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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Amy Sherman said...

How about the fact that we have the most expensive cabs in the nation? That's gotta help too!

July 19, 2007 7:38 AM  
V Smoothe said...

What Oakland drivers? Oakland's taxi shortage is worse than SF's!

July 19, 2007 11:25 AM  
Ryan said...

Oh ya, I forgot about pricing. As for Oakland, I'll defer to you v smoothe on the fact that there's a shortage. But I would guess tourism, conventions and the larger downtown would cause more daytime use in SF than in Oakland, which I would think uses taxis more during commute hours and late night. In that scenario maybe there would be room for sharing?

July 19, 2007 11:50 AM  
V Smoothe said...

I don't know the details on peak operating hours for taxis in Oakland. But the last two times I was at the Oakland airport (both weekdays, during the day) trying to get a cab back home, I had to wait upwards of 45 minutes. Last Wednesday it took over an hour and a half to get a cab in Jack London Square after midnight. Waits of an hour or more at night are routine. Less than a month ago, I called for a cab in downtown Oakland right at 5 PM and finally got one at 5:50. It's a problem, and a serious public safety issue.

July 19, 2007 12:22 PM  
Ryan said...

I caught a cab at Fruitvale BART almost instantly on a weekday afternoon, but then the guy got horribly lost trying to drive me to an office on the Embarcadero, even when I gave him a map I had printed and told him it was near a pretty popular waterfront bar (Quinn's Lighthouse). Another time I caught a cab from MacArthur BART to an Emeryville hotel and the guy didn't have $10 in change for my $20. So ya, issues. Waiting is indeed the bigger issue for safety.

July 19, 2007 12:46 PM  
V Smoothe said...

If the cabbie can't get to Quinn's Lighthouse from Fruitvale BART, that's just sad (even without a map). Safety-wise, waiting is unpleasant, but my bigger problem is that I don't feel comfortable walking. For example, when I was at Jack London waiting, I could have easily walked where I was going (it was only about a mile) in far less than the time I was waiting, but as a woman out alone at night, it would be foolish to do so.

Another problem with the cabs is that it is virtually impossible to get one to come pick you up in less desirable areas, such as many parts of West Oakland. But I think that's a separate issue from the driver shortage.

July 19, 2007 1:33 PM  

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