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.


  1. Barbaric, brutal, cruel, diabolical, hateful, heartless, mean, remorseless I could go on and on but whats the point. What about all the other people on the list and those not on the list. The dream is gone the hope is over. The job is the pits and now more than ever " lets be careful out there". Sad day.

  2. without medallion total dead end job. If you are still driving please take classes be they at the community college or where ever and engineer and escape from cab driving ..

  3. Interesting article in todays Examiner that really promotes Uber, Yes it seems the value of the medallion is going down and down. I really cant understand how anyone would pay 300 000 dollars for a life of pain, misery and hardship in such an unstable business. There saying now that 300 cabs are needed for Americas Cup ( the MTA that is ) can you imagine trying to make a living with the streets flooded with cabs. Sick.

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  5. I would be flattened if all websites gave articles like that.