Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Committee to invent somehow more miserable, unfair SF taxi system

San Francisco has an ingenious system for getting much-needed taxis onto our streets:
  • strictly limit the number of taxis allowed,
  • require that city bureaucrats approve any transfer of permits,
  • have city bureaucrats monitor permit use and all the complicated rules to make sure everything is kosher, since they're legendary at that sort of thing,
  • put everything under the control of an obscure commission susceptible to pressure from various special interests to the detriment of taxi users at large!
The whole system works flawlessly and residents and tourists and conventioneers never have to wait for a cab, or search for one desperately, not that it matters because having your own car in SF is so easy.

You can see how great things are and how plentiful taxis have become by looking at the Taxicab Commission homepage photo above, showing a totally typical automobile lineup on your average San Francisco street.

Logically, the city has created yet another government committee to tweak this ingenuous system.

One way to fix everything might be to let drivers own their own medallions, as they do in New York after shelling out over half a million dollars per, so that drivers control their own livelihood, have an incentive to make maximum use of their cab and can even profit from the medallion sale.

Another solution is to transfer medallions from government bureaucrats to private taxicab companies, who can then dictate terms to their heavily immigrant workforce. Uhhh, hmmm. At least under this scheme there would be political pressure from taxicab companies to issue more medallions (as opposed to the New York system, where issuing more medallions means stealing medallion profits from heavily indebted immigrant drivers).

I never understood why we couldn't set up a program to bring in Oakland and Peninsula drivers during peak hours and seasons. The drivers could even be required to get a separate certification for SF.

Business Times update: Group charged with overhauling S.F.'s taxi business

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