Thursday, June 30, 2016

San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance Report on AB 650 et al.

Hello – passing on the new that's fit to print from the SFTWA.

 Yesterday, the Board of Supervisors passed Supervisor Aaron Peskin's Resolution urging the State Legislature to amend or oppose AB 650, which would transfer taxi regulation everywhere but San Francisco to the California Public Utilities Commission.  The vote was 9-2, with Supervisors Scott Wiener and Malia Cohen voting "no".
San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance
It puts the city on record as opposing the bill unless it is amended to provide for county regulation of taxis.  Thanks to everyone who contacted the Supervisors to urge them to support the resolution.

Also yesterday, the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee voted to approve the bill (AB 650).  This was expected, but it still has a long ways to go.  Its next hearing is in August, at the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The city's position should help our chances there.
A wild card has been thrown into the equation with an announcement Monday that Governor Brown and some state legislators had reached a deal to move transportation regulation from the CPUC to the California State Transportation Agency, which includes the DMV and the Highway Patrol.  But the details of the deal are not clear, and there appears to be some disagreement between legislators and the governor about whether the CSTA would take over all transportation regulation, or if it would only be in charge of permits and enforcement, while the CPUC would continue to make the rules for transportation providers.

In any event, SFTWA remains opposed to AB 650 unless it is amended to provide for taxi regulation by counties.  Deregulating taxi fares, allowing companies to self-regulate in other areas and opening the door to practically anyone who wants to put a cab on the street are bad ideas, and they could someday spread to San Francisco.   

San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Against AB 2763: Against Changing the Definition of a "Private Vehicle" to Include Leasing

The following is a letter I send to the State Senate opposing the above rule change.

Hon. Ben Hueso, Chair Senate Energy, Utilities& Communications Committee State Capitol, Room 2209 Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Chair Hueso,

AB 2763, presented by Assembly Member Gatto, changes the definition of a “Personal Vehicle” in 5431 to mean the opposite of the ordinary meaning of term “Personal Vehicle.”

Instead of being a vehicle that is owned by a ‘Participating Driver” to use “in connection with a transportation network company’s online-enabled application or platform to connect with passengers”;” a “Personal Vehicle” becomes any vehicle that is “owned, leased, rented, or otherwise authorized for use for any period of time by the participating driver … that is not a taxicab or a limo.”

Thus “Personal” comes to mean “any or all.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

My Opposition to AB 650

What follows are my arguments in opposition to State Senate bill AB 650. Like most people I didn't know that such a bill existed until it was almost to late to reply. This is all that I had time finish before the deadline for submissions. I will have a lot more to say in another post.

Hon. Ben Hueso, Chair
Senate Energy, Utilities &
Communications Committee
State Capitol, Room 2209

Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Chair Hueso,

AB 650 purports to “level the playing field” between taxis and TNCs by essentially deregulating the taxi industry instead of creating safer and more rational regulations for the TNCs. In doing so, AB 650 is much more likely to result in the destruction of the taxicab business than its salvation – at great cost to public safety and the environment.

For instance, the main reason why taxicabs are losing market share is because there are no limits on the numbers of Uber & Lyft vehicles put on the streets. AB 650 tackles this problem by saying that “there will be no limits on the number of vehicles (i.e. taxies)” either. In other words, the authors of this bill think that putting out more taxies is the solution to having too many taxi-like vehicles on the street already.

I hope that the Chair won’t think I’m being flippant when I suggest that the authors of this bill consider psychiatric care – because I’m not.

AB 650 is filled with too many clauses to go into here so I want to concentrate on a few regulations that are of special danger to the public as riders, drivers and pedestrians.

(1) AB 650 limits background checks “on acts involving violence, any sexual offense ... or felony offense, or offense involving the possession of a firearm … to seven years.” Taxi background checks in San Francisco, by contrast, go back to pick up any violent or sexual offense that a person ever committed.

Under AB 650 a person imprisoned for violent sexual offenses could walk out of lockup one day and be driving a taxi a week later. This is not an imaginary scenario.

Uber drivers with criminal convictions (who had passed background checks similar to those in AB 650) have been responsible for numerous accidents, assaults and rapes. Syed Musaffar, who hit and killed 6-year-old Sophia Liu with an Uber Vehicle in 2014, had been convicted of reckless driving 10 years earlier.

(2) AB 650 requires “the taxicab carrier to procure liability insurance at NO MORE THAN $100,000 … $300,000 for death and personal injury.”  Furthermore, it “Prohibits a city … or any local agency to require insurance in a manner different from that required by this article.”

As a former insurance underwriter, this is the strangest insurance rule that I have ever seen proposed. Insurance limits are rarely, if ever, capped. What is normally stated is the minimal amount needed like the $15,000/$30,000 limits to drive a car in California.

Furthermore, $100,000/$300,000 is inadequate to cover many death or injury accidents. The bills for the mother of Sophia Liu, who was severally injured in the above accident, went over $1,000,000.

As near as I can tell, the main purpose of this clause is to allow people who would not normally be considered financially responsible to drive cabs.

In the process, the bill guarantees that victims severally injured or killed in California taxicab accidents would not get just compensation. The bills from their injuries would be passed on to the state.

(3) The expanding numbers of new taxi drivers in cars without emission controls would result in ever-higher measures of greenhouse gases and ever-more gridlock.

Therefore I urge you to vote NO on AB 650