"A rule issued by an administrative agency or a local governmental body prescribing conditions or authorizations that must be followed by the public or by public utilities; the process of controlling by restrictions or rules."
When Proposition "A" in 2007 allowed the SFMTA to take over the regulation of taxis, it gave the agency the power to make any changes and charge any fees necessary to do the job.
Countervailing this, is a city rule that states that a regulating agency should not take more money from the industry than the cost that such regulation requires.
(Feel free to send me the exact quotes from these laws, gentle readers. I'm under pressure of a deadline and don't have time to look the legislation up.)
However, the MTA has chosen to countervail this countervailing by claiming that they can charge any fees necessary in order to run transportation in the city ... or words to that effect. If that sounds like a nitpicking legal trick to you, it does to me too.
Airport shuttles, trucking companies, newspaper delivery trucks, the UPS, private buses, tour buses and other business vehicles - not to mention illegal cabs and limos - all use these same streets without having to pay special fees (beyond ordinary licenses) in order to do so. Instead, the MTA has us paying the costs for all of them.
In short, cab drivers and the cab industry are being charged (what amounts to) special taxes because we are ... well ... cab drivers. The MTA, in fact, has been floating numerous plans to charge us humongous fees from before they even took over regulation. In doing this, of course, they were merely parroting the manta of former Mayor Newsom, "Don't tax the rich, get it from those lowlife cabbies."
Unfair? Exaggeration? Hyperbole? Possibly - but the fact remains that the City of San Francisco's administrators have repeatedly attempted to pay the bills of 800,000 people by hitting 5,000 cab drivers with extortive fees. They aren't doing this to doctors, lawyers or, God forbid, mortgage bankers. They are raising funds by taxing one of the lowest paid groups of people in the city. It amounts to a reverse graduated tax. It is prejudicial in that it aimed at us simply because we are powerless and negatively stereotyped - modern equivalent of serfs.
And, nobody on the MTA Board has so much as blinked an eyelid at the thought of turning our money into an "income stream" for the city.
The problem is that the MTA's greed has kept the taxi industry from doing what regulation is supposed to be about - improving service to the public.
- Taxi Services is badly understaffed and is thus having trouble coping with the illegal limo and taxi problems.
- The lack of funds have also allowed illegal subleasing to flourish exposing the public to unqualified drivers and dangerous vehicles.
- Programs like Open Taxi Access have been pushed aside for lack of funds thus depriving the public of improved service in the neighborhoods.
Time for a change.
If you've been paying attention you'll have noticed that my photo of the MTA Board is badly out of date. Four of the people in that picture are no longer with the Board. Hopefully the change in personnel will lead to a change in attitude.
Instead of "income streams for the MTA" let the new mantra be 'Fairness to the drivers and Service to the public."