Friday, March 30, 2012

Report on the Taxi Advisory Council: Part 1

Before reporting on the TAC's report, I thought it might be enlightening to look at the TAC itself. After all, votes aren't made in a vacuum. There are politics involved in everything.

The council started as a directive  from former Executive Director of the MTA Nat Ford, the format was worked out by Deputy Director of Taxi Services Chris Hayashi and the councilors were chosen by Ford from a list of people who applied.


The council was set up to represent as many of the viewpoints as possible. It has fifteen members which originally included:
  • Three representatives from the largest three companies: Yellow, Luxor and DeSoto - Bill Gillespie, John Lazar & Jane Bolig respectively.
  • Three representatives from smaller companies = Chris Sweis of Royal Cab, Dan Hinds of National Cab & Athan Rebelos of Green Cab.
  • Three medallion holders not employed by a company - Barry Korengold of the SFCA, Carl Macmurdo of the MHA and Lori Graham.
  • Three drivers on the waiting list - John Han, Bill Mounsey & Dmitry Navarov.
  • Three drivers not on the waiting list - Timothy Ajaegbu, David Khan & Bill Minikel.

The council was also originally supposed to include Mark Gruberg as a representative from both the UTW and Green Cab but he declined because he thought the UTW should have its own rep.

In any case, the aim of the set up was to achieve a balance amonst the various forces in the industry.


Once the meetings started it quickly became obvious that this was not the case. The early votes ran 11-4 or 10-5 in favor of the owner's positions. What had happened?

Well ... a few people were clearly not representing the groups that they had been chosen to stand for, most spectacularly Lori Graham, Timothy Ajaegbu and Dmitry Nazarov.

Ajaegbu's problem was attendance, which was most dramatically illustrated on the occasion when he arrived in the middle of a roll call vote on a meter increase and sprinted into his seat as though he was sliding into third base just seconds before the vote closed. He clearly had no idea what the issue was. Three or four people told him to vote "yes" so he did.

Graham, chosen as a "medallion holder not employed by a company," had obviously failed to tell her interviewers (what she would later write on sftaxi's mail list) that she didn't believe that cab drivers knew enough about the taxi business to criticize the companies and voted with her boss, Yellow's Jim Gillespie, every time.

Nazarov (on left in photo) did her one better. Supposedly representing "drivers on the waiting list," he not only always voted with his lease holder, Luxor's John Lazar, but he also expressed Lazar's positions whenever he spoke.  Once Lazar reached around and gave Nazarov a neck squeeze, leading to a running joke on the council that Lazar kept his hand on the back of Nazarov's neck in order to make his head go up and down or back and forth as needed.

Two TAC's Not One.

Then, several council positions changed hands. Nazarov bought a medallion and Graham was replaced for lack of engagement during the meetings - though I thought this was unfair because she followed Gillespie on the voting roll call and didn't need to pay much attention to know when (or when not) to raise her hand. Tone Lee replaced Nazarov.  Ruach Graffis  of the UTW replaced Ajaegbu. Tara Houseman replaced Graham and, because of the change of management at DeSoto, Athan Rebelos switched seats to represent DeSoto instead of Green, and Richard Hybels of Metro Cab stepped in to represent smaller companies.  These changes fundamentally altered the character of the council.

In short, there have actually been two Taxi Advisory Councils. The original, which represented the owners, and the current version, which comes closer to representing all parties in the business including last year's horn honking "strikers." These differences had an effect on the voting - on occasion, dramatically so.


  1. With all the improvements, those TAC members that are ccordinating, can, and have, put a frog on the table and said that this is a VW Bug. Even a blind passenger could tell that a cab, driven by different Gas-and-gate drivers, is in much worst condition than the one driven by an affiliate like me. Company can not and has not checked cabs after each driver. Some of the faults requires 10-15 minutes driving. Cab companies do not want to go under such an overhead. The next Gas-and-gate driver wants to jam as many fares as possible in the shifts and would drive the cab as long as it moves. The recent voting by TAC, THAT ALL CABS MUST OPERATE AS GAS-AND-GATE, shows their distortion of the facts at the highest level. I would not want to fly if a committee like our TAC would do their recommendation. What is needed is an examiner, a verifier. Imagine what would happen if there were not an agency such as FBI.

    Saam Aryan

  2. The rise of the number of "affiliates" is simply an end run around gate control.
    The problem with many most of these these "affiliates" is that drivers are being ripped off wholesale by brokers to pay more money than any company can pay a greedy med. holder.
    It is allegedly being encouraged by some companies cuz management gets a a cut under the table from their favorite broker. Said companies are even steering med holders to brokers against their own interest. Notice I said "allegedly"
    Gate control applies to every cab but of course when you have drivers with kids to support they will pay whatever it takes to have a job and keep quiet.
    A guy like Saam that is truly driving his own cab and being fair to his drivers is not the problem. I understand that a driver needing his job can't go to MTA and complain that he is paying $150 fora nite shift but MTA will not even send a memo out notifying drivers that gate control effects every cab. They should be actively looking for drivers that are being ripped off.

  3. Hi Richard,

    I also think that the MTA should require the companies to post a sign at the cashier windows saying that tipping is illegal with a number to call to anonymously report violations of the rules.


  4. Censorship is when a person is told what they can write or what they can see. What I have submitted earlier to you was for the readers to focus and comment to. If your intention were to discourage it, then you would be brushing off visitors to your blog.

    What I have to say at this point, and I would like it be be reflected, is this segment of the email I got:

    “ Malcolm Heinicke is up for reappointment to the MTA. He's been nominated by the mayor for another term and needs the confirmation of the Board of Supervisors. His confirmation hearing will take place at the Rules Committee of the Board this Thursday, April 19. The meeting starts at 1:30 and the hearing will probably come up quickly. (It's item #4 on the agenda.) It's in City Hall, Room 263.”

    And my reply to the sender:

    “Attorney Heidi Mechan, which Malcolm served under, is one of my attorneys. I am going to ask her if she can come to put strong words against the re-appointment. Though it would cost me Hundreds for this new assignment, I thought it might be a help to all drivers/medallion-holders.

    Saam Aryan
    415-626-TAXI (8294)”

    So my act might be an encourgement to others to do something similar.


  5. Dear Aryan,

    I don't have the power to censor you. I only have the power to decide what goes on my blog. You've already gave your opinion on the subject once, I feel no need to devote my blog to your thoughts. You have your own blog for that.

    You recent opinion on Heinicke's appointment are new.