Taxi Advisory Council > July 23, 2012, Meeting Minutes
SFMTA Taxi Services
Taxi Advisory Council
2nd Floor Atrium Conference Room
One South Van Ness Avenue
Ruach Graffis; John Han; Dan Hinds; Tara Housman; Richard Hybels; David Khan; Barry Korengold; Timothy Lapp; John Lazar; Tone Lee; Carl Macmurdo; William Mounsey; Athan Rebelos; Chris Sweis
PRESENT: Ruach Graffis; Dan Hinds; Tara Housman; Richard Hybels; Barry Korengold; Timothy Lapp; Tone Lee; Carl Macmurdo; William Mounsey; Athan Rebelos;
ABSENT: John Han; David Khan; John Lazar; Chris Sweis
ORDER OF BUSINESS
1. Call to order: Barry Korengold called the meeting to order at 1:12 p.m.
2. Roll Call – The Roll Call showed a quorum was present.
3. Announcement of prohibition of sound producing devices during the
4. Approval of Minutes from 07/09/12 (Discussion and Action)
Mr. Korengold said at Page 15, he made a motion to revote the continuation of TAC. He said it’s proposed by majority vote that it could be revoted.
Mr. Lapp corrected Page 3 to state: Her absence is the equivalent of a portfolio manager not meeting her fiduciary responsibilities during the time of economic chaos.
Ms. Housman motioned to approve, seconded by Mr. Mounsey.
No public comment.
5. Public Comment
Mr. Minikel would like to address increase in public service by having proper signage in the back of the car: 311 for complaints, no smoking. He’s been driving UBER for a while and the biggest complaint by customers are the cigarette smoke and refusal to take credit cards. He said general public doesn’t know about 311 for complaints and/or compliments. He said a big sign in each cab would help improve customer service. He said we should have a system to have a voluntary opt-in system where customers can give their credit card information to their preferred cab providers and have some agreements to occur with UBER.
Public comment closed.
6. General Discussion regarding Taxi Industry (Discussion only)
Mr. Mounsey said he’s concerned about UBER and said they’re out of control. He said there may be an oversight when the Police Detail was dissolved since they checked waybills and people knew they existed. He said they don’t get to say much with this board. He said the word is out regarding taking limos to get to San Francisco, etc. He said something needs to be done or this industry will be broke.
Mr. Hybels said he would not recommend to anybody to buy a medallion. It’s a mistake and he’s sorry that people are buying them.
Ms. Graffis agrees with Mr. Hybels. She said UBER puts out 1500 vehicles through the loopholes they have and MTA is still regulating the industry based on the idea that they’re in control. She said they’re not in control. She said it’s crazy that people are spending $250,000 to buy a medallion that may cost $2,000 tomorrow. She said SFMTA has to figure out how to control UBER. She said she’s talked to 3 permit holders who said the cost for getting a TCP is a little more than the permit renewal fee and there’s more flexibility. She said if this industry continues to be regulated, it will just be as redundant as Borders bookstore.
Mr. Lapp said it’s rare that he finds himself not copying the most pessimistic person in the room. He comments that the industry shouldn’t succumb to total despair since there is stuff being done about UBER and rules are trying to be changed. UBER is potentially going to oversaturate the market and bring out their own economic problems. He said MTA has a vested economic interest in the industry and sees this positively since the industry is like a golden goose or a corn hen.
Mr. Macmurdo said the confusing thing in fighting UBER is organizing the fight against it. He said UBER is operating all over the world and a lot of major US cities. Cab companies should be doing something. SFMTA, the regulator, should be taking a lead in outreach. State legislature states pre-arrangement consists of text message, 20 seconds old. If State legislature say pre-arrangement had to be 30 minutes, you knock-out quasi taxi operation doing on- demand service. It would help to have some capability for people to be contacted by the public directly; some kind of smart phone technology should be available to compete with the market.
Mr. Lee said there’s a 30% less incoming radio calls as compared to last year. In comparison to previous month, there’s about 20% difference. He said there is a low radio rate and he feels that this is not only happening in his company but all cab companies are affected. He said SFMTA should have offered 200-300 free Single-Operating Permit to the waiting list. He thinks that there’s not going to be a need for a medallion in the future. SOP is like a pension not a Single-Operating Permit. He said there’s a downturn on the business; incoming calls and demand on the street is low and this is the effect. He said we’re losing the opportunity to turn-around this business. He said he knows someone who owns 30 UBER cabs and makes $1000/cab and splits 25% to UBER cab per month without gate fees. He agrees with 60 hours appropriated to Single-Operating Permit but thinks 90 hours is too much.
Mr. Korengold said not enough is being done the crackdown limos and UBER. He said it’s going to hurt SFMTA later than the taxi industry and something should have been done sooner. If nothing gets done, the medallions are not going to be worth anything and the industry suffers first. He said SFMTA should put more investigators out, more so during the weekends and they should be there 24-hours. He said most of the offenses happen 4am to 6am when they go out to the clubs and block the cabs and no enforcement around. With this, you lose respect from the cab industry when nothing’s being done. He said he’s not in full-support of the Single-Operating Permit since medallions are not going to the people on the list. He says SFMTA should give out medallions to people on the list soon.
Mr. Harris comments on Mr. Korengold’s statement. He said when the Single-Operating Permits were authorized, they were authorized at the same time and the additional 35 permits would go to the top of the list. He said he did put the 35 permits on the top of the list right away and worked on getting the Single-Operator Permits out. The legislation authorized 50 Single-Operator Permits and 35 Permits to the list. That was the tail-end of the legislation that he’s getting out.
Mr. Korengold – SOP is not an SOP anymore.
Mr. Harris said to Mr. Korengold that it’s different from what he said: “To put the medallions to the list and not focusing on SOP’s.” It was what he was responding to. When the legislation went through, there were percentage that went to the top of the list, a percentage that were sold and percentage that was SOP.
Mr. Korengold thinks we should start giving more to the list.
Ms. Graffis said back in the 1980’s under Reagan, 10 different cities were de-regulated by the feds. The results were so bad that they had to go back to the cities and re-regulate the industry due to accidents, insurance cost, amount of cab drivers increased in triple. It was chaotic. She said this is what’s going to happen if UBER puts out 1500 cabs.
Mark Gruberg can’t have a system of 2 types of vehicle serving the same purpose where one is regulated and one is an open entry system with very little regulation. He said there should be a clear distinction on these two types of service. The type of service the limousine and town car performs is a high-end service, luxury service. It competed at the margins with taxis but wasn’t in full-fledge competition but now it is and that has to change; maybe a 30-minute pre-arrangement or a notion that can’t simplify a service vehicle. Something has to be done. This should have been addressed sooner. He said the SFMTA should be aggressive in taking this to court.
Mr. Minikel said the city changed the whole system and found the amount of income the industry makes from medallion sales, etc. The State would find out how the limo industry can be lucrative and sees the State winning since they have more power. He would like to see some type of legislation but doubts if the public would be supportive. He’s seen how UBER is accepted by the public since it’s reliable. He sees the need to increase the level of service in the taxi industry.
Mr. Gratchia he’s heard a lot of complaints but don’t see anything changing. He said cab companies are responsible and find ways to compete with UBER.
Mr. Rosen said Taxi business has a component to it where you can access it from the streets. He said that UBER has the right to exist since it fills a certain gap. The problem is limos and town cars are picking up people on the street and there’re not enough enforcement officers. He questions what’s happening to the medallions.
Mr. Moles sees the importance of addressing problems with limo and how it would turn this industry upside-down. He sees this as a symptom that something is failing and not just a legislative issue. He would like to see a list of specific things we can do.
Mr. Sambi asked why not use SFPD. He said forces are already out there and there are presence including the weekends so connection has to be created. He said this may be an effective way to address and solve these issues.
Mr. Jacobs said MTA can easily come down and reprimand a driver when a complaint is made. He said the same should be true for limo complaints, for example solicitation. It would enforce the rules if these violations are prosecuted.
7. Report of the Council Liaison (Discussion and Action)
a. Staff Update
b. Regulatory Reform Update – Mr. Harris Updated
1. Board of Appeals – may not go forward at this time based on information Jarvis and Michael received.
2. Clean-Up Legislation – SFMTA would like to go forward.
3. How can we improve Customer Service – mentioned several incidents where customer service can be improved.
4. UBER – Discussions being made. Meeting with CPUC and their attorneys to get an MOU with MTA for more enforcement authority. City could possibly limit the number of vehicles (for hire) in the city based on weight of the vehicle. Acknowledged the need for more enforcement personnel.
c. Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program Update - Transferred permits in July.
Mr. Mounsey if using Prius as limousine, weight wouldn’t matter. In his opinion, a heavy fine should be charged or maybe tow the offender’s vehicle.
Mr. Harris said there’s a $5,000 fine for acting like a taxi. We are requesting authority from the CPUC to be able to tow limousine upon 2nd or 3rd offense for the same thing.
Mr. Mounsey asked why the Police Department is not acting on this issue. He said the Town cars have become a direct competition against the taxis. The taxi industry also does not abide by the rules like not taking credit cards.
Mr. Lapp said maybe give 25% percent in general fund to Police Department to start enforcing the laws. He thinks this may be an effective approach.
Mr. Harris discussed: About a year ago a legislation to add in the police code a $5,000 citation for an officer seeing a limo act like a taxi and but was stopped by a supervisor because he felt that the illegal limo provides service to the community where taxi’s would not. Presently, SFMTA gives SFPD about $350,000 under an MOU to assist as with enforcement for Taxi Services. These funds were used to do weekend busts, approximately 4-5/weekend, takes about 8 officers and they get about 7-8 limousines. He clarified there’s a difference between in administrative citations done by Mr. Richholt from his and also what the SFPD does. He said SFPD’s citation is a $200 ticket for Operating without a Permit and attempts were made to raise this amount to $5,000.
Mr. Lapp said actions are being taken to improve supply and customer service. He said maybe demonstrate to Supervisor Wiener that we’re taking these actions and possibly a heavy campaign for the cab drivers addressed to his office if he continues to avoid it. He adds, public safety issue should be highly emphasized.
Mr. Hybel asked how many medallions are for sale and how many are qualified.
Mr. Harris said there are 36 qualified buyers and 230 letters were sent out to people who has the opportunity to purchase the next year. Statistically, maybe 160 of those will be qualified with 190 qualified to purchase a medallion. The sellers have a lot of misinformation and bad information that’s why the numbers fluctuates daily. A lot of sellers pull-out from the program so an exact number cannot be provided at this time.
Mr. Hybel asked what kind of misinformation.
Mr. Harris said change on the price of permits may go up to $400,000 and MTA is about to “dump” a whole bunch of permit on the street and nobody wants permits.
Mr. Macmurdo asked when the medallion pilot program was set-up, does MTA have to go back to the BOS to adjust the price or are they allowed to set the price as high as $400,000 before they go back. He said an attachment to a mailing implies that. He mentions fake taxis and criminal activity like robbery perpetrated by them. He thinks we can get rid of the fake cabs if the State could make this a felony.
Mr. Harris said a bandit cab was stopped last week with a magnetic sign that says Medical Transportation Agency but says “Daly City Taxi” when peeled off and there’s a meter in the vehicle. He said that bandits are changing the way they do things.
Ms. Graffis said when she takes a paratransit van and when she takes SSF van, they sometimes send a Serra Cab with a metallic sign to pick-up SF passengers but destination has to be in South of San Francisco.
Mr. Lee thanked Michael Harris for a good job and said that a lot of drivers are very happy receiving a letter from him. His name is equivalent to hope. He said future is unclear and discussed the SOP. He said that this has become a full-time medallion permit and said that this is not what was discussed last year in the Town Hall Meeting. It seems these meetings are not that important since he’s not seeing staff presence like Jarvis or the Director. He said the medallion is needed on the street to be able to compete with UBER. The drivers feel that owning a medallion is a dead-end street. MTA should put more time to work on medallion reform and there is a demand for more cabs on busy time.
Ms. Housman asks Mr. Harris if SFPD sends a courtesy notice when they bust their limos.
Mr. Harris said a police report. He said it’s adequate information and a resolution would have to go through the prosecuting attorney’s office.
Ms. Housman discussed the medallion reform:
1104 – asked why there’s no Section 1104.
1105 - she said it’s counter-productive for gates and gas to change shifts on company property.
Ms. Housman said she prefers all notices be published on the website and attempts made by 1st class mail with appropriate notice to the Airport. She suggests adding “failure to appear without good cause”.
Mr. Harris said it has already been addressed. He comments on Ms. Housman’s statement regarding gas and gate and long term lease. He said if you have an affiliate lease, e.g. two brothers owning the car and they live away from the lot and they live closer to each other, they have requested to exchange at their house since they’re closer to each other than drive downtown. Another issue is if they’re changing shifts in the yard, there are not going to be cabs on the street since everyone’s in the yard between 3pm - 6pm.
Ms. Housman thinks it may be an inconvenience to go back to the yard for a shift change but it’s that big of a city. She said a shift change is to show up where somebody can see you who’s contractually with you. She feels that this adds a layer of protection for the color scheme.
Mr. Rebelos said affiliates and long-term lease holders that don’t come to the yard don’t see the memos and the changes in the company and they don’t know what’s going. He said participating in the company benefit drivers and keeps them abreast with what’s going on.
· He encouraged the group to read the letter the letter written to Wall Street Journal. He said UBER’s liability waiver says they have no burden or responsibility and not even sure if vehicle has insurance.
· He encourage staff member to contact IATR, a committee in Seattle; a staff member is dedicated to just learn about UBER.
· He encouraged staff member to also contact the Limousine Association.
Ms. Graffis responded to Mr. Harris’ comments. She said allowing the cabs change vehicles somewhere else than the lot, is allowing a commercial vehicle park in the city street. She suggests checking how many vehicles are registered to an address, what kind of property and garage space available to see if it violates any rules. She said one the problem with UBER is there’s no accessible vehicle. She said cab driver pays higher gates than UBER cab drivers who pay a flat fee; they pay a gate fee and a 3.5 merchant fee that’s why they resist taking credit cards.
Mr. Hybel said it’s ideal that cabs change shift in the company but there was no enforcement presence since Ms. Hayashi took office. He said it’ll never be enforced and not even medallion holders drive their own car.
Mr. Harris states it is enforced that medallion holders drive their cars.
Mr. Lapp said there should be some flexibility on changing on the lot while still having some oversight with the affiliates. Why not require anybody who drives a shift on some point on the course of that shift has to go to the color scheme and sign in if you like. There’s a way to have it both ways.
Mr. Korengold said some drivers may live away from the city and turn-in previous day’s waybills when they check-in. He asked about the SOP is going to be enforced. How do they use the spare if the car breaks-down.
Mr. Harris explained there is already a system set-up. Another is the electronic trip data and reporting system set-up.
Mr. Korengold is concerned that medallions are run in the spares and not disclose it.
Mr. Harris explained it would be street enforcement. Permit holder is responsible for that permit.
Mr. Korengold asked if MTA is selling the medallion or the sellers.
Mr. Harris said it’s a mix. He said 58 have been sold to the list and 54 have been given to the list and 2. There are 4 that are going to the top of the list. This fulfills the regulatory requirements of the pilot program.
Mr. Lee said drivers are leaving this job and going to UBER because of the stringent rules and regulations imposed by the city. Cab business are making it tough for the drivers. He said too much time is wasted when doing a shift change. Too much time is wasted telling MTA how to do their job.
Mr. Lapp asked why about insurance claims.
Mr. Harris asked if he needs clarification on the reporting requirements from the color schemes when insurance claims are filed. Mr. Harris explained that 1) Information is needed if a cab is totaled and if something happened to the driver; 2) We need that data on how the driver and color scheme is performing 3) A driver complained getting nicked for property damage claims to the cab when there’s none.
Mr. Lapp asked if an extension could be granted to A-card holders who would be gone more than 30 days.
Mr. Harris said it will be taken into consideration.
Mr. Moles suggested splitting legislative, enforcement and improving customer service. He suggests implementing taking credit cards. He mentioned driver turning down rides to outer neighborhoods. He said having a newsletter or meeting at the Airport. He thinks some drivers may be intimidated or challenged using the credit card machine that’s they don’t accept it. He suggests getting drivers trained on how to use the machine.
Mr. Gruberg said the only way the drivers will freely accept the use of credit card it to make the charge invisible. He mentioned that cities like New York have implemented this. He suggests having a single app for the city so we can compete in equal footing with UBER; a centralized, integrated dispatch system. He said there should be tough enforcement on drivers on refusing trips to neighborhoods.
Mr. Minikel agrees with Mr. Gruberg. He suggests a 30-day suspension for a refusal to take a credit card, cab smelling like cigarette smoke, cell phone abuse, even body odor, refusing a fare. 30-day suspension on 1st offense, 45-day suspension on second offense, fired on the 3rd offense. In response to Mr. Moles, he said he appreciates his idea about the newsletter but it’s a waste of time; money is what gets the message across. He said the issue about changing shifts discussion is not a big issue and just a waste of time. He asked Mr. Harris about the Taxi Investigator position for MTA.
Mr. Harris its pending approval before posting since changes has been made.
Mr. Minikel asked how much money is generated and spent by MTA on the cab industry. He realized the need for more enforcement and thinks it’s unreasonable.
Peter Jacobs with Arrow Checker. His job is claims investigation and SFMTA communication. With MTA’s request for claims disclosure is a hindrance to the company and would require hiring personnel to perform this duty. The average accident report they receive is 15-20 monthly. He said there should be some trust coming from the agency. If safety is a concern, he suggests improving annual GTU inspections.
Mr. Makarian asked if paper waybills are still required after electronic trip data.
Mr. Harris said no. If you can produce an electronic trip data and provide it to MTA, drivers no longer have to produce the paper waybill.
8. Future of TAC (Discussion and Action)
Ms. Housman asked if anything has changed from the last meeting.
Mr. Korengold said what wasn’t addressed the last meeting was drivers getting charged a gate on the day of the commission. He said there should be a rule that if you’re in the council, you don’t get charged gates.
Mr. Harris reminded that TAC is short on members and need to fill the spot. He said a nomination process needs to be set-up and get a full TAC back in force. This was reported to Mr. Reiskin that it was voted that TAC council voted to continue. He also said that TAC will report directly to the board quarterly.
Mr. Rebelos asked why this is still in the agenda. He would like to see this meetings stick to something relevant. He has accepted the fact that he keeps coming to this meeting but he had enough of this topic.
Mr. Korengold explained that there’re loose ends that need to be addressed. He feels it is relevant to be discussed. We need to figure out how to add members.
Mr. Mounsey said he would like to hear Mr. Harris’ report every two weeks. This council is still intact and he wants to be here to hear about the industry.
Mr. Hinds said if this TAC is going to continue it was his understanding that we’ve agreed to meet once a month. There’s a need to clarify when reports are going to be made to SFMTA; Quarterly reports are fine. He asked what Chris Sweis’ status is and asked if he’s withdrawn from being the chair of TAC. If so, this needs to be addressed as well. He asked how many members are there going to be.
Mr. Korengold said that Chris Sweis is not resigning from the TAC; he wasn’t clear if meeting was on. He said he is fine with meeting once a month unless there’s a pressing issue that another meeting has to happen. Maybe this should be voted on.
Mr. Korengold is looking for nomination of driver who’s not on the list.
Mr. Macmurdo said there’s parking for a $1/hr. between Franklin and Gough St. on Grove St. at the Performing Arts garage.
Mr. Mounsey said that Ms. Hayashi has done a lot that we haven’t given her credit for. He trusts Mr. Harris and others to do the same thing. It is the important element of this meeting.
Mr. Rosen asks the council if they make an impact in the industry; does it make a difference. Is this a real body?
9. Council Members request for information (Discussion only)
Ms. Graffis asked Mr. Harris to contact Kate Toren that cab drivers don’t have a place to drop-off disabled people on elevators.
Mr. Hinds would like to see a breakdown of revenue the industry has provided to SFMTA. What revenues have been spent for personnel and enforcement.
No public comment.
10. Schedule upcoming calendar items (Discussion and Action)
Mr. Lapp suggests improvement on Customer Service. He said that changes can be made if approached properly.
Mr. Korengold suggests SFO Operation. There is no communication between cab drivers and GTU.
Mr. Harris said Mr. Murray is setting up a meeting between taxi drivers and SFO possibly in August.
Mr. Rebelos comments other Airports contracts to one company.
Mr. Korengold proposes this be a topic for future discussion.
Mr. Hinds said this industry is in a position where it’s not optional to provide better service. It is a necessity. Public will not be satisfied if certain level of service is not provided, regardless of the regulations in place.
Mr. Mounsey said he second the proposal on the Airport. He said a central dispatch should be considered. He also mentioned credit card fee attachment.
Mr. Lee asked about the Taxi Driver fund. He said this money is useless if not put to use.
Mr. Harris states the topics and voted by the council:
1. CUSTOMER SERVICE/CENTRAL DISPATCH – 6 votes
2. SFO ISSUES – 1 vote
3. DRIVER FUND – 1 vote
No public comment.
ADJOURNMENT: The meeting was adjourned by standing vote at 3:31 pm.
August 6, 2012
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