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

Taxi Committee


Monday, April 26, 2010, 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:  Steve Ferrario, Griffith Humphrey and Ruth Wheeler

Taxi Committee Members absent at Roll Call:  Mary Burns

Taxi Committee Members absent:  None

2. Report of the Chairman

No report.

Mary Burns arrived at 4:32 p.m.

3. Adopt Minutes of January 28, 2010: 

CAC Secretary Debra Reed stated that she would correct the spelling errors.

On motion to approve the minutes of January 28 with corrections: unanimously adopted.

4. Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program - Status Update (Discussion/Action) Chris Hayashi

Chris Hayashi, deputy director of Taxi Services, stated that letters about the medallion program were sent to medallion holders and taxi driver permit holders.  Responses received have been good, indicating buyers.  The process of qualifying people as buyers and facilitating purchases begins in May. 

While a broker is not required, Haight Street Mortgage (HSM) has been advertising its services directly to drivers to assist with applications.  SFMTA does not regulate HSM.  HSM charges a $500 fee for application services.  Four credit unions have entered into agreements with the SFMTA to finance medallion loans.   

Chairman Ferrario asked about maintaining records.  Ms. Hayashi stated that the City Attorney will be preparing a document for this purpose, which can be kept in the SFMTA files.  Title changes will be tracked.  He asked if medallion holders have A Cards.  Ms. Hayashi stated that active drivers with post Proposition K medallions possess A Cards.  He asked if a medallion holder can sell their medallion and drive under someone else’s medallion.  Ms. Hayashi stated that a medallion holder who sells their medallion may continue to drive.

Griffith Humphrey asked about security interest arrangements for lenders.  Ms. Hayashi stated that this would be governed according to the guidelines of the Board of Uniform Commercial Codes.  Lenders would hold medallions as collateral on loans.  Should medallion owners default, there are contractual arrangements between the lenders and the SFMTA, as well as another arrangement between the lenders and the owners.  If the SFMTA issues a notice of foreclosure, the owner would continue to drive and make payments to the SFMTA until the medallion is resold. 

Ruth Wheeler asked about the medallion price.  Ms. Hayashi stated that she will recommend a price of $250,000. 

Public Comment

Hansu Kim stated that there is strong support for this plan.  A policy should be developed to insure stability for companies by matching buyers and sellers who would be interested in staying within the color scheme. 

Tara Housman stated that the $50,000 down payment was unattainable for drivers.

Barry Korengold stated that the program benefited the elderly and helps drivers get a medallions.  A duel seniority system would be a justifiable compromise for drivers on the list for 15 years. 

5. Selection Procedures for the new Taxi Advisory Council (Discussion/Action) Chris Hayashi

Chris Hayashi, deputy director of Taxi Services, stated that the request for members to serve on the Taxi Advisory Council was posted on the SFMTA website.  The 15-member panel may consider broadening its representation after 2010.  The Council’s initial mission will be to focus on the Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program and to make recommendations to the SFMTA Board of Directors.  The Council will report on the pilot program by December 31.  No bylaws have been established at this time. 

Public Comment:

Mark Gruberg stated that he did not like the makeup of the Council because the drivers were outnumbered.  Decisions might be made that are unfavorable to drivers.  He stated that the proliferation of taxi groups is burdensome on the public.

Hansu Kim stated that the Taxi Advisory Council would be essential to setting policy, so there can be some consensus and support on changes beneficial to the industry.  Medallion holders are drivers.  Drivers normally aspire to be medallion holders. 

Jane Bolig stated that the Council needs to broaden its membership to include people outside of the industry in order to keep the factions at peace and keep the process moving forward.  The Council presents an opportunity for the CAC and the PCC to learn about taxis.  She would like to see a member of the SFMTA CAC Taxi Committee serve as a liaison and attend Council meetings. 

Barry Korengold stated that Ms. Hayashi should mediate Council meetings, due to the many factions.  He expressed support for the proposed membership categories.

6. Taxi Industry Safety Issues  (Discussion/Action)

Chris Hayashi, deputy director of Taxi Services, stated that an e-mail tree was implemented to notify all color schemes of any crimes.  Staff is looking into an automated phone tree that would send out a description of the suspect.  Ruth Wheeler stated that AlertSF Notification System is a good text messaging tool.  Mary Burns stated that text messaging and twitter are illegal while driving.  Radio dispatch is an appropriate means of communication.  Ms. Hayashi stated that dispatchers would inform drivers by radio. 

Chairman Ferrario asked about enforcement against illegal cabs. Ms. Hayashi stated that while the police department is making efforts to be visible, enforcement is done on an overtime basis. The $750,000 police department work order pays for one clerk and a quarter of a Lieutenant’s time. Taxi Services was presented a bill from the police department for $157,000. Ms. Hayashi proposes to reduce the police department work order and transfer the funds to the SFMTA Taxi Services budget in order to hire civilians as taxi investigators. Investigators could issue citations against illegal operators. 

Mary Burns stated that she was interested in educating the public about how to use taxis.  She stated that taxis can substitute for Muni service when there are transit breakdowns.  Emergency transportation plans need to be developed for taxis to assist with city evacuations. 

Public Comment:

Barry Korengold stated that he hopes that the SFMTA Board of Directors will support the Taxi Services staff.  The crackdown on illegal cab activity would increase taxi income.  People who subscribe to text messaging could directly receive crime bulletins.  Pictures of suspects could be posted at cab companies.   

Jane Bolig stated the SFMTA paratransit broker commissioned a plan regarding paratransit needs in an emergency.  The plan may be available.  Photos of assailants taken by cab security cameras could be distributed to drivers.  The industry’s cab decal should be enhanced to distinguish legitimate taxis from phonies.  As San Francisco becomes bike friendly, pedestrians and bikers violating traffic laws are becoming a hazard to themselves.  Taxi insurance rates are increasing.  Inspectors have been known to fabricate violations.

Tara Housman stated that refresher courses should be implemented for drivers.  A class about taxi security cameras would be enlightening. 

Hansu Kim stated that limousine, as well as taxi businesses, suffer revenue loses due to imposters.  State legislation is pending to strengthen fines on illegal cabs.  Security cameras in cabs were mandated to record accidents for insurance purposes.  The reform plan will reduce accidents of drivers over 70.  It gives them an easier exit plan.

Jim Gillespie expressed interest in developing an emergency plan that would include support from taxis.

Carl Macmurdo stated that fake taxis can serve as covers for heinous crimes.  He expressed support for the Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program.  Two-way security cameras film accidents and robberies.  Taxi-related crimes have decreased because violators are getting caught. 

Athan Rebelos stated that drivers have successfully used text messaging and twitter.  He stated that he had heard that town cars from outside of San Francisco operate in the city because the fine is cheap.  He expressed doubt that the police are trained to distinguish counterfeit cabs.

Charles Rathbone stated that drivers would welcome assistance from the SFMTA with plans to develop a strategic role for taxis during disasters.

Mark Gruberg stated that taxi schools, training and refresher courses are important.  Equipment is important.  Security cameras should work properly.  Real-time information is vital, so someone is not hurting three to four drivers in a night.  A plan should be developed for elderly drivers without medallions. 

Bryan Brown stated that taxis transported British and French troops during the 1914 Battle of Marne.  Emergency transportation plans need to be developed for taxis to assist in cataclysmic events. 

Tariq Mehmood stated that driver safety is serious.  He suggested that training videos should be played in locations where drivers congregate. 

SFMTA CAC Taxi Committee Member Ruth Wheeler stated that SFMTA’s disaster plan should be updated to integrate taxi services.  Chairman Ferrario stated that the review of the disaster plan should first be heard by the EMSC.

7. Establishing a regular meeting day and time for meetings of the Taxi Committee (Discussion/Action)

Chairman Ferrario moved to establish the fourth Monday at 4:30 p.m. as the regular meeting day and time for Taxi Committee meetings.

Public Comment:

On motion to establish the fourth Monday at 4:30 p.m. as the regular meeting day and time for the Taxi Committee:  unanimously adopted.

8. Public Comment

Charles Rathbone expressed concern about the rising cost of electronic fund transactions.  Companies have no way to recover those costs.  Ms. Hayashi stated that she would work on legislation to address user fees.

Tariq Mehmood stated that having drivers ask customers to pay transaction fees would be difficult for drivers.  Customers might deduct the fees from the tip.  Yellow and Luxor cab companies pay and should continue to pay for those fees.

Jane Bolig stated that in other cities, drivers pay the surcharges or pass the charges on to the passengers.  Companies in San Francisco are losing money.  This could impact the customers’ ability to use credit cards or the companies that provide radio service.  Since drivers enjoy the benefits of electronic transactions, several cities passed a law requiring the surcharge be paid by drivers or passed on to passengers.  This is something we have to deal with.

Jim Gillespie stated that within the last 12 years, the larger taxicab companies have amassed credit card debt in cabs, people and expenses.  These companies went from $500,000 to $1.5 million in credit card transactions which is a pretty heavy scope.  Yellow cab is currently over $3 million per month in credit card charges for over 80,000 transactions.  That does not include what we pay our office staff to process the payments.    Companies are concerned because people are using credit cards more often.

Mark Gruberg stated that with the exception of a twenty-five cent increase in 2008, it has been eight years since the last meter increase.  Cab companies increased gate fees by $5 and $12.50 for hybrids.  Companies should provide financial reports that demonstrate their decreased revenue, before increasing gate fees.

Athan Rebelos stated that drivers pay the user fees.  Passing user fees to passengers would generate a public uprising.  A meter fee increase would be a solution to recouping the electronic transaction fees.

Carl Macmurdo stated that people seldom notice credit card surcharges.

Hansu Kim stated that studies indicated that drivers make more money in tips when passengers use a credit card, even when there are surcharges.  San Franciscans are not used to paying fees. 

Tara Housman stated that people are used to paying fees at ATMs.  Most people would not be bothered by a user fee if it were prominently posted.  She stated that clean air cabs are expensive.  Pre-owned hybrid cars are rare because people keep them.

Barry Korengold stated that people are used to paying user fees.  Proper signage should be adequate so drivers would not need to explain the fee.  Paying $7.50 extra for the gate fee on hybrids is more than the saving in gas.  Perks from driving hybrids at the airport have been discontinued.  CNG is not cheap.  Many drivers want to return to operating a regular cab because there are no benefits for a hybrid car.

9. Agenda planning for the next meeting tentatively scheduled (Discussion)

The next meeting is scheduled for May 24, 2010

10.  Adjournment:  The meeting was adjourned at 6:18 p.m.

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

Accessible meeting policy – One South Van Ness Avenue

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