Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday

Two women from SantaCon wish you a very,  Merry Christmas.

I can only double their cheer. Because I'm beginning to think that the taxi business isn't going to tank after all.

 The world is beginning to get it. The press is beginning to write what we've been saying all along.

But Uber's bs never stops. I don't know which is my favorite quote from the techie snake-oil sales folks:

The South Koreans are paying a bounty to anyone who reports an Uber driver "operating illegally within the city limits. The Seoul government will pay anyone who reports a case of an unlicensed driver carrying paying customers up to 1 million won (a little more than $900)."

Uber's response? "... Uber does not believe it is appropriate for authorities to seek to punish drivers who are trying to make a living through this service," Uber spokeswoman Evelyn Tay said in a statement.

And, "Uber vowed to cooperate with South Korea's legal system, saying it was "confident that its service is legal in the country." Another way of saying that Uber understands Korea's laws better than they do.

But I think the following quote tops everything because in a rare moment of honesty Uber spokesperson Taylor Bennet said that they don't fingerprint because "it takes too long." "It's a very long process, it could take up to months," Bennet said. "Our hires can happen in days time."

Well that clear that up. It's just what we've always said: Uber thinks that its customers will have to put up with an occasional hammer attack or rape in order to boost Uber's bottom line.

The most interesting thing about the statement is that Bennet apparently thinks that his explanation is morally and legally acceptable. He's been hanging with Travis way too long.

But read some recent stuff for yourself. It indeed could be a happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Taxi Appreciation Night

Monday December 15, 2014 
at SomArts from 6pm-10pm 

 Come enjoy live music performed by 
Taxi drivers, great food, and much more… 

 ●SomArts located at 934 Brannan St, between 8th and 9th 
Main entrance located down the long driveway on the 
right side of the building 
●Wheel Chair Accessible 
Plentiful street parking 
●Venue is within two blocks of muni lines 12, 19, 27, and 47 
●You will not be disappointed! 

Just passing the message on.

 Note: The SFMTA will NOT sponsor alcohol at this event!

 I guess this means that you'll have to bring your own.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

SF Taxi Drivers Stage SFO Protest

Monday night from 9 to 11 pm, Taxi drivers protested the San Francisco Airport's decision to allow Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to pick up and drop off at SFO.

Hundred of taxis bypassed the taxi lot, rolled horn-honking around the staging areas and, eventually, picked up customers without paying the $4 SFO fee.

The drivers were and are angry because the Airport is slamming them with the wrong end of a double standard that is economically disadvantageous to them and dangerous for the public.

San Francisco taxicabs are:

  1. Required to carry $1 million commercial livery liability insurance policies that are in effect 24/7.
  2. Inspected by by SFO's Ground Transportation Unit – under the supervision of the San Francisco Police Department.
  3. Required to have drivers who have have passed a week-long training course and a DOJ background check where they are fingerprinted.
Uber, Lyft and Sidecar:
  1. Vehicles are insured for $1 million some of the time, as little as $50,000 other times, and totally uninsured the rest of the time.
  2. Passengers in these vehicles are never completely covered for liability because they sign away their rights to collect compensation in case of negligence on the part of the drivers or the companies.
  3. Vehicles are NOT INSPECTED by SFO or any outside agency. The TNC's offer no proof of inspecting their vehicles at all – except their word (of honor?).
  4. Unlike taxi drivers, TNC drivers are not required to have a special permit or license to operate.
  5. TNC drivers are not given given a fingerprinted background check. The TNC's give no proof of vetting their drivers at all – except their word (of honor?). 
  6. In fact, the SFO police themselves have run several stings showing TNC drivers who did not have drivers licenses, drivers other than the person who was supposed to be driving the TNC vehicle, and several with bad driving or criminal records including one with a sexual assault conviction who had been scheduled to pick up a 22 year old woman traveling alone.
The higher standards of public safety that taxis rightly live up to are much more expensive than the deregulating regulations of the TNC's. This allows Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to temporarily undercut prices. Temporarily – because if they reach their goal of destroying the taxicab business Uber and Lyft and sidecar will, no doubt, price gauge all the time.

Cabs not picking up?

For a period of about 45 minutes passenger were indeed not getting rides. But this was not because the drivers were boycotting customers.

This problem was that the SFO police wouldn't let the taxis pick the customers up. Squad cars with flashing lights and motorcycle cops kept the cabs from stopping at the passenger pick up areas. And the SFO starters would not let customers get into the cabs that did try to pick up.

Then, the cops stopped harassing the protesting cabs, but the drivers still didn't pick up for awhile – probably because they were uncertain as to whether they should try to put the customers in their taxis or not.

After all, there is a $5,000 fine for picking up without paying the fee – a fine that has never been imposed against a TNC despite the fact they've been picking up illegally for two years.

Many customers became frustrated and went in search of other forms of transportation including the white haired businessman below who said that he was taking an Uber for the first time.

When the leaders of the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance SFTWA (who staged the protest) realized what was going at the terminals they talked the protesting drivers into picking customers up again and the cops into letting them do it.

The metadata on my photographs shows that the customers were still being picked up at 9:10 pm and were being picked up again by 9:53 pm

SWTWA board member Barry Korengold said that they had intended for the drivers to pick up from the start. In fact, one point of the protest was to have the taxi drivers get rides without paying the fees like the TNC's have been doing for the last two years.

This YouTube link shows taxi drivers picking up customers at 9:59 pm followed by Jeffrey Rosen of the SWTWA giving a succinct explanation of the reasons behind the protest.

Friday, November 14, 2014

En Farce: Part One

Acting, as usual, more like a spokesperson for Uber, Lyft & Sidecar than a director of Policy and Planning for the CPUC, Marzia Zafar, who was supposed to be a neutral moderator, came to the defence of the TNC conglomerates when a spokesman for the taxi & limo businesses pointed out that the TNCs did not do Department of Justice (DOJ) background checks using fingerprints.

Ms. Zafar (photo left) argued that the venture capitalized transportation corporations (VCTCs) did do background checks but did them online. She spoke as if she had scored the final point (online background checks = the DOJ's background checks) for their side and that the subject was closed.

This was – at the same time – one of the most typical and most bizarre moments of the CPUC hearings on so-called "ridesharing" that started in March of 2013.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Open Letter to Mark Gruberg, Dave Schneider and All The People at Green Cab

Hi Mark, Dave (photo) and the rest of you guys,

I just heard the news that you are probably going out of business and I wanted to express my sympathy along with my gratitude for having spent two years working for a company that was an actual co-op, a place where both professionalism and fair treatment of drivers was of paramount importance.

I'm a story teller and I think a few little tales will explain the difference between the attitude at Green and the way drivers are treated at many other companies.

Shorty before I went to Green, I had my medallion at Luxor Cab. I came to work one day only to find 30 drivers lined up at the cashier's window tying to pick up their cabs. There was no movement for a few minutes so I walked up to the window to find out what was going on. The female cashier, who was supposed to be putting out the taxis, was running numbers on an adding machine.

I watched her for a few minutes then got her attention. She gave me a big smile, apologized for keeping me waiting, stamped my waybill, gave me the medallion and went back to her adding machine.

I called her over and asked what she was doing. She said that she had to add up credit card totals. I told her that she should do it later because the drivers were losing money while they were waiting.

"Don't worry," she said with a suck-ass smile, "just come to the front of the line and I'll put you out."

It was a major reason I left Luxor. I didn't like being forced to act like an asshole just because I held a medallion.

After my first shift at Green, my night driver left me a long letter pointing out that: I had not washed the cab when I turned it in, that I had not vacuumed the inside and that I'd left pistachio shells all over the floor. He ended his note by saying, "We don't act this way at Green."

My first thought was, "Hey – I'm an owner!" My second thought was, "Hypocrite!"

Of course he was right. I should've cleaned he taxi and he should have the right to call me on it if I didn't go my job. A driver's a driver whether he or she owns a medallion or not. Green is one of the few companies where this principle was a daily truth instead of empty verbiage.

Perhaps, the thing I liked best about Green was the fairness with which everyone was treated. As result you had the most professional drivers in the fleet. If I'm not mistaken Green had the highest percentage of radio players and Flywheel users. I also have little doubt that Green set the industry standard for fewest complaints. If Green had any drivers who turned down credit cards or refused to take people to the Sunset they sure didn't talk about it.

Mark – Green set the standard for everyone else to follow. If all the drivers in San Francisco acted like you guys did at Green, the taxi industry would be in much better shape than it is now.

Here's a shot from your 2010 Christmas party. I never stopped enjoying my time there.

Good luck! I hope the rumors of your demise turn out to be false.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Uber Drivers Protest Uber – John Han's Video

I didn't take in the Uber Drivers Uber Protest but John Han did and he was kind enough to let me pass along his two videos. The first runs around sixteen minutes and the second is an edited version of the first concentrating on insurance fraud.

Other insites in the video are the facts that: Uber has 16,000 vehicles in San Francisco alone, cuts in driver's incomes has caused some drivers to work as much as 100 hours a week thus endangering the public, Uber steals parts of their drivers tips, and Uber drivers are aware that they are not insured.

To see the videos, Click below.

Why are Uber drivers protesting Uber? Drivers reveal Uber's terrible ethics by John Han  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Airport Commission Rubber Stamps Sidecar, Uber & Lyft SFO Okay

Commissioner Crayton actually wasn't asleep during most speeches at the Airport Commission today but she might as well have been. When we finished speaking she said that the Commission didn't have any choice but to okay the rulings of the CPUC and allow the TNC'S into the airport.

If so, why did they need to vote on the issue?

There were some excellent speeches by Mark Gruberg, Barry Korengold, Mary Mcguire, Jeffery Rosen, Tara Houseman and others whose names I've forgotten or never knew.

To summarize, these points were made:

  • TNC vehicles are not going to be inspected by the SFO – and should be.
  • TNC drivers are neither given DOJ background checks nor fingerprinted – and should be.
  • TNC vehicles and drivers are not properly insured – and obviously (to anyone but a government official) should be.
  • All this endangers the public.
  • Why should taxis and limos have to meet higher standards?
  • SFO might be held liable for lowering their standards to oblige the TNCs.
  • Pollution and congestion will increase at SFO because of the TNCs.
  • SFO will be putting customers at risk.
  • Allowing double stands is creating unfair competition for taxi drivers.
  • Letting TNC's enter the airport could spell the death knoll for the taxicab business.
Cab driver and video maker John Han pointed out that all the drivers who buy new cars to use as TNC's are committing insurance fraud; and, if taxicabs are put out of business, the fraud would be massive.

Another speaker said that this was just the start of a war of the rich on the worker and that workers in every other business will soon be facing similar assaults on their professionalism and incomes.

Yet another speaker dissed the Commission for calling this a three month test period – the only purpose of which was to push the legalization of TNCs through without public comment.

Several drivers raised the likelihood of a massive strike. 

All blowing in the wind.

John Han thought that the speeches were good because they would be part of an official record.

So it's back to the CPUC ... for justice?

Just in case you've forgotten, I'm closing with an updated partial list of TNC attacks.
And no – there is no comparable list for cab drivers.

The Airport Commission voted unanimously to let the TNCs operate at SFO.

Director of the Airport John L. Martin said that he would have liked to have the vehicles inspected and the drivers vetted but couldn't get it done for some reason. He's hoping that the standards will improve in the future.

Commissioner Larry Mazzola thought that this was a good first step to solving the problem of the TNCs. He pointed out that they'd been operating illegally for two years. He didn't say it but the next sentence should have been ... "at least this way we're getting paid."

The logic of a Mexican mayor "legalizing" a drug cartel.

BTW –  SFO sets the rules for us. They can certainly set the rules for anybody else who wants to operate in their domain. What Commissioner Crayton was in essence saying was, "We're just as corrupt as the CPUC."

This youtube video was sent to me as a comment but I'm including it here because it's a good summary of what we've been hammering on for the last two years. It's very well made.

Four Things You Wish You Never Knew About Uber.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

An interview with Tony Kelly Who is running for District 10 Supervisor

This is the first time I've endorsed anyone for a political office and I confess that my initial motivation for doing so was simply that Tony Kelly is not Malia Cohen.

That's current San Francisco District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen who in the past tried to block fines against illegal cabs and wanted to punish taxicab drivers for not picking up enough in her Bayview district by voting against a meter increase.

More recently Cohen together with Supervisor Scott Weiner blocked an attempt to improve public safety by regulating Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. This would've included requiring full insurance like taxis carry and thorough background checks administered by the Department of Justice using fingerprints.

Supervisor Cohen also wanted to officially name Uber, Lyft and Sidecar part of the city's transportation system despite the fact that none of these companies even include most of her District 10 in their maps of San Francisco.

I met future Supervisor Kelly at Farley's Coffee in Potrero Hill where Kelly has lived since 1994. It was an appropriate choice. It's the kind of unique neighborhood place he favors over national chains because it keeps money in the local economy and is part of what makes San Francisco "the San Francisco that everybody in the world thinks we are."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Impressions of the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance

Since I'm working with impressions instead of facts, I think it's best to start with photos. They tell most of the story. Nine out of the eleven member San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance (SFTWA) board are in this shot. Another is included below sitting behind a National Taxi Workers Alliance (NTWA) organizer who is speaking in the following photo.

The final member of the board is Rua Graphis of the United Taxicab Workers (UTW). The SFTWA represents the merger of the UTW and the San Francisco Cab Driver's Association (SFCDA) with a bunch of guys I don't know and who haven't, except for an occasional protest, been part of the SFMTA's decision making process for the last five years. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. I'm not enamored with many of the people who have been part of that process.

The person most responsible for bringing all these different groups together is the blond at the table, Beth Powder, who is a film maker and short time cab driver with clearly exceptional organizational skills.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Who is John Galt? Uber, Lyft, Sidecar & the Culture of Deception

One answer to the above question is that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick thinks he is. Why else would he have t-shirts printed with the Uber "U" asking, "Who is John Galt?"

Kalanick obviously identifies with the hero of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. For those unfamiliar with Rand's philosophy, she sets the innovative genius against a society rife with democrats, communists, unionists, socialists, corrupt politicians, seedy journalists, the overweight, sleazy lawyers, environmentalists and their various shills.

I confess that I was a big fan when I was 19. Naturally, I identified myself as a potential fellow genius but beyond that I was attracted by the integrity of Rand's characters: Galt, Howard Roark from The Fountainhead, and Rand's persona Dagny Taggart. The books were not only about greatness vs mediocrity but truth vs lies.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Three Cheers for the SFCDA & Keep Those Photos Coming

The photos the drivers have been sending to the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association (SFCDA) are being used by insurance companies to warn drivers that they are not insured if they are driving for Lyft, Uber or the rest.

The photos are also being used as evidence in a suit filed by the Taxi Paratransit Association of California (TPAC)  against the California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) violation of the California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA).

Barry Korengold says,

"This data base has been an invaluable tool in our efforts to demonstrate the number of these vehicles and the negative impact that they've had on the environment."

Unfortunately, many drivers have recently eased off in sending in the photos. I confess to being the worst. I mean, it's a pain in the ass to keep the camera always ready to shoot whenever these miscreants turn up ... and they turn up endlessly. Cab driving is exhausting anyway. But there are more and more "S.H.I.T.S."(Smartphone Hailable Illegal Taxi Services) out there. There are an estimated five or six thousand active "tncs" woking every weekend and we need to document that fact.

The photos also help environmentalists understand that rather than taking cars off the road they are actually creating congestion and greenhouse gases.

So please keep the photos coming. For those of you who are new at shooting evil, contact Trevor Johnson at to find out how to upload the photos properly.

The important thing is to capture both the license plate and the symbol in the same shot – be it the pink mustache, the Uber U, the Sidecar sock or whatever.

I think it's past time to give the SFCDA the credit that they deserve. In my 30 years in the cab business I've belonged to or dealt with several cab driver organizations and the SFDCA has been by far the most effective and the most persistent of them all. They've fought for the cab drivers at the SFMTA, at the CPUC and now at the State Legislature.

So I want to give special thanks to Barry Korengold, Trevor Johnson, Jeffery Rosen, Francoise Spiegleman, Jam Khajvandi, the late Tori Lansdown and the rest for all the work they've done over the years without getting paid for it.

Three cheers! If we're still in the game we owe it to you guys.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Uber's Phony Surcharges or the Trickery of Travis

Uber is now changing a $4.00 airport fee. This is interesting for a few reasons:

  • It's illegal for them to drop at the airport.
  • An airport fee is for picking up at the airport.
  • Uber failed to inform the customer that there was going to be a surcharge.
Therefore, Travis as in travesty, when are you going to pony up?

Just as interesting is your $1.00 safety fee. Is this to protect the customers from your drivers?
Are you going to take care of that stuff, Travis? Is that what that one dollar is for?

Let me emphasize that last paragraph,

"In the email, Kalanick blamed the media for thinking that Uber is 'somehow liable for these incidents that aren't even real in the first place.' Kalanick also stressed that Uber needs to 'make sure these writers don't come away thinking we are responsible even when these things do go bad.'"

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Conversation with Desoto President Hansu Kim

I was about to publish an interview that I'd had with Desoto Cab President Hansu Kim awhile back when local journalist's came out with the story that Kim was thinking of turning Desoto into a sedan service – one writer said that it might happen in as little as 90 days.

Mr. Kim denied that he said he intended to convert to a sedan service in  "90 days." Only that he could convert in 90 days if he had to. But has "no intention doing so."

What he was doing was giving an "if" scenario.

"What I'm saying is that the taxi business as we know it will not be in existence in 18 months 'IF' the industry continues to be deregulated as it is."

"I don't believe that the taxi business will ever disappear but it could be that full service, dispatch-centric companies will no longer be in business as they are today."

"My feeling is that in a deregulated environment, it would be a race to the bottom."

Aside from usual sensationalism and inaccuracies that one has come to expect from the local media on the subject of  taxis, the coverage of Kim's statements lack context and understanding of what deregulation of faux taxi services like Uber x really means. What Kim and the other cab companies are spending money on is public safety.

Uber and the rest are endangering the public by cutting corners. To use a metaphor from the construction business I grew up in, what they are doing (not carrying proper insurance, not fingerprinting drivers, not guaranteeing the safety of passengers or pedestrians) is the moral equivalent of pouring sand into the foundation of a building in order to save money on concrete.

Friday, July 11, 2014

May the Farce Be with You.

When it comes to Uber, Lyft and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) I never know whether the appropriate comparison is Alice in Wonderland or Orwellian doublethink.

I went to Thursday's CPUC meeting filled with optimism because it looked like the Commission was finally going to make Uber, Lyft and the other faux taxicab corporations take some responsibility for clogging the streets with tens of thousands of amateur drivers in underinsured vehicles.

Commissioner Michael R. Peevey's (photo) Proposed Decision called for Million dollar insurance limits as long as the faux taxi driver had the app turned on (not ideal but a step in the right direction). The policy would also have given million dollar uninsured motorist coverage, $50,000 coverage for both comprehensive and collision, and $5,000 medical payments for driver or passenger.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

State Senate Committee on Insurance Votes for $750,000 Partial Coverage for TNCs

The bill, AB2293, that the committee passed on for a later vote on the Senate floor was disliked by almost everybody.

Uber and Lyft lawyers spoke against it because they want to limit coverage to only the time when their drivers are logged in with a passenger. They do NOT want to cover their drivers while they are logged in but don't have a customer. This makes economic sense. In that way the TNC's would save money on insurance premiums and wouldn't have their rates raised the next time one of their drivers kills a pedestrian while looking for a fare.

Taxi people spoke against the bill for several reasons:
  • It drops coverage from $1,000,000 to $750,000.
  • TNCs would not be covered if they pick up off the street or carry private customers.
  • As to whether or not a driver was logged in when an accident occurred could be manipulated by either the driver or TNC companies like Uber & Lyft.
  • Full-time commercial insurance is the only safe option for the public.
  • The bill would codify "TNC" as a separate form of transportation than what already exists. It would create a new category of "charter party carriers" and pre-empt the court challenge of the CPUC's decision by the Taxi Paratransit Association of California (TPAC), which is already in the California court of Appeals.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Interim Director of Taxis and Accessible Services Appointed

From the new Interim Director of Taxis and Accessible Services. (Don't have a photo of her. It's Ed Reiskin at right.)

Dear PCC Members and Friends,

I am writing to let you know that my role at the SFMTA has expanded - I have been appointed Interim Director of Taxis and Accessible Services. This is a very exciting opportunity to lead a dynamic division at this critical time, and I am honored to have been selected.  It has also been an honor to have worked with the PCC for the past 15 years. Although my role has changed, I am not going away, and I will still work on Paratransit issues, albeit in a different capacity. I have enjoyed working with you all during my tenure as Paratransit Manager and I look forward to working with you in my new role as well.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Finally – Regulators Start Regulating & Fining Uber, Lyft et al

Most cab drivers are aware that SFO is starting to crack down on Uber, Lyft et al but you may not know the details or realize that this is happening in other parts of the county. To help correct this oversight, I'm sharing some links on the subject – a few of which overlap but nonetheless help fill in the picture.

To me the two most hopeful signs are the fact that the tncs have turned the person most responsible for  legalizing Uber & Lyft, CPUC President Michael R. Peevey, against them; and that San Francisco Mayor Ed (Lyft Day) Lee refuses to come to their aid despite hefty campaign contributions from Uber-friendly Libertarians like Ron Conway. A sign that the world is turning against the worms?

Enjoy the links.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Taxi Myopia Blues

I offer this photo as a balm to those who've taken umbrage at my comparing San Francisco taxicab company owners to dinosaurs. I think this analogy is more accurate. Besides, it also applies to many cab drivers (far too many) as well.

Let start with the owners.

One could write a fat, non-fiction novel on the short-sightedness and petty greed of the people running S.F. cab companies – especially Yellow and Luxor. But for this article, I'll restrict myself to their opposition to an universal app or Open Taxi Access (OTA).

When John Wolpert first introduced Cabulous in 2010, it should have been obvious to anyone with an entact frontal lobe that, if adapted throughout the taxicab fleet, the app had the potential to both drastically improve service to the neighborhoods and create business for the drivers.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Flywheel Amps Up II

In this post I want to address a few concerns and clarify some aspects of the Flywheel app.

My information comes from a recent Town Hall meeting where CEO Steve Humphreys spoke as well as from conversations with Humphreys, Chief Product Officer Sachin Kansal and Head of Operations Ryan Nobrega.

Let's start with a few things drivers hate:

The 10% Solution

Director Hayashi had a plan B.T. (before tncs) where the city would pay for all credit transactions with a $0.25 - $0.30 fee for all passenger. But this probably is not workable in our current scenario where we're being underpriced by the competition.

Flywheel is a for profit company and has to charge something. They have credit processing fees, payroll, rent, marketing, R&D and other costs to cover. I have no idea what their bottom line is but I would like to see a fee closer to 5%.

I bought the subject up to Humphreys. He hinted that they might be able to lower the percentage if they could lower their processing costs or if the volume of users drastically increased.

One positive is that, unlike Uber, Flywheel does not take a percentage of the tips. This means that the actual percentage of a driver's gross is closer to 8.5%.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Flywheel Amps Up Together with the MTA

Cab drivers are worse gossips than small town sewing circles so let's start with a few rumors.

One had it that Uber had bought out Flywheel. A more recent canard claimed that Flywheel changed its name from Cabulous to get "cab" out of the title because they intended to begin a peer to peer taxi service ala Summon.

I spoke with CEO Steve Humphreys (photo left) about this and he said that Uber would buy Flywheel "over my dead body." He also said that he had no interest in starting a ride-share operation because he thinks that taxis will win out in the long run. Insurance and the superiority of trained taxi drivers over untrained amateurs, in his opinion, will carry the day.

Humphreys, a man with an engaging smile and infectous enthusiasm, agreed with the thought that once the accidents start adding up, "the other options won't look so attractive."

Flywheel Partnering with the SFMTA

Starting tomorrow, June1, 2014, Taxi Services will be running a series of advertisements boosting the taxicab business in which Flywheel will get prominent mention.

This, course, is the brainchild of Director Christiane Hayashi who was the person who first introduced Flywheel (then Cabulous) to San Francisco taxi drivers almost four years ago.  Humphreys has been working closely together with Hayashi and Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin to make the marketing effort pay off.

The promotion will go at least through June and possibly longer.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How Demoting Christiane Hayashi Backfired

To briefly summarize:

San Francisco voters approved Proposition K in 1978 which put an end of the sale of taxi medallions.

San Francisco voters passed Proposition A in November 2007 giving the Board of Supervisors the option of transferring the powers of the Taxi Commission to the SFMTA. The Supervisors did so and the SFMTA took over the regulation of the taxi industry on March 1, 2009.

In January of 2009, Mayor Gavin Newsom, who had promised not to put medallions up for sale if Proposition A passed, came out with a plan to take all the taxis medallions away from the current medallion holders and sell them in order to cover San Francisco's $500 million dollar debt.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Chris Hayashi & the Wisdom of Solomon

Director of Taxi Services Christiane Hayashi has had an extraordinary impact on the cab business that goes far beyond anything you might reasonably expect from an administrator.

Her uniqueness become evident to me the first time I saw her at a Medallion Holder Association (MHA) meeting in 2009, shortly after Mayor Gavin Newsom had threatened steal all the taxi medallions and sell them to cover San Francisco's $500 million debt.

What struck me about her was the absolute absence of any sense of snobbery or superiority of rank.

Maybe I can best get my idea across by contrasting her behavior to that of MTA Board Member Bruce Oka who also came to the meeting. Oka was all smiles but he also let us know how important he was. He told us that he was in a hurry and could only stay a little while. He also hinted at inside knowledge of Newsom's plans that he couldn't quite express to us. In short, he acted like people of position usually do when glad-handing the lower classes.

Hayashi, who undoubtedly knew more about Newsom's plans than Oka did, simply sat down next to a few drivers and talked to them like they were fellow human beings. I've rarely seen anybody who held power over others act so modestly.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Chris Hayashi Goes Out in Song

In keeping with her tradition of never quite doing anything like anyone else, the former Director of Taxi Services Christiane Hayashi (as the White Rabbit in photo) turned her retirement party into a buffet concert.

The food, which was contributed by people from Russia, Brazil, Africa and Latin America among other places, would've fed four times the hundred or so of Chris's friends who stopped by.

The bands which came from Burma, Russia, Africa, Brazil among other countries played rock music as well as works from their native lands. Each was better than the other and they were all good. Several musicains also played with other groups.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Notes Uber's Comments on the Assigned Commissioner's Ruling

I wasn't able to read all the comments on the Proposed Modifications to Commissioner Peevey's CPUC Decision 13-09-45 on TNCs. Therefore I decided to restrict myself to making a few comments on Uber's comments.

My format will be:

First, I'll quote a passage from Uber's lawyers then I'll give my comment. The result will be the sort one-sided dialogue that you can find on Uber's website or in their online magazine Tech Crunch. Except – here I get the last word.

(Note: You can find an update on how safe (not) it really is to ride with Uber in an end note.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Just Say No" – Chris Hayashi's Letter to the Seattle City Council on TNCs

I'm posting Director Hayashi's letter for two reasons:

1. It's one of the best summaries of the problem that I've seen.

2. It was instrumental in Seattle's decision to limit the numbers of TNCs. Before Hayashi sent her letter the Seattle Council was split on the vote. After they read it, they voted unanimously to regulate.

A third reason is that the Director hasn't gotten her props for helping keep the bogus taxis out of numerous cities including Austen, San Antonio and Philadelphia – where the TNC's get towed if they show up.

March 12, 2014
Dear Seattle City Council Members:

I am writing this letter in the hopes of helping to inform your upcoming decision about appropriate regulation of companies that provide smartphone access to individuals using personal vehicles to provide for-hire transportation to the public.  Please notice that I did not call it “ridesharing.”  That is a false characterization of this type of for-hire vehicle service that was adopted in the hope that by characterizing these services as “carpools” they would not be required to carry commercial insurance under California law.  What we now call Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) in California asserted that position before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), but the CPUC rejected it, finding that the TNCs are commercial, for-hire vehicles that are operating for profit.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Taxi Drivers Are Mad At Lyft, Sidecar & Uber X by John Han

Photographs by Douglas O'Connor   Video of CPUC hearings by Ed Healy
                            Produced & Created by John Han

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Protest Against the CPUC Wednesday Noon – Whenever

Little has changed in the mentality of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) since the July 30 taxi protests last year.

The CPUC continues to allow Uber, Lyft & Sidecar to hide their inadequate insurance policies from the public. The CPUC still allows the TNCs to regulate themselves which is the same as not regulating them at all. The CPUC still refuses to let the City of San Francisco regulate them. The CPUC still allows them to congest and pollute the City at will.

On the other hand, Taxi Paratransit Association of California (TPAC) applied for a rehearing of the CPUC decision which will be heard by the California Public Utilities Commission this Thursday during closed session.

Wednesday's protest will be to help the CPUC see the errors of its previous decision.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jamming the Streets with Lyft, Sidecar, Uber & the Illegals

Taxi Services investigator Eric Richholt invited me to ride with him and his partner Andres Martinez so I could photo & videograph the gridlock caused by a couple of thousand unregulated, fake cabs on the Friday and Saturday nights.

"You wouldn't believe it," he said. "People should see this."

"Is it worse than last time we went out?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Seattle Council Unanimously Votes to Regulate & Limit TNC's

-- PASSED BY FULL COUNCIL March 17, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Uber Insurance Policy

A copy of the Uber insurance policy – the one that Trevor Kalanick (CEO of Uber) is using to try and deny coverage to the family of Sophia Liu – has been sent around by an anonymous source.

I haven't had a chance to read it yet but Mr. Anon writes,

There are a lot of major problems with this policy and you will see them as you read it.

1) The whole UBER thing is a daisy chain of foreign corporations. UBER is incorporated in the Netherlands, James River Insurance in Bermuda and Raiser Corporation in Switzerland.

You aren't really naïve enough to think that the credit card money UBER collects goes to a US Bank are you? Remember the lyrics to the song:

"All the gold in California is in a bank in Beverly Hills in somebody else's name"
2) You don't need to be an insurance expert to look at the policy and determine the following:
a. This policy is designed for one purpose only: To protect the lily-white butt of UBER CEO Travis Kalanick and his top investors.
b. There is a virtual cornucopia of exclusions, exemptions, what-ifs, Catch-22's, etc,
"Oh by the way, that's not covered, and oh, neither is that."
3) You can see why this policy would not pay the $500,000 medical bill for the mother of the little girl run over killed by UBER in San Francisco.
4) It also claims it would not pay if the UBER driver was "Negligent"? Why else would there have been a wreck?
5) Even the "New, improved" UBER insurance policy would not correct any of the above defects.

 6) Glaring omissions: Driver drug testing? FBI Fingerprinting? City permits? Personal Injury Protection (PIP)?, Vehicle inspections, Hours of Service, Mandatory Proof of Workers Comp, Towing, Rental vehicle while yours is  in the shop, Subrogation (Reimbursement for loss of use of the vehicle and the income it could have produced had it not been wrecked).
 The UBER policy is the longest policy in America with the fewest things actually covered. Unbelievable.
THIS WORTHLESS, PHONEY POLICY. So, why does UBER get away with it?

Mr. Anon adds,

Not surprisingly the Uber Insurance Policy (Which is really Raiser, not Uber) does not provide the insurance coverage advertised or even close. As you will see below the actual coverage is contingent and illusory and the amount of coverage is not actually $1,000,000. Once again, Uber is trying with some success to hoodwink the public and the press, and is just plain lying.

The one-year policy runs from December 21, 2013 to December 21, 2014.  This policy is issued by James River Insurance Company. It covers as named insureds Rasier LLC, Rasier-CA LLC and Rasier-DC LLC (hereinafter “Rasier”), all of which are affiliates of Uber Technologies and contracts with drivers but Raiser does not dispatch to those same drivers.  This policy covers autos that are en route to pick up passengers or that are transporting passengers.  It does not cover autos that are logged on to Uber’s system awaiting dispatches, which Uber last week claimed is the subject of a supplement to this policy.

As Uber has claimed, it does provide up to $1,000,000 in liability coverage for bodily injury or property damage to passengers or other third parties within the scope of the coverage.  However, that coverage is available only if Rasier is liable to the third party or caused the accident.  The coverage does not apply if the driver is negligent and the injured party fails to establish that Rasier is liable as well or caused the accident.  Thus, in most cases the policy does not provide any liability coverage to the drivers.  It also does not provide collision or medical payments to the drivers for damage to themselves or their personal cars.

A schedule attached to the policy names as “additional insureds” those persons “as required by written contract” (presumably the UberX drivers) and Uber Technologies. But the insurance afforded those additional insureds under this schedule covers only their liability for those accidents caused in whole or part by Rasier’s acts or omissions or those of third parties acting on Rasier’s behalf.  The schedule does NOT cover drivers from accidents caused by their own negligent acts or omissions.  Moreover, even this narrow coverage is constricted further by “limits of insurance” language in the schedule.  It limits the coverage to the lesser of the amount on the face of the policy ($1 million) or the amount required by the contract between Rasier and the drivers.  Rasier’s form contract (attached) only requires the drivers to carry the minimum amount required by state law.  That might be as low as what is required for personal auto policies, which varies by state but could be in the range of $20,000.
Contrast this Insurance Policy with the insurance that Uber is currently advertising that it has, which can be found at: 

The Phantom should have sent you a copy of the Uber policy with this post.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Fabulous Turnout for Supervisor's Hearing on TNC's

In addition to Director of Taxi Services Christiane Hayashi and Attorney Christopher B. Dolan, (representing the family of Sophia Liu who was killed by an Uber x driver on New Years Eve) around 50 people spoke against the current weakness of the rules regulating TNC's.

But it wasn't just the numbers. It was the effectiveness of the speakers coupled with the open minded attitude of the members of the Supervisor's Neighborhood Services & Safety Committee that left me feeling upbeat.

Supervisor's Eric Mar (photo - who called the meeting), David  Campos and Norman Yee took in the hearing with Supervisor John Avalos joining them later.  The Supervisors exhibited open minds, asked good questions and showed a willingness to learn. This was a refreshing contrast for those of us who took part in the CPUC Hearings on Ridesharing last year where most questions clearly had been decided before we walked into the room.

Many people think that the Supervisors have little or no power to effect the CPUC ruling but that was not the impression that I got from the hearing.

Have to driver tonight. Details next post.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Supervisor's Service & Safety Committee Meeting on Unregulated Taxi Services: This Thursday at 10 am

Supervisor Eric Mar will be holding a special hearing of the Neighborhood Services & Safety Committee to discuss the concerns that have arisen over these unregulated taxi services such as Lyft, Sidecar and UberX.  The hearing will be held this Thursday, March 6 at 10am at City Hall in Room 250.

Show up. Lyft, Sidecar and Uber surely will.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Town Hall Meeting: Electronic Taxi Access 1

The first Town Hall Meeting to be available online was held last Tuesday, January 28, 2014. I took in the meeting live myself but the broadcast apparently went off well except for intermittent problems with the sound. Director Christiane Hayashi thought that this was probably to due the fact that they were forced to use Wi-fi instead of being hard wired. Hayashi implied that the problems would be solved by the next meeting.

The main subject, at least for me, was Electronic Taxi Access (ETA). But before going into this I want do a brief summary of what ETA is supposed to accomplish. The proposal actually consists of two parts: One - to create a database with which to help Taxi and Accessible Services manage and regulate the cab business; Two - to offer an interface where all electronically dispatched orders can be accessed by all interested cab drivers.


The database is being created by Frias Transportation Infrastructure (FTI) using their RideIntegrity software. The information provided is intended to help regulators answer such questions as:

  • How many trips San Francisco taxis provide 
  • How much of the time a taxi is occupied and how much of the time it is empty
  • The percentage of taxi transactions paid by credit card
  • The number of miles driven during each shift
  • Which taxis are operated as affiliate leases and which are operated as gas and gates 
  • How many driver permit holders actually drive a taxi 
  • How taxi stands are utilized 
  • How often taxis pick up or drop off in bus stops 
  • The principal routes used by taxis 
  • The presence and frequency of taxis in particular neighborhoods or supervisory districts 
  • The amount of time taxis spend idle at the airport 
  • Actual greenhouse gas emissions by type of taxi vehicle, company or fleet 

Taxi Services staff had been asking the companies to provide them with the above information for awhile but, finding said companies to be less then forthcoming, they authorized FTI to install an on board device (OBD) to automatically collect the data. This lead to caterwauling on the part of various company managers who said that they could provide the data themselves. Director Hayashi said "fine" and gave them a February 1, 2014 deadline in order to prevent the OBD from being put into service.

At the Town Hall meeting, the date appeared to be pushed back to March 1, 2014 but much of the data is already being provided and Hayashi intends to have the system up and running by April 1, 2014.

One fear held by both company managers and drivers was that FTI might sell the data to third parties ala Facebook or Safeway. But Hayashi says that the information will be owned by the SFMTA not FTI and will not be sold.

Electronic Taxi Access (ETA)

I confess that I'm still a little confused about how this will work so I won't post on it until I research the ETA plan more thoroughly.

Seattle City Council plans to limit the number of TNC's and insist on proper insurance of the vehicles.

In the meantime, it looks like good news from Seattle on the faux taxi front. The Seattle City Council will vote on a plan to limit the number of TNC's to 300 and the number of hours a person can drive per week to 16. 

 "The proposed pilot program would force TNCs to cover drivers with excess liability coverage as soon as drivers are live on the company’s smartphone app. That would help prevent some of the liability confusion that has followed accidents such as the one in San Francisco, which killed 6-year-old Sofia Liu and injured her mother and 5-year-old brother."

The fact that the California Public Utilities Commission has allowed the TNC's to have insurance that does NOT cover the drivers in this situation is unconscionable and abhorrent.

Let's hope that venture capital doesn't buy the Seattle City Council like it has the CPUC.

See City panel shrinks options in rideshare pilot plan

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What? They Have No Insurance?

This is a picture of a sign that, as far as I know, did not show up in any news coverage of the July 30, 2013 San Francisco taxi person protests against Lyft, Sidecar and  Uber x. One or two mass media outlets made passing mention of drivers claiming that the TNC's were not properly insured, but the brunt of the mass communications was that "cabbies" were protesting because they were losing money. And, who can forget ABC ending it's blurb with extended coverage of a pro-Lyft speech that Mayor Ed Lee had given months earlier?

Well ... the chickens are coming home to roost. Or, maybe, ostriches would be a better analogy. In any case, media scribblers are beginning to cover the results that some of us predicted would inevitably take place with the under-insured vehicles and under-vetted drivers of Lyft, Sidecar & Uber. In addition,  articles on the dangers of driving for the TNC's are beginning to turn up. (See Consumer Reports).

Here are a few that have recently come my way:

Uber customer claims abuse and assault by driver.

The Strange Tale of an Uber Car Crash ...

6 Year Old Struck and Killed in Tenderloin Crosswalk.

Uber-Affiliated Driver Arrested in Girls Death.

Should Uber be Held Accountable for Fatal Accident.

Taxi Drivers Demand More Oversight for Online Ride Services.

Uber x Driver ... Had a Record of Reckless Driving.

Lyft Driver Allegedly Attacks Pedestrian.

How Many Ridesharing Drivers Are Hiding Status From Insurers?

Uber Driver Locks Passenger in Car, Gives Himself Five-Star Rating.

Ride Apps Uber, Lyft, Sidecar Hit Speed Bumps.

Rough Patch for Uber Services Challenge to Taxis.

Cab ... give insurance firms license data on citizen competitors

Lyft Driver Hits Elderly Woman in San Francisco Crosswalk.

Notice to TNC Company Drivers.

Phil Matier: Wrongful Death Suit Could Change How Uber Does Business.

Consumer Reports: Don't Risk Your Car Insurance by Operating Your Vehicle as a Part-Time Taxi.

I'm sure this is the tip of the iceberg. Please feel free to send me links that I've missed. I'll publish them here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

SFTaxiLive & Online Town Hall Meetings

Sftaxilive - a brainchild of Director Christiane Hayashi - can be accessed at It contains a plethora of features including the ability to attend Town Hall meetings online. Follow the procedure below if you wish to join tomorrow's Town Hall meeting on Tuesday January 28, 2014 at 1: 30 pm.

To join a meeting live via internet there are three steps: 

1. Register for the site using your email address.
2. Sign up for an upcoming meeting that you want to attend remotely.
3. On the day of meeting, log into site and join the meeting live.


  1. Go to

2. Click on "Sign Up" link in top right corner. All you need is your first name, last name and a valid email address. You pick your own password. 

3. Once you are signed up, click "Login" on top right corner and sign in any time you want to attend a live meeting or register for a future meeting by entering your email address and password.


For example, sign up now for the January 28 Town Hall Meeting. Note…you must have already registered for the site (see Step 1):

1. Log in using your email and password.

2. Click on the "MEETINGS" link on the left hand corner of your user page.

3. You will see three options: "My Meetings" "Past Meetings" and "Upcoming Meetings".  Click on "Upcoming Meetings".

4. All upcoming meetings will be displayed, and each meeting will display the following information: 

Name, Start Date, Time, Capacity, Details and Action. 
Under the column  "Details" is the word "View".

5. When you click "View" it will display more details about the meeting, including meeting documents you can download. On this Details page at the bottom is a "Sign Up" button. When you click "Sign Up" you will be automatically signed up for that meeting.


1.    On day of meeting. go to and login. 

 2. Then in your user page you will see the MEETINGS button. Click on "My Meetings".

3. You will see a list of all the MEETINGS you have signed up for. Click on the meeting you want to join and it will display the meeting details.

   4.  Click on "JOIN" on that page and it will take you to the meeting in progress.

Although the site is largely self-explanitory, I'll cover some of the other features in another post.