Friday, March 22, 2013

MTA Board Okays Electronic Taxi Access

The SFMTA Board unanimously approved Electronic Taxi Access (ETA) which will lead to the development of a platform allowing smart phone apps to show all the available taxis in San Francisco on a single map.

Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin (photo), who introduced the measure, said that he thought ETA should have been implemented two years ago.

President John Lazar and Charles Rathbone of Luxor Cab along with Nate Dwiri and Bill Gillespie of Yellow Cab spoke against the measure as did a spokesman for Taxi Magic. They talked about the money that they had spent developing wonderful apps of their own which made a universal app unnecessary. Gillespie said that Yellow was working on a new advanced app that would let drivers talk directly to the customers.

Well ... I could talk to customers on Cabulous (now Flywheel) three years ago which is my way of pointing out that much of what these companies are doing is re-inventing the wheel. In any case, most of their innovations are beside the point. The creation of multiple apps from multiple companies merely exacerbates the problem of the customers having too many choices with no way of knowing what the best choice is.

ETA will allow the customers to find the closest available cab and will eliminate the problem of two or three cabs from different companies going to the same address. This should greatly reduce the dreaded no-go, free up more cabs to pick up more orders and lead to better coverage in the neighborhoods.  It's best idea to improve service that anybody has come up with in the thirty years I've been in the taxi business.

The details of how this will be implemented have yet to be worked out. After the Board meeting, Director Chris Hayashi said that she will be holding meetings involving Frias Transportation Infrastructure, the cab companies and the public as to how best to implement the technology. Issues such as allowing companies to keep their own dispatch systems and brands as well as pre-tipping will be studied and discussed.

Too Many Cabs

The indefatigable Tariq Mehmood brought in somewhere around fifty drivers to speak against more cabs and Electronic Waybills. He handed out a script that they were supposed to follow which ended with a call for Tariq's favorite fetish - firing Director Hayashi. It turned out that Electoronic Waybills were Okayed by the Board over a year ago and were not on the agenda. As for Hayashi ... apparently only a couple of drivers shared Mehmood's weird obsession.

What most of the drivers did speak about was the decline of income caused by unfair competition from the illegal, uninsured vehicles of Lyft and Sidecar etc. Many drivers said that their were making 50% less than they were making a year ago. One driver said that he had started driving for Uber but quit and went back to Yellow after Uber put out so many fake cabs that his income at Uber dropped in half. Medallion holders spoke about being unable to find drivers to fill shifts. A little humor was injected by a driver named Ben who talked about a date that didn't go too well with a woman who turned out to be a Lyft driver.

Director Ed Reiskin, who is apparently powerless to go anything about this, suggested that the drivers tell their tales at the CPUC hearings that begin on April 10th.

Good idea.


  1. Down at the Garage where I work there's a message from the MTA on the bulletin board listing the various fines we may get for being bad boys and girls, ( they make up what they consider to be bad behavior ) anyway now it seems the fine for drinking and eating in your cab is 26 dollars so be careful when your perhaps sipping your coffee or drinking some water. It's time for an all out strike.

  2. Get real. The rule about not eating or drinking in the cab has been on the books forever and I've always ignored it. I ask my customers if it bothers them and I would stop if it did. So far nobody has been bothered.

    Strike! Strike! Strike! What decade do you think you're living in? The number one enemy is not some petty uninforceable rule. That enemy is Uber, Sidecar and Lyft and they would love to see us strike.

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