Saturday, May 26, 2012

Taxi Reform Town Hall Meetings

The Town Hall Meetings on Tuesday May 22nd attracted the usual small gatherings. About twenty people attended the afternoon session and maybe fifteen came in the evening when I showed up.

This has always struck me as strange. Several groups are trying to bring out throngs of drivers for the June 5th MTA Board  meeting (which is important) but you can actually change or modify proposals at a Town Hall meeting - especially if Deputy Director Hayashi is running it.

Indeed, there were a few modifications made in the Taxi Services Recommendations draft.
  • In part (III) Continue Medallion Sales two changes were made (1) Drivers who earn or buy a medallion will have to keep it for at least five years before selling; unless (2) The new medallion holder is 65 or disabled.
  • Under (V) Changes to Leasing Regulations, the wording that would limit "affiliate" leases to 1/3 of the fleet has been struck out. It was felt that "if the standards of regulation were high enough," the affiliates would limit themselves.
  • Perhaps less important, the terms for the Issue of Temporary Color Scheme Permits (IV) (d) would be changed to "Three or Four Years" instead of the "life of the vehicle." (c) It was emphasized by Hayashi that driver surveys regarding their companies would be anonymous and that customer surveys would also be used to rate the cab companies.
Drivers expressed hostility to various recommendations especially: dedicating all 350 Pre-K medallions to the waiting list, issuing temporary permits to the color schemes and, surprisingly, giving up to 100 newly issued medallions to aging drivers Not on the medallion list on the basis of A-Card seniority.

All 350 Pre-K's to the Waiting List.

Most the arguments about this item came from members of the Medallion Holder's Association (MHA). I didn't attend the afternoon session where they spoke but I'm familiar with their ideas. They think that Pre-K's should be able to sell because:
  1. They paid for their medallions prior to Prop-K.
  2. All medallion holders should be treated the same. Not to do so would be discrimination.
  3. Most of the aging Pre-K's have already sold their medallions so it would take ten or twelve years for the current medallions to go to the Waiting List.
  4. They are the people who built up the taxicab business, it would therefore be unconscionable not to let them sell.
Issue of Temporary Color Scheme Permits.

This is by far the least popular of the proposals. I haven't run a poll but a the majority of drivers that I've talked to are against this measure. Although softly focused in my photo, cab driver and dispatcher Ben (whose last name I didn't catch) clearly summarized the reasons for opposition:

1. The taxi companies already make plenty of money.
2. The companies are crooked
3. Medallions should go to working drivers.
4. Once the companies start getting medallions, they will never stop.
5. The money the MTA makes from the leasing might influence them to take away medallions and turn more cabs into leased taxis.

Deputy Director Hayashi defended the plan, saying that:
  • It would help give companies financial relief.
  • By setting high standards for the distribution of the permits, it would give the MTA greater control over the companies.
  • It would inspire companies to improve their performance.
  • It would allow non-medallion holding gate & gas drivers to drive Friday and Saturday night as well as other primo shifts.
  • The permits would be temporary and could be taken back if they didn't work or the economy took a nose dive.

Driver and TAC member Tone Lee thought that the MTA should either put out more Single Operator Permits or lease the cabs directly to the drivers.

Hayashi said that both Lee's ideas were future possibilities but the current plan would give Taxi Services the chance to compare the Leased Permits and the Single Operator Permits with each other to judge their effectiveness. One or both might be eliminated or expanded in the future.

Issuing up to One Hundred Medallions by A-card Seniority to Drivers Not on the Waiting List.

Both Ben and Naim Malik, who are on the Waiting List, were vehemently hostile to this idea. Ben wanted to know why drivers who didn't take the trouble to put their names on the List should deserve a medallion.

"Why didn't they put their names on the list?" He asked.

Rua Graffis (photo) responded by saying that she didn't put her name on the list because there was no cab company she wanted to join. Meaning, I think, that she didn't want to make money from cheating cab drivers like medallion holders do at most companies. But, now there is Green Cab which doesn't accept tips or charge credit card fees thus living up to her high standards.

Director Hayashi then told a story that I believe she got from TAC member Athan Rebelos.

"A man finds an old lamp, rubs it and a genie pops out saying, 'you can have anything you want but your enemy will get twice as much.'"

"The man then takes a pencil and puts out one of his eyes."

Rua Graffis was the the only one who got the joke - at least she's the only one who laughed - so let me spell it out for those of you who might not have "gotten it."

If Ben, who is thirty-one years old, can't sympathize with a few seventy year-olds who drove cab for thirty or forty years but failed to sign a piece of paper, how can he expect anyone to care about him?

Next: My take on the recommendations.


  1. I do believe Ben's last name is Valis, and having worked with him, I wll attest to my belief that he is a kind, thoughtful and considerate fellow...whose eyes I will put out with a pencil! (Just kidding, Ben.)
    I'm one of the knuckleheads who never put my name on the list, constantly thinking I would get out of the biz before I got a medallion. My poor decision ensures I will be correct.
    Which large taxi company has gone out of business over the last two or three decades? City Cab did, but that was after the owner was convicted of starving his mother to death out in Orinda because he was tired of caring for her. (Is there a better metaphor for cab company management?) It morphed into Town Taxi.
    Arrow cab was sold after Emery Speck died and his wife Mary finally gave it up.
    I don't see cab companies going out of business because they are not making enough money. I see cab companies that want MORE money, just like drivers want MORE money, and just like the MTA wants MORE money. We all want more money, but where does this MORE MONEY come from? Seems to me it comes from the drivers. Until I see a large, legitimate company go into bankruptcy protection, I don't see the need to give medallions that should go to drivers to companies to subsidize their operations. I remember when John Coleman, a driver smashed in the head responding to a radio call, died and Yellow Cab refused to donate any money to his wife for fear of establishing a precedent for future such events. Now we should subsidize these companies at the expense of long-time drivers who will have the rug pulled out from under them again after waiting on the list for two decades? (The first rug pulling being sales of medallions slowing the movement of earned medallions to a trickle.)

  2. Chris Hayashi said she was changing the language on the senior medallions to delete the words "and who are not on the waiting list." She has no intention to penalize a driver who applied way too late to the list, only to have 10% of new medallions go to drivers based upon seniority.

  3. John Lazar is doing his best to kill Luxor by switching revenue from the co. To himself by converting every medallion he can to his resident broker Iqbal.
    He gets a large amount of cash from each one of those medallons and everybody knows it. The co. Gets paid for the use of the radio etc and that is all.
    He is screwing his partners big time but of course the drivers that get over charged have it worse.
    I met one of the drivers that they made buy a car from them for $28000 that could not have cost them more than $15000. He needed a job.

  4. There's need to discuss various issues. Overall, this was a very positive meeting.