Wednesday, October 16, 2013

MTA Board Tables Gate Increase, OK's Cancellation Fee

The SFMTA Board under the direction of President Tom Nolan (photo) put off a proposed meter increase of $9.75 per shift but authorized dispatching services to charge a cancellation fee of up to $10 for no-goes and allowed cab drivers to charge a flat fee of up to $11 per person for shared rides. The Board also amended several sections of the transportation code with the aim of putting an end to illegal brokering.

The Gate Increase ...

... was the most hotly debated item on the agenda. Its presence there was also a little weird.

Director of Taxi Services Chris Hayashi, Dr. Dan Hara, Luxor Cab's Charles Rathbone and (maybe) Hansu Kim of Desoto spoke in favor of the item but they all stated that nobody would be raising the gates now. The reason? Taxi companies are losing drivers.

Then, why raise gates? Director Hayashi said that it was part of the process that Dr. Hara and Taxi Services had been working through and that its time was now. She said that it would give owners the flexibility to make future changes – an idea concurred with by Dr. Hara and Mr. Rathbone. Hayashi and Hara pointed out that the gates had not been raised when the meter was raised in 2011 and an increase thus was long overdue.

The Director apparently has a short memory. The reason that the gates were not increased along with the meter was hardly an oversight. It was a quid pro quo to the drivers for charging credit card fees to them instead of the the taxi companies as it had been done before. And, this deal was brokered by Director Hayashi herself.

In my opinion she deserved kudos for this. It was a job well done. The drivers were charged 5% for the credit cards. The companies ate the gate increase. My math showed that the drivers were much better off under this arrangement than they would have been if the companies had continued to pay the credit card fees and upped the gates. Many drivers didn't agree and stopped taking credits cards in protest.

Tuesday's attempt at legislation started out as another quid pro quo thought up by Director Hayashi. This time she intended to balance things up by finally giving the companies their meter increase at the same time as she removed credit card fees from the drivers by passing a fee onto the riding public.

Fine – except for the ancient wisdom that "you don't raise the price of gas during a gas war."

In the end, Hayashi understood that and nixed the idea of out of raising the drop on the meter but she somehow missed out on a few other cliques.

Raising the gates would be like throwing gasoline on the fire of the drivers' frustration and adding insult to injury from a city whose mayor has slapped cab drivers in the face by embracing illegal taxis.

I don't how the Director failed to see the despairing effect that the mere mention of a gate increase would have on the drivers at this time. Maybe she needs to broaden her circle of advisors.

In any case, several drivers, including myself, expressed our frustrations at the meeting. The general opinion was that raising the gates would chase cab drivers out of the business at an even faster rate then they are leaving now.

The SFMTA Board – especially Director Cristina Rubke and President Nolan – discussed the subject at length with Director Hayash and Dr. Hara before finally deciding to go ahead with the rest of the agenda and putting off a possible gate increase for another six months.

Wise choice.

In my humble (Ha ha – have you ever met a humble cab driver?) opinion, any gate increase should be another quid pro quo. When passengers are ready to pay an electronics fee to cover credit card charges, the companies can get their gate increase ... assuming of course that the arcane and antiquated gate system is still around.

How can this come about? How can we compete? Complicated questions? The cancellation fee is a step in the right direction. The universal app will be another. With 2,000 taxis on the same system we can start taking back the business we've lost.


  1. Yea good idea don't raise the gates that would be insane. What really needs to happen is the gates need to be reduced on certain shifts.

    I think the big boys are aware of this.

    What we need is a good efficient app that even has marketing consultant component promoting the app.Branding is a big part of Uber and Lyft. We need that as soon as possible.

    The other thing is we need good oversight by the drivers and big cab companies of the SFMTA to make sure there is no regulatory capture by big pocketed lobbyists who work for competitors of the legal cab business.

  2. Instead of trying to dig deeper into cab driver pocket, why are they not putting their efforts to protect the taxi industry. Why are they not coming up with severe penalty on those illegal cabs solicitating on the street snd sfo? Limo and tnc are charging surcharge during peak time. Why can't taxi driver do the same? Why the cab companies not coming together to run ads on muni to inform the public the risks of taking the tnc because of not having adequate coverage? The public needs to be better informed. They're waiting too long for these companies to dismantle the taxi industry.

  3. Didn't the MTA just do a charity drive for the taxi companies and give them a few hundred medallions
    and now the taxi companies want a gate increase?

  4. Who gets the cancellation fee, the driver or the taxi company?

  5. 1. The driver gets the cancellation fee. The whole point of the legislation is to make sure that the customer is there and to get drivers to pick up the orders. It's woks very well for flywheel. My no-go rate with them is less than 3% and I got paid $5 every time.

    2. There are severe penalties for illegal cabs picking up. Ask your mayor why the rules aren't enforced.

    3. I like the idea of cab companies paying for ads on buses. It's a good question. Why aren't they doing it?

    4 Not surcharging customers would be a good advertising point for us and should be emphasized.

    The Phantom

  6. Although Ed Lee is a culprit, sfmta can't blame him for the lack of enforcements. I believe that sfmta can do a lot to protect and promote the taxi industry. First they need to propose harsher penalties for soliciting. 1st violation - $250, 2nd violation - $500, 3rd - impound the car. They can easily give 10 citations per day, about 300 per month. Extra revenue for sfmta and it can strike fear on these illegal cabs. Ed Lee already got what he wants. I don't think he'll be against this.

  7. 1.Ed Lee has refused to let the city attorney prosecute Lyft, Sidecar or Uber violators.

    2. The fine for illegally soliciting a customer is $5,000 – an amount that was pushed through legislation by Director Chris Hayashi of the SFMTA.

    3. It's always easy for somebody else to do things, isn't it? If SFMTA inspectors could easily give 10 citations a day, they would be doing it.

    The Phantom

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