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City and County of San Francisco
Municipal Transportation Agency
Citizens’ Advisory Council


Taxi Committee

Regular Meeting Minutes

Monday, October 26, 2009, at 4:30 p.m.
1 South Van Ness Avenue, Conference Room 3074
San Francisco, California

1. Call to Order / Roll Call  
Chairman Steve Ferrario called the meeting to order at 4:30 p.m. 

Taxi Committee Members present at Roll Call:  Mary Burns, Steve Ferrario, Griffith Humphrey and Ruth Wheeler

2. Report of the Chairman:  Steve Ferrario

Chairman Ferrario welcomed drivers to the first SFMTA CAC Taxi Committee meeting.  Mr. Ferrario stated that he previously served on SFMTA’s Taxi Advisory Group.  This Taxi Committee will focus on issues of concern to the taxi industry. 

3. Presentation and discussion of taxi industry issues (Discussion/Action) Chris Hayashi

Chris Hayashi, deputy director of Taxis, stated that public outreach is needed to convince citizens that taxis are a good transportation option.  Taxi service can contribute to parking and congestion management goals. In spring 2010, the SFMTA would like to explore the possibility of establishing taxi pools for a flat fee along the Geary Boulevard Corridor and from satellite pick-up locations. There are drivers in favor of a taximeter increase, but other drivers fear that an increase would curtail business. SFMTA met with Ed Lee, city administrator, Office of City Administration, about issuing debit/smart cards for city employees to utilize taxi service rather than maintaining city cars. Fees under consideration are a luggage fee and a Soils fee, to provide some compensation to drivers taken out of service when people soil their cabs.  

4. Public Comment:

Mark Spence stated that taxi pooling is for companies that don’t have radios.  Full-service companies give priority to radio calls. 

Jane Bolig stated that taxi pooling might be a good idea, and we should try it; however, taxi pooling may compete with buses.  Drivers would benefit by attending CAC meetings.  The Taxi Committee should not rush through issues, but take the time to learn about the industry.  Other important issues to be considered are establishing a customer call distribution center and integrating taxis as a supplement to bus service.  The CAC should visit taxi businesses, such as Desoto and Luxor and taxi schools. 

Carl Macmurdo suggested a discussion on Charter reform.

Athan Rebelos stated that customers often mistake illuminated taxi billboards for taxi available lights.  Uniform signage should be developed.  He suggested taxi stands with LED or solar powered hailing beacons.  Centralized facilities for cabs are relocating to outer areas due to real estate costs.  Drivers prefer to conduct business at airports due to unfamiliarity with city streets.  Businesses could include deals at various eateries to encourage drivers to conduct taxi business within city limits.  He stated that he was not in favor of taxi pooling.  Many passengers prefer exclusive rides.  Female passengers worry about safety from strangers sharing their cab.  Passengers may fight over fares.

Laurie Graham stated that taxis should be allowed to make U-turns.  Diamond lanes for taxis and Muni should be enforced.  Drivers would benefit from education about the city’s geography, driving rules and regulations.

Hansu Kim stated that drivers are not represented on the SFMTA Board or on the CAC.   The CAC is talking about improvements for the industry when its members would not be able to pass a basic taxi quiz.  The SFMTA presented a ridiculous reform plan to drivers.  The taxi industry is going to be raided. 

Ed Healy stated that taxi pooling worked well in Mexico City.  Taxi stands never worked under the current system.  The SFMTA’s call for $10 million from the taxi industry is a bad precedent for future increases.  A study in call distribution might improve service.  There should be a customer service charge for calls.  It takes travel time to pick up a customer.  It is discouraging to see your fare riding away in another cab.  More drivers would take calls if customers would wait.  He stated that more limos and black cars mean more illegal activity.

Barry Korengold suggested a toggle switch to trigger the taxi availability light.  The customer service charge to cell phones is a good idea.  A vomit fee is needed because the smell can take a driver’s car out of business for days.  He asked about the $10 million, who would it come from, and why is it necessary to happen.  The proposed flat rate for taxi pooling must be adequate for drivers.  He suggested signage indicating taxi pool service.

Mark Smith stated that drivers have no spaces established for passenger pickups.  Drivers are issued $250 drive-away citations when spotted in bus zones.  Letters have been submitted to the SFMTA to establish a permit for taxis to pull in for customer pickups.  Geography classes would benefit drivers and customers.  It was a mistake to suspend taxi school because companies depend on new drivers with driver training “A” cards. 

Tara Housman stated that London starts charging fares from the time of the call for service.  The SFMTA Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation should include curb cut-ins for taxis at new buildings.  Dropping disabled customers off at the ballpark is a disaster. 

Mike Spain stated that he was in favor of corridors for taxis.  Meter rate increases should go to drivers.  He suggested: a surcharge for picking up people at home, licensed black car service for disabled passengers, expanding the “A” card driver permit and increased meter rates for evening service. 

Cheryl Damico stated that limos are not accessible.  The document from 2000 that permits ramp taxis to park in bus zones should be reinstated.  Schools should include the city’s geography in their curriculum. 

Ruach Graffis stated that healthcare and retirement benefits should be available to everybody.  The industry encourages people to become experienced drivers, but only 1500 drivers are in the industry.  She is among the 5000 drivers outside the industry.  The public would need to be educated about the limitations of taxi pooling service.  She suggested charging an automatic service charge to the customer’s cell phone.  Curb cut-ins are needed at BART stations, along Market and Mission streets and at the Southern Pacific Depot for wheelchair passengers.  Laws need to be adjusted to permit taxis to make left turns.  Most cities have flourishing limo businesses because taxis lack their city’s support.  The taxi industry should not be the cash cow for the SFMTA until drivers get some basic stuff.    

Hansu Kim stated that taxis were left out of transportation plans.  San Francisco is a city for visitors and pedestrians, yet there are no plans for taxi curb cut-ins at BART, the ballpark and hospitals. 

Martin Smith stated that the CAC should continue to support “left turns on signals only” due to pedestrian accidents.  CAC members should attend Paratransit Coordinating Council meetings.  San Francisco taxis have the best on-time performance in the nation. 

Mark Gruberg stated that traffic on Market Street is being reduced.  Drivers want the same driving privileges as SFMTA buses.

5. Schedule Upcoming Meetings and Agenda Items (Discussion/Action)

Next regular meeting:  November 30, 2009, at 4:30 p.m.
1 South Van Ness Avenue, Conference Room 3074

6. Adjournment:  The meeting was adjourned at 6:03 p.m.

Respectfully submitted by:
Debra J. Reed
SFMTA CAC - Secretary

Accessible meeting policy – One South Van Ness Avenue

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