxor's "Tipping Window" just like every other good Luxor smuc driver who wanted a decent shift and was stupid enough to stick around for ten years.

Well - you have me there Tom. I don't have a clue. On the other hand, a strip search by a good proctologist would probably turn something up resembling the truth. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Malcolm on Top

Might as well start with Jim Gillespie (photo, below). He walked up to me with a big smile as I headed across the square toward the MTA board meeting last Tuesday.

"Going to write something in your blog?" he asked with a smile.

"I just found out that Heinicke (photo left) appears to be be violating the Sunshine Ordinance. The meetings are a farce," I told Gillespie. "The proposals are decided in advance behind close doors."

"I thought that's the way it worked," Jim said.

If anybody would know about such things it would be Gillespie. He was seen making one of those back door visits with his pal John Lazar and the way he jauntily bounded up the steps to City Hall told me how the vote would go.

MTA Board did indeed choose to lease 150 to 200 medallions or permits to taxi companies. The permits are supposed to go to the best run companies but "word on the street" is that Yellow will get more than its share anyway.

Jim used the incompetence of his company during the meeting as a reason for the City to give him more cabs. He especially mentioned that a high percentage of the people who call Yellow hang up before the dispatcher answers or cancel before Yellow picks them up.              

What he didn't bother to tell the Board was that Yellow often deliberately fails to answer the phone and then holds the orders for 9 to 12 minutes before dispatching them.  That way the company can use their poor service to ask for more taxis. And, the City is going to do it. Another doublethink classic.

The board will lease the taxis to the companies despite the fact that a study being done by Hara and Associates will not be finished until January.

This caused some discussion and the only dissenting vote. Chairman of the Board, Tom Nolan (photo left) thought that they should wait until the study was completed. He also wanted to revisit the decision if Hara came to the conclusion that no cabs were necessary. But, as one driver said, that's like closing the barn door after the horses are out.

There was an extended discussion by the Board members but it was one of those experiences where reality trumps satire.

Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with ignorance. But, it does take humility to learn and the Board has adamantly refused to listen to anybody - the Taxi Advisory Council, the drivers at the Town Hall meetings, the drivers at the MTA Board meetings, Director of Taxi Services Chris Hayashi, Dan Hara - who could teach them what's what.

The tone was actually set a few Board meetings ago when Director Joel Ramos (photo right) fervently thanked Director Malcolm Heinicke for helping them understand the taxi business. I have nothing to add. This is the level at which the Board functions.

Ramos thought the fact that Uber, Sidecar and other illegal Apps started in San Francisco was a priori proof that there must be a shortage of cabs. It couldn't have anything to do with the fact that this city is one of the Tech start up capitals of the world and that the businesses are being set up in such a way that it's almost impossible for them to lose money. Not to mention that these Apps are invading cities like Washington D.C. and Chicago that are flooded with taxis.

"Word on the street" has it that Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin (along with the Mayor's office) is responsible for raising the payout to medallion holders back up to $200 thousand from the $150 thousand that Heinicke wanted them to suck on. Although Reiskin is clearly being pressured from above to "show them the money," he appears to be struggling to do as best he can by the drivers and the cab riding public.

The problem is that he clearly does not understand the most basic things about the cab business. Nor does he know the characters in it.

And, why should he? He has the entire MTA under his purview. How could he know the nuts and bolts of every division? Especially one as complex as taxicabs? That's what the Director of Taxi Services is supposed to be for. But, of course, the Board has her on the top of their list of people not to listen to. (Hmm. I've just ended two perfectly good sentences in a row with prepositions. Take that Sister Pauline!)

Director Reiskin thought it was refreshing to hear from people outside the cab industry during public comment - after the usual collection of professional shills (most of them paid by Luxor or Yellow) came up calling for as many 700 more cabs. My favorites were the hotel rep and the woman from the Chamber of Commerce. They always want more cabs no matter what the situation. They wanted more after 9/11.

The hotel guy said that they couldn't find cabs at the hotels. Of course not. With all the limos lined up to grease the doorman, where would a cab park? The Commerce lady, as always, cited the expanding population of San Francisco as a reason to put out the taxis.

 She's right of course. In 1950, the population of San Francisco was 775,357. By 2010, it was 805,235. At that rate, one additional medallion a year should do the trick.

When another speaker and myself told Reiskin that, even if they started the process tomorrow, the additional cabs still wouldn't be ready for the Blue Angels, he was disconcerted. He thought about it for few moments and decided that "we have to get them out as soon as possible." He seemed to be unaware of the fact that, if the taxis were needed at all, it wouldn't be until May. Yes - there are no tourists between October and the summer.

The ideal time to add taxis would be in April. That way they wouldn't lower the incomes of current drivers and they'd be ready for the boat races next summer. There was no need to rush. Reiskin had plenty of time to read Hara's study and still add cabs if needed. Anyone in the taxi business could have told him so - if he'd been willing to listen.

On the other hand, someone else is clearly pushing Reiskin's buttons. (See the title of this post.) The only real reason to put the permits out fast is to funnel funds into the income streams of a few cab companies and the SFMTA.

One thing the Board members did right ...

was finally come out in favor of an Uber like App for taxicabs. Finally?

I wrote my first post on Cabulous and Open Taxi Access(OTA)  on January 28, 2011. The idea has been presented to the MTA Board on numerous occasions. The Taxi Advisory Council voted in favor of it. Cab drivers almost universally support it. Chairman Tom Nolan even said that the Board should look into the idea.

Cabulous started at approximately the same time as Uber in 2010. If OTA had been supported by the Board when it first came to their attention, everyone might be talking about how Uber is like Cabulous and not the other way around.

About the only people against it were the managers of Yellow and Luxor Cabs.

So what happened?

"Word on the street (dude sees all, hears all, knows all)" is that OTA died when President and General Manager of Luxor cab, John Lazar (photo), told former Executive MTA Director Nat Ford to kill it.

On the other hand, funds have recently been allocated to Taxi Services for electronic dispatch (The new name for OTA). Hopefully the Board will follow through this time.

Why $1,900 a month?

Of course this figure was not vetted (What is these days?) but the going price for medallions leased to taxi companies is currently $2,500. Yet here is the SFMTA selling permits on the cheap. To say the least, this runs contrary to their normal behavior. It also gives credence to the "word on the street" that John Lazar and Jim Gillespie worked out a back door deal after threatening to sue the SFMTA. At $1,900 a month Yellow and Luxor will make out like bandits - which isn't too far from their normal behavior.

Yellow takes in between $8,000 to $12,000 per day by encouraging its drivers to "voluntarily" tip. And, of course, John Lazar was asking for $10 per day plus $2 for the gasman at Luxor when I was there three years ago. At that time, he was also asking his cashiers to "voluntarily" tip him.  This meant that John's cashiers had to make $100 per shift in tips from drivers through Luxor's dispatching window (photo below) before they could make anything for themselves. This gives the word "voluntary" a whole new meaning.

What we have here, then, is the SFMTA getting together with two of the most dubious taxi companies in the business to divvy up money that had been headed to ease the old age of working cab drivers. This would appear to leave Director Malcolm Heinicke with a profound moral quandary:

Should the MTA take 15%, 33% or 50% from the companies' tipping jars? For the public good - as is, of course, understood.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dostoyevsky, Orwell, the Sunshine Ordinance & the Politics of Taxis

A character in one of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's stories loved humanity but couldn't stand any individual person. The great Russian writer used this figure to satirically underline the potential distance between a noble ideal and an actual human being.

George Orwell (photo) looked into the corrupting effects that such thinking can have on action in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language.

He thought that the writing of his time had become sloppy and decadent and that "the decline of language must ultimately have political and economic ..." effects. "In our time," Orwell wrote, "political speech and writing are largely in defense of the indefensible."

"Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties." People defending such acts can't say, "'I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so’" and instead cloak their true thoughts with euphemisms.

Bombing helpless people from the air is named "pacification." Robbing millions of peasants of their lands becomes "relocation." In Orwell's time, imprisoning and torturing people, shooting them in the back of the head was called the "elimination of unreliable elements." 

What I'm about to do is examine recent statements of the SFMTA Board using Orwell's scope. Justifying the extraction of "income streams" from taxi drivers may seem minor in comparison to the above but major corruption starts small. Hitler began by beating people up in beer halls. More to the point, cab drivers were one of the first groups to lose benefits and workers rights by being forced to sign "independent contracts." Millions of other workers have since suffered the same fate.

The simple fact is that a government agency has targeted workers in a private industry as a source of revenue and justifies its actions with the following double talk.

"The medallions are our assets and we can do what we want with them."

Director of the MTA Board Malcolm Heinicke makes this sound like an eternal principle of law or nature but in fact the statement is what Orwell would have called "doublethink."

1. The medallions became "assets" because of laws that the MTA wrote.
2. These "assets" only have value because of the cab drivers who work the medallions.
3. The idea that you can do what you want with an "asset" without regard to the effect that it would have on the people who give it value runs contrary to the moral principles that have characterized western civilization for the last one hundred and fifty years.
4. Only extremists of the left or right would agree with Heinicke's political stance on this matter (i.e. communists, fascists, dictators, tea party fanatics, etc).

"We're doing this for the public good."

Right! A "public" that does not include cab drivers or, indeed, the public that uses cabs.

What the MTA really plans to do is take millions of dollars that cab drivers have earned and use it to cover a budget shortfall. But it goes beyond that - these proposals will stay in effect whether there is a shortfall or not.

And, the percentages that the MTA intends to take from drivers in the form of "transfer fees" are three to ten times higher than 5% that is charged by New York and most other cities in the country.

In effect, the MTA intends to tax San Francisco cab drivers at a higher rate than any other group of the people in the country. Heinicke, I suppose, would call this collateral damage.

The only "public" being served by MTA's plans are the wealthy individuals and corporations that the city (and the country) are under-taxing or not taxing at all; as wall as, of course, Heinicke and his personal ambitions.

Is it Alice in Wonderland or the White Rabbit?

I don't know how else to characterize the following fantasies.

Medallion sales revenue will go to improve illegal vehicle enforcement.

The Heinicke plan projects $14 going to the MTA.  The Pilot Plan gave the city $10 million a year. Taxi Services got permission from the MTA to hire two new investigators over a two year period. Only one works regularly in the field. The other works enforcing regulations in the taxi industry. Meanwhile unregulated "car services" Sidecar, Uber and the new pink mustache cars proliferate like rabbits while the MTA does nothing.

The cost of medallion enforcement over the last two yeas has come solely from a 100% increase in medallion holder renewal fees. Of the $20 million that the MTA has taken in from the Pilot Plan in medallion sales revenue, the taxi industry has yet to see one red cent.

We intend to improve taxi service.


What better way to improve service than to turn cab driving into a dead end job that will pay even less in the future than it does now?

What better way to improve service than to ignore the reports, proposals and plans of the TAC and other driver/experts in the industry?

What better way than to show callous disregard toward several hundred professional taxi drivers (who worked and followed the City's own rules) by killing the waiting list?

What better way to attract new quality drivers than to ignore the ideas, needs and wishes of the ones who are already here?

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity," George Orwell.

And, I might add - insincerity is the great enemy of pure action as well.

Vice Chair Cheryl Brinkman initiated the vote on Heinicke's Plan at the last Board meeting by saying,

"we've heard enough,"

when she couldn't possibly have read so much as a word of the Taxi Advisory Council report.

In a strange way, of course, she was right. There was no point in listening to anything cab drivers might say or think. Brinkman and the rest of the Board members clearly had already voted before they walked into the meeting room.

Or, as Director Malcolm Heinicke wrote in a May 17, 2012 e-mail that went to Roberta Boomer, Tom Nolan and Cheryl Brinkman with a Cc to Ed Reiskin:

"... most of all we all need to come to agreement on this (the MTA's plan) as best we can BEFORE IT IS FORMALLY PROPOSED." (my capitalization)

"If that means we need to move this piece of the overall package to a latter meeting, so be it, but we need to get our agreed plan and then sell the Mayor and the Supes."

Earlier in the same e-mail Heinicke showed sincere feeling when wrote,

"... Chris is significantly limiting the revenue to the MTA and sending more to the amorphous Drivers's fund. I understand why she is doing this but it is not good policy in my view. The MTA should get revenue. And, if we do not push for that, we are sacrificing the needs of the City to placate a few cab drivers."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What is the SFMTA Board Going to do With the List?

A few Board meetings ago Vice Chairman Cheyrl Brinkman (photo) gave a short speech saying that she really cared about doing right by cab drivers. If true, this is an indication that she and other members of the Board didn't fully understand the consequences of the vote they took on Tuesday August 21st to allow Pre-k's to sell (er, surrender) their medallions.

This became evident when the subject of continuing the List came up - after the vote.

Chairman Tom Nolan said that the Board should decide what to do with the Waiting List soon. Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin wanted to clarify the situation so that drivers should know whether or not they should wait to earn a medallion. Director Malcolm Heinicke was quoted in a paper as saying that the List was "the elephant in the room."

If so, Heinicke's been trying to shoot it down for five years. With Tuesday's vote, he succeeded. The pachyderm is laying on it's side gasping for breath. The MTA Board has already decided that few drivers will get their "earned" medallions.

Why? To understand let's look at Director of Taxi Services Chris Hayashi's proposal of May 2012.

Hayashi's Plan ....

called for the 350 Pre-K medallions to go to the Waiting List after the holders either returned them or passed on. It was based on her three year study of the cab industry and several assumptions that came from the knowledge she thereby gained:
  1. Few cabs would go to the List once medallions started to be sold. Revocations would be about the only source ... 
  2. ... except new issues. Hayashi proposed that 50% of them should go to the List. But, she's also a realist  and knew ...
  3. ... that Heinicke wanted to Bogart the medallions.
  4. Thus, the 350 Pre-K's would be the only major supplier to the List.
Another set of calculations and assumptions also came into play.
  1. At a certain point it would be just as advantageous to buy a medallion as it would to wait.
  2. Exactly when - would depend upon the age of the drivers and the length of time that they had been on the List.
  3. For instance, I put myself on the list at 48 and got my medallion at 62.
    1. If I had bought a medallion at 48, I figure that I would have been just as well off as I was from "earning" it 14 years later.
      1. This is calculated for $250,000 and buying the medallion.
      2. Paying for a "transfer" at $300,000 might be a whole different kettle of fish. I'd need some legal guarantees that I wouldn't be shafted before I'd sign up for this.
  4. There are huge advantages to holding a medallion.
    1. It's worth $10,000 to $20,000 a year in better shifts which helps balance out the loan payments.
    2. You have job security.
      1. Before I had my medallion John Lazar fired me for saying something he didn't like.
      2. After I earned my medallion I said something that Lazar didn't like then fired him.
    3. You can actually afford medical insurance.
Drivers in their 50's, 60's and 70's would be severally penalized if forced to purchase the medallions - especially after already waiting for 15 or 20 years. In most cases it would make no sense at all.

This would leave these people would have no "exit strategy" and cause them to keep driving until they dropped. Few would have been able to save any money on a $25,000 a year job. Many would die (No exaggeration or rhetorical flourish intended - just a fact.) in poverty.

Hayashi counted the number of such people at somewhere between 300 and 500 Drivers.

The Pre-K's, on the other hand, have already made around a million off of each medallion and don't have a driving requirement. Each medallion gives them from $3,000 to $4,000 per month for the rest of their lives to retire on.

Therefore, it seemed humane, rational and just to give the Pre-K medallions to the List.

But, it wasn't only a question of humanity that motivated Hayashi's plan. She has an understanding of people that seems to be totally lacking in the rest of the SFMTA. Her ultimate principle has been to serve the cab riding public.

"Happy cab drivers make happy customers," she once told me. "Bitter drivers sends Germans back to Munich telling their friends not to visit."

The only way to get more medallions to the Waiting List would be to convince the SFMTA Board that Hayashi is right.

San Francisco has the best and most knowledgeable cab drivers in the country. People from all over the world know this. It's only the locals who don't. People from all over the world tell me what a pleasure it is to take a cab in San Francisco. The reason that we are so good is that so many of us stuck around to earn the medallions. The drivers on the List helped make this city a prime tourist destination. They deserve to have the promises that were made to them kept.

Of course, the Waiting List is finished one way or other. If the SFMTA wants to attract quality drivers in the future, they will need to end the List with a legacy of justice and fair play.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Living the Farce 1

There is good news. The SFMTA Board changed the percentage for a transfer of a medallion (they are no longer to be sold) from 30% to 20% of $300,000 and raised the cut for a "surrender" of a medallion by both Pre-K and Post-K holders to $200,000 instead of $150,000.

Director Malcolm Heinicke came up to me before the meeting, told me that he read my blog and said that he had no hard feeling over what I'd written about him. We shook hands like pals in a debating society. He added that he did pay attention to my ideas.

I imagine that this was his way of telling me that my writing had influenced the changes that he'd made in the above figures. Flattering - but I doubt that I really had much to do with it.

I think it was more like the old scare-the-be-Jesus-out-of-them-and-they'll-be-happy-with-what-we-give-them gambit. There are a few reasons for my thoughts:
  1. Contrary to Heinicke, the financiers clearly did not "bless" the 30% loan. Rebecca Lytle of the San Francisco Federal Credit Union, who loves her work and has enthusiastically answered every question I've asked her in the past, politely declined to comment on the 30% figure; and her boss Stephen Ho spoke with relief about the drop to 20%.
  2. Nobody else on the SFMTA Board discussed, debated or questioned the amendments that Heinicke introduced, giving the impression that the subject had been vetted and agreed upon behind closed doors.
  3. Driver Tariq Mehmood claimed during public comment that he knew about the changes the Saturday before the meeting.
  4. If true, this would be a clear violation of the Sunshine Ordinance. But, the existence of a rule has rarely stopped people in power from abusing it.
  5. In any case, it shows that something other than the force of my prose motivated the amendments.
There was another theory going down on "The Street." Depending upon who you talked to, either John Lazar of Luxor and Jim Gillespie of Yellow or Lazar, Gillespie, Chris Sweis of Royal and Dan Hinds of National had either threatened to sue the MTA or had worked out a back door deal with them.

I asked Jim Gillespie about the rumors. He told me that he was "a Christian" and "wouldn't lie" to me. He assured me that no such events had taken place.

Gillespie reminds me of Ronald Reagan. He has the same ability to believe everything he says while he's saying it. I always believe him when I'm listening to him. Later in the meeting, Gillespie told God and the MTA Board that there was no enforced tipping at Yellow Cab. I'll leave it to the drivers at Jim's company to judge the relationship between his religious beliefs and his conception of truth.

But, do the amendments make the Heinicke plan a good deal?

My mother might have said that the changes were better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. $50,000 is $50,000 and 10% is 10%.

But, Heinicke is once again being misleading when he says that his amendments are "in line" with the Pilot Plan:
  1. In the Pilot Plan - there were no separate categories of medallions. Whether Pre-K, Post-K or re-sold, they all gave the same 15% to the MTA and 5% to the Drivers Fund.
  2. Under the Pilot Plan - any increase would apply to all medallions being sold. Therefore, capping the profit at $200,000 for a "surrender" has nothing to do with the plan that was worked out with the consensus of most people in the industry in 2010. If the price went up to $300,000 under the Pilot Plan, the medallion holder would get $240,000; at $400,00 the holder would get $320,000.
  3. This makes the cut to the MTA either 33% or 50% for a transfer. The national average is 5%.
  4. Under the Pilot Plan - an increase in sale price was to be based the Consumer Price Index (CPI), not Director Heinicke's thoughts.
  5. The CPI that I just ran calculates that $250,000 in 2010 is worth $262,666.47 today.
  6. As driver Tariq Mehmood and others pointed out at the board meeting, the combination of a slack tourist season and run-a-muck competition from illegal taxis and limos has greatly reduced the money coming into the taxi industry. 
  7. This challenges the very idea of raising the price of the medallions.
In addition, "surrendering" the medallions instead of selling them would also apparently take the 5% away from the Driver's Fund.

There is neither a policy reason for the increase in the sale price nor for the creation of "surrendered" medallions except to give the SFMTA more money from the labor of the drivers who have worked to earn it. The MTA would gain $18 million over time from the Driver's Fund and $72 million from $300,000 sales.

Is it worthwhile to get a medallion "transferred" to you for $300,000 with 20% to the MTA?


The $250,000 figure was chosen because it was doable without too much pressure on the new medallion holder. The down payment on $300,000 would be $10,000 more or $60,000 and payments would increase about $400 per month. Balance that against making an additional $40,000.

More important might be the difference between a "sale" and a "transfer." The 300 or so drivers who bought medallions under the Pilot Plan actually own or owned them. In a transfer, the city owns the medallions as an "asset." And, as we've repeatedly been told, the city can do anything it wants with one of its assets ... for the public good as is, of course, understood.

Another way to put the question might be to ask, "Would you buy a used car from Director Heinicke?"

More tomorrow.