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

Taxi Committee

Regular Meeting Minutes

Monday, May 24, 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:  Mary Burns

2. Adopt Minutes of April 26, 2010: 
Adoption of the April 26 minutes was continued.

3. Report of the Chairman:  Steve Ferrario

No report.

4. Report of the deputy director of Taxi Services (Discussion/Action) Chris Hayashi

Chris Hayashi, deputy director of Taxi Services, stated that the Taxi Council application period was extended to June 1.  Staff is working with city departments and the Mayor’s Office on grant applications for the Zero Emission Neighborhood Taxi Program as well as recharging stations in public garages and a regional battery-swap program. 

Two taxi investigators were hired.  One will purge the waiting list, driver and medallion holder files.  The other will process disability applications for medical leaves and for the Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program.

Ruth Wheeler asked about efforts to transfer funding of the San Francisco Police Department’s taxi enforcement work order to Taxi Services.  Ms. Hayashi stated that she anticipates a closing bill from the Police Department by July.  When the citation supplies become available, staff can issue citations.  Staff is working on a fine collection enforcement method. 

Public comment:

Tara Housman asked about the Police Department work order.  Ms. Hayashi stated she receives invoices for eight-hour shifts billed at overtime rates.  She plans to replace the police enforcement with staff enforcement at straight-time pay. 

5. Allowing taxis the same street privileges as SFMTA vehicles (Discussion/Action)

Chris Hayashi, deputy director of Taxi Services, stated that taxi drivers commonly complain about $275 “drive-away” citations.  She expressed concern about double-parking citations from forward facing cameras mounted on buses.  Joy Houlihan, deputy director, Safety, Security and Enforcement, stated that a policy was implemented in 1999 allowing taxis to use bus zones for loading and unloading passengers.  Parking Control Officers may ask drivers to pull to the front so buses can share the zone.  Waiting or parking in a bus zone is a violation.  Videos captured by cameras are reviewed for passenger loading activity.  Drivers assisting passengers with wheelchairs and scooters would be visible.  Staff investigates appeals.  Ms. Hayashi stated that drivers could provide paratransit debit card records and waybills as evidence.  Diana Hammons, senior manager, Revenue Collections Section, Finance and Information Technology, stated that drivers could submit proof for appeals by mail.    

Chairman Ferrario asked about left turn privileges on Market Street.  Ms. Houlihan stated that “No Left Turn” signs on Mission Street permit left turns for buses and taxis.  Jerry Robbins, manager, Transportation Planning, stated that the SFMTA allows taxis and buses to make left turns at most intersection along Mission.  Most left turns on Market Street are not permitted for Muni or taxis. 

Public Comment:

Charles Rathbone stated that he salutes the SFMTA’s move to extend privileges to taxis that are similar to those allowed for Muni. 

Tara Housman stated that a notice should be circulated to drivers that lanes that are closed to private cars on Market Street are available to taxis.

Athan Rebelos stated that taxis with a ramp van logo parked in a bus zone should be excluded from enforcement. 

Carl Macmurdo stated that the practice of shifting private vehicles traveling east bound on Market Street onto Mission Street needs improvement.

Mark Gruberg stated that there needs to be an awareness that taxi service is part of the city’s “Transit First” policy.  Taxis provide door-to-door service to people.  

6. Debit and credit card procedures and costs (Discussion/Action)

Chris Hayashi, deputy director of Taxi Services, stated that the installation of paratransit debit card equipment in taxis will be completed by the end of June.  Credit card transactions for taxi service are available.  The rising cost of electronic fund transactions is a burden for taxi companies.  A meter or gate revision through the SFMTA Board of Directors would be slow.  Because of weight and measure issues, it is not functional to put the surcharge on meters at this time.  There are no laws that say surcharges for credit card use can not be passed onto customers.  Ms. Hayashi proposed a flat $.75 convenience fee.  Drivers would have the option to pay the fee or pass it on to their customers.  If approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors, the proposed $.75 convenience fee would take effect July 1.

Public Comment:

Mark Gruberg stated that people pay ATM fees.  He prefers credit card transactions because less cash in cabs means a reduced risk of drivers getting robbed.  Companies providing electronic fund transaction service get a better rate on surcharges than drivers.  He favored handling surcharges through the general meter and gate fee process.

Carl Macmurdo stated that surcharges are hurting companies.  Something needs to be done.

Athan Rebelos stated that if drivers are not consistent about collecting surcharges, customers might deduct the fees from tips.

Charles Rathbone stated that surcharges are becoming a serious burden.  It is not possible to implement the handling of fees through meter and gate transactions in a timely fashion.

Tara Housman stated that the fee should not be built into the meter.  She favored a $1 flat surcharge over a $.75 fee.  Customers pay ATM fees all the time.

CAC Taxi Committee Member, Ruth Wheeler stated she preferred a $1 flat fee.

Chairman Ferrario stated that recommendations forwarded from the May 24 Taxi Committee for adoption at the June 3 CAC would be too late for consideration at the June 1 SFMTA Board of Directors meeting.  He was pleased to see that steps are being taken to assist taxi companies. 

7. The Taxi Scrip Program versus the Paratransit Van Program - procedures, costs, advantages and disadvantages (Discussion/Action)

Kate Toran, manager, Paratransit, Accessible Services, stated that in 2002, the expense of the Paratransit Taxi Program outpaced its funding.  This program was previously known as the Script Program, but that name is no longer accurate because scrip payments were replaced with debit cards. The Paratransit Taxi program was frozen in January 2002, and all new ADA-eligible paratransit customers were registered in the SF Access service.  In cooperation with the Paratransit Coordination Council, some exceptions to the 2002 freeze have been made for newly eligible customers.  These exceptions include customers aged 80 and older, wheelchair users, dialysis patients and frequent users.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires use of paratransit van service, not taxis.  The shared van service (SF Access) operates within city limits.  Through its Paratransit Van Program, the SFMTA reimburses contractors approximately $26 for van trips for ambulatory customers and $47 for customers using wheelchairs.  An average paratransit taxi trip is $12.50.  Ms. Toran explained that, although the per trip cost for taxi service is less expensive than van service, the number of people applying for taxi service and the number of trips they take is much higher and therefore the overall cost to the SFMTA is greater.  Given the strict requirements of the ADA, such as the inability to limit trip demand, the SFMTA staff needs to manage costs. 

For the SF Access van service, paratransit customers pay a $2 fare, and trips are scheduled 24 hours in advance through the van provider, Mobility Plus Transportation.  There are multiple van providers in the SFMTA's group van service and only one in the SF Access service.  After a 12-month period, paratransit customers who have taken at least one round trip per month are offered taxi service.

Chairman Ferrario stated that the initial interview process for the Paratransit Van Program should specify applicant needs.  They are certified through ADA for paratransit, but their needs could be met in other ways, such as ramp or regular taxi vehicles.  Blind people are able to use taxis or van services.  Van service is costly; where as taxi service is popular and less expensive.   People may be willing to shift to taxis.  Chairman Ferrario asked Griffith Humphrey about his experience with on-time performance of the van service.  Mr. Humphrey stated that vans arrive on time for pick ups, but they are problematic for return trips. 

Annette Williams, senior manager, Accessible Services, stated that she would consider a shorter period to transition users from vans to the Paratransit Taxi Program.  Taxis are great, but they are not the traditional ADA means for transportation.  Some users need stair assistance, pre-scheduled arrangements or higher levels of service.

Griffith Humphrey stated that it may cost more to take a taxi than to use a van for paratransit customers, depending on the length of the trip.  He questioned the need for the pre-schedule requirement.  He stated that if a ride is available on the same day of the request, then it should be offered to the customer. 

Ms. Toran stated that the SFMTA received grant funding for 120 on-board computers for SF Access and Group Van service to track real time locations and other data.  Paratransit van drivers will get instant trip information.  For example, once the on-board computers are installed, there will be no more paper manifests, and cancelled trips will be deleted immediately from the on-board computer screen.  Chairman Ferrario asked about the control center.  Ms. Toran stated that the control center would be located at Mobility Plus.  Mr. Soto stated that Veolia Transportation and the SFMTA will have access to the live data. 

Public Comment:

Karen Kircher stated that callers are required to wait outside for a period of time for van service.  Return rides are erratic.  She often gets disconnected when inquiring about the status of vans late for return service.  Mark Soto, general manager, Veolia Transportation, stated that Paratransit Customer Satisfaction surveys received were positive.  There are occasional mix-ups in service.  No-show complaints are investigated.  Clients often abandon their pick-up points and call for taxis.  Ms. Kircher also stated that van drivers need training on operating their equipment. 

Carl Macmurdo stated that ramp taxi drivers are under pressure for operating expenses.  The rides are not lucrative.  The Taxi Advisory Council should study the situation.  He proposed a salaried employee arrangement, rather than an individual contractor with rented equipment.

Mark Gruberg stated that taxis seem cheaper and convenient and should be encouraged.  He suggested opening the Paratransit Taxi Program with a limit on a user's monthly allotment.  When users have exhausted their allotment, they can use paratransit vans for their remaining trips.

Tariq Mehmood stated that people wait hours for ramp taxis to arrive because cabs are not adequate to cover driver expenses and provide a profit.  Ramp taxis should be treated separately as a salaried arrangement.  Dispatchers are begging drivers to go pick up these calls.  This is a horrible situation. 

Chairman Ferrario asked about the consideration for a different medallion system for ramp taxis.  Ms. Hayashi stated that ramp taxis are not in the Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program because they have to be treated differently.  They get less money than the typical driver.  Ramp taxis will be the next medallion category to be considered.

Tara Housman stated that vans require advanced notice.  Van users often call taxis because their vans did not show up.  Mr. Soto replied that van contractors are not paid for trips that haven't been completed or were provided by taxis.  Contractors are penalized for no-shows.  When a client abandons the pick-up point, it is considered a no-show.  Passengers sign a manifesto for van trips.  The SFMTA tracks van trips.  The contractor summits an invoice to the SFMTA for payment. 

Charles Rathbone stated that there are van service failures.

8. Public Comment   

Mark Gruberg stated that the Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program has monopolized staff time.  Concerns such as long term leases, arrangements between companies and drivers and limousine service have been pushed to a back burner.

Tariq Mehmood stated that the Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program is not clear.  The list of companies contracted with the SFMTA to finance medallion loans and the rules should be published.  This is being carried out with no rules or regulations.  He stated that the CAC Taxi Committee meetings should be posted at the airport and at every taxi company.  People from the Taxi Industry should serve on the CAC’s Taxi Committee.  This committee is making rules that make no sense. 

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

Next regular meeting:  Monday, August 23, 2010, at 4:30 p.m.
1 South Van Ness Avenue, 3rd Floor, Conference Room 3074

10. Adjournment:  The meeting was adjourned at 6:21 p.m.

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

Accessible meeting policy – One South Van Ness Avenue

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