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SFMTA Taxi Services

Taxi Advisory Council


Monday, April 23, 2012

2nd Floor Atrium Conference Room

One South Van Ness Avenue


Present: Ruach Graffis; John Han; Dan Hinds; Tara Housman; Richard Hybels; Barry Korengold; Timothy Lapp; John Lazar; Tone Lee; William Mounsey; Athan Rebelos; Chris Sweis

ABSENT: David Khan; Carl Macmurdo

STAFF IN ATTENDANCE: Christiane Hayashi, Taxi Services

1. Call to Order: Chris Sweis called the meeting to order at 1:09 p.m.

2. Roll Call – The Roll Call showed a quorum was present.

3. Announcement of prohibition of sound producing devices during the meeting.

4. Approval of Minutes: March 23, 2012

Public Comment. None.

Ms. Graffis motioned to approve seconded by Ms. Housman.

Minutes are approved.  

5. Public Comment:

Mr. Newsham, Green Cab expressed that the morale is so bad at the cab industry; he is asking the council to introduce a resolution/motion that states that the members of the TAC, after 3 years under the authority of SFMTA, have no confidence in and great displeasure with leadership and staff of SFMTA in particular: the recent MTA proposal to prohibit cab drivers from being eligible to hold 1/3 of the city’s medallion. He said that MTA’s proposal is unacceptable.

Mr. Kruger said that he has similar comments like Brad. Would like to point out that the council has voted on recommendations for a medallion taxi program; the essential task of this body. For various reasons, we came up with a mix bag of disjoined recommendations that didn’t really stick together. The staff responded with a proposal that was irrelevant. Mr. Kruger urged the council to strongly put this in the agenda in the terms on how it was presented and see if this specific proposal is supported.

Mr. Kim with Desoto comments on brokers that runs the medallions in San Francisco and concerned that this is becoming a crisis. ¼ to 1/3 of medallions are not run by the medallion holders and not run by a cab company and these people are exploiting and overcharging drivers; even putting non-insured vehicle on the road. He feels that these are key issues of concern and nothing has been done. He’s asking that these be put in the rules definitively that a medallion has to purchase vehicle and get the driver or a cab company does.

Mr. Rathbone with Luxor said (inaudible) great sense of opportunity and hope…. Medallion sales program….

Mr. Magdi Kamel with Arrow Cab said that he’s gathered signatures from 500 cab drivers who works SF Airport. He said they’re having a major problem in the city with the dispatch system; they switched the hold to 40 minutes to 30 minutes; sometimes 45 minutes. They’re banning cab out of the airport without reason or cause and treating cab drivers without respect; they are planning to go on strike in 2 weeks. He would like staff to help out with this company.

Mr. Alhimsi comments on Airport GTU. He said that they take the side of the dispatcher even if it’s wrong. He said that they are not fair and should treat the driver’s right.

Mr. Malik said under the leadership of Christiane Hayashi and Michael Harris, the staff is doing a wonderful job despite the difference in opinion. He asks what the definition of broker. He said that people wanted to stop SFMTA to lease the cab company, the medallion sales should bring everything on the table.

Public comment closed.

6. Report of the Council Liaison (Discussion only)

Mr. Korengold comments on Airport rules are not fair to the drivers and should revisit their regulations; they lose customers by going to the International Terminal and bypass a lot of passengers waiting in the lower level. Dismayed with the prevelance of Uber and town cars. Concerned with the value of the medallion diminishing due to change in demand.

William Mounsey would like to introduce Matt Greenberg. Agrees the said proposal. Transcribe verbatim.

“After 3+ years under the authority of SFMTA, we the members of the Taxi Advisory Council, have no confidence in and strong displeasure with the management and staff of the SFMTA to future user to particular user. …… recent MTA proposal, future of the cab industry (inaudible).

Mr. Sweis suggested that this should be added as another agenda item.

Mr. Lapp re-iterates Mr. Kim’s statement on how the cab industry trend is turning and will be potential destruction of the cab companies and will be a detriment to customers at large and the city. For example, Yellow and Desoto just participated in a paratransit plan in case of an emergency or a major earthquake; there’s no way you’re able to mobilize in a coordinate fashion to help evacuate people in certain areas to transport to a safer area. No way that this could be done in a coordinated manner without having the major cab companies involved. This is one in many ways that the city will be adversely impacted if they continue to do what they’re doing. Without enforcement, brokers and medallion holders gets more money by participating in illegal procedure that’s detrimental to the city and county as a whole. Wish that this gets taken seriously.

Richard Hybels said that he lines himself with Brad’s comments. Voting 14/0 with MTA not taking more money after taking $20 million and do not put before the board that they’re taking more money. 2nd, he wish that the SFMTA sends out a memo to the companies that there’s gate control in every cab no matter who’s running it. Wants to see a rule that no shift can charge anymore than the parent company charges in a particular shift. Driver’s don’t understand that there’s gate control in every cab.

Ms. Graffis said all these things are connected: New technology like UBER, Gnat cab, illegal limos. SFMTA finds it very difficult to address these problems but they have control and standards for the cabs. Instead of setting standards for the cabs, they are making it absolutely a guarantee that people have an interest in their future are not going to go into this industry. They are going to an industry that has more money, no standards and passengers will not be well served and may be in some danger. Important that this council come forward and tell the MTA, this will create a monster. Need to make sure that this industry has got some advantages for people to stay in the industry; MTA cannot be taking money out of this. She said that this money is meant to be for their health, welfare and retirement of the cab drivers. She would like to put this in the agenda. She asked that we have this motion at this meeting.

Mr. Sweis said this was discussed it last week and said that depends on how the meeting goes.

Mr. Lee sees SFMTA positively – 75% supportive. He feels that MTA is doing the job. He said that in the event that Taxi Services gets transferred to another department will just be additional cost to the drivers and may also not be happy on how Taxi Services gets managed. He said the industry’s money should be kept on the industry but should leave some money to the MTA for management, for revenue, for running the business.

Public comment.

Robert Vicha from dispatch said Ms. Hayashi’s proposal made a lot of sense but don’t think MTA should get a big cut. Corporate medallions made some sense in getting people picked up but don’t think that the big cut goes to MTA.

Brad Newsham 20 million dollars, or 15 million dollars or 12 million dollars does not make sense that it’s taken from the industry is the guiding principle for a regulatory agency. He sees that every single plan is run through this filter that gets money from the industry.

Mark (?) comments on the 14/0 vote that says no money should be taken from the industry for use of MTA purposes. In the other hand, situation is where certain cab company profits and benefit from a regulatory agency that would entail a huge amount of money coming out of the industry. He sees this pure hypocrisy, total self-interest, greed, and cannot be justified.

Mr. Malik said that medallion owner just makes money out of the medallion but medallion is actually owned by the city. He feels that the city cannot take the money. He said that the city should lease it to cab driver in the waiting list; anything outside the list is not right and not fair.

Mr. Rathbone said TAC makes recommendation to the MTA board and its’ part of the game that MTA staff make their own recommendation. He said it’s a poor idea for this council, just as it’s presenting its’ own proposal to have a hostile position against the MTA. Worked for 3 years, prepared a package, made recommendations including no money to the MTA on medallion sales; should go ahead and present that without turning around.

Mr. Magdli Kamlin said the MTA city of San Francisco should take care of the 1500 limos roaming the city and getting business from the cab driver and should be given a citation. He said there’s a limo wherever he goes, hotel, etc. He said the limo is screwing the industry and ½ of them are illegal. He feels that the limo is taking business from the cab drivers and if this is not taken care of, most of them are going to do the same.

Mr. Kim agrees with Mr. Kamlin regarding the limo issue. He said that the limos are acting like taxicabs and it’s the most that he has seen in the 12-13 years he’s been with the industry including illegal badicabs. He said that we need sweeping reform to go after the limos. He feels that this is a loophole in the system since they are using the same street as the taxicabs and are not really required to get a licensing. He pointed out that other cities makes a lot of revenue in citing the limos. MTA needs to be aware of this and should have control of this. He’s also concerned of some possible illegal activity that may happen. He said it is a serious problem and said that State laws should in place addressing this issue. He discussed medallion sales and leasing and asked about the standards and rules for the cab companies and drivers.


7. Report of the Council Liaison (Discussion only)

a. Staff Update. Chris Hayashi updated on the following:

· Long Term Medallion Reform Proposal

· Taxi consultant hired: Dan Hara from Canada

· Broker issues: Illegal brokers, regulatory changes

· SFO issues: Contractor, attitude

· Enforcement:

o Limos busted are A-card holders

o Police Dept. will tow repeat offenders

o Side car, Tech & Go, Homobile

o Police Dept. will be issuing $5,000 citation

o Letter about gate fees

b. Regulatory Reform Update

c. Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program Update. Michael Harris updated.

· List provided

· Cited enforcement issues

· A-card limo drivers

· Gate control

· Complaint: TAC member that violates the rule and does not take credit card.

Chris Sweis asked Chris Hayashi if there’s penalty the permit holders will be liable for if their drivers are found to be overcharged for gates.

Chris Hayashi stated the transportation code related to this. Section 1120 – Grounds for Medallion Revocation – misdemeanor, Section 7.3.10B – Levee Administration Fee and Service Charge & 1122C - Gate limits.

Mr. Lapp suggests if a certified letter can be send out to all medallion holders who are affiliates that if they use a broker and caught that they risk revocation of permit or fines may be enforced.

Mr. Han states facts about long-term lease cabs that overcharge: They pay 110 (M-F or S), Sundays, they pay 150 for all day. Mr. Han said that drivers prefer being an LTL over going to a cab company. He said that cab drivers do not want to declare complaint because of fear of retaliation and the cab drivers do not have the power. Asked how these problems are resolved.

Chris Hayashi explained due process. She said one thing that can be done is for the taxi company that believes on enforcement to file the complaint about the driver.

Mr. Hybels asked Michael about the 54 medallions that went to the list vs. 235 that were sold and only 1 has gone on list since the last report.

Mr. Harris clarifies and explains his report.

Mr. Lazar is requesting the list of all medallions sold.

Mr. Harris said he will be working on it.

Mr. Lazar on enforcement issues– he said that his company’s affiliate program has a problem with shift change on the property and to see if this people are stationary and stable to perform their duties as a cab driver. He said it’s challenging to get insurance on this. He said he doesn’t even have OSHA and there are no control factors in place. Insurance premiums have doubled and he sees this problem getting bigger.

Ms. Hayashi asked if he wants the regulation for shift change policy be enforced. She asked what the logistical issues will be created on the affiliate lease companies that change shift on the property.

Mr. Lazar said not much at all. He said his goal is to run his operation correctly and safer. Workers comp gets abused and it makes it difficult to purchase it. Premium in this insurance has doubled the last 10 years. He said that if they don’t have a regulatory body behind them and enforce the facts, they will just tell them to “screw-off”. He has lost 47 medallions trying to enforce this and he also wonders if every cab in the city has worker’s comp.

Mr. Korengold said he saw a sign at around Stow Lake advertising Side Car. He said that SFMTA definitely need to do enforcement on this issue. They are taking over and cabs have difficulties getting passengers. He also said he was not the person who puts a hat over his meter and does not take credit cards.

Ms. Graffis – said she has 3 comments. No disparity with staff but wants to know what good it does to revoke an A card on somebody who’s driving illegally. She also heard of a company charging hybrid rates on non-hybrid spares. She asked if cab changes are happening off the cab lots and disclosed these locations where she witnessed these activities happening: Taylor behind Hilton, on Mason by Nikko, at 6th and Harrison and the alleyway at Clara, Townsend between 7th and 4th.

Ms. Hayashi explained it’s because of the $5,000 penalty and if caught again, the A-card is in jeopardy. Ms. Hayashi said that a gate fee audit was just done and the ones that are non-compliance will be receiving a notification from Taxi Services.

Mr. Mounsey said the last couple of weeks have been bad with the limos; there have been just as much limos on the street as taxicabs. If no enforcement has been done, everybody knows that and they won’t stop doing it. He feels that we have be more aggressive and let the guys know you’re in trouble to make it stop now. He feels that every taxi law is ignored and none of them are enforced. He said something has to be done more aggressively to let people know.

Ms. Hayashi clarified that we are in the process of broker investigation and are in contact with the individual medallion holders. Regarding the guy who got cited 3 or 4 times, this is why we are entering into an agreement with the Tax Collector’s Office so we can get money back from people.

Mr. Hinds would like the history of how the proposal, the 500 Medallions to be leased to companies came to be recommended to the SFMTA board.

Ms. Hayashi said that she would rather undertake that response at the continuing outreach in May rather than to try to answer the question at the present time.

Mr. Hinds said how this came about is this TAC presumably supposed to be overseeing issues related to the Taxi Industry. This is a significant and dramatic change for the TAC, not even being aware of it until the proposal actually was formulated as a recommendation to the SFMTA board. One of the things we’re going to be considering is the idea of the continuation of TAC. If this recommendation can be formulated by some group of people, this council can be bypassed. My experiences, it’s reflective of where we stand. Would like to know what happened.

Ms. Hayashi said she has shared it with the TAC or the outreach that there were particular positions, staff recommendations that are consistent with the staff recommendations. There was one TAC recommendation that is very controversial which is that the SFMTA should not realize any profit from the Taxi Industry. Since this council is “Advisory”, its’ information is an important part that is considered by the board but doesn’t mean that what the TAC says is what’s going to happen.

Mr. Hinds said he does understand the process where the staff disagrees with the recommendation. What seems to be different is this is something that hasn’t been addressed by the TAC.

Ms. Hayashi explains that despite the TAC’s report have a lot of imperfections, the concepts were consistent. There may be a few items that may have been dismissed but it will later be addressed through community outreach and discussion. She is anticipating mid-May before we finalize the recommendation for the board. There’s going to be more work done in that direction including circulating this to the political circle so they are aware.

Mr. Lee discussed the credit card fee’s cost to the drivers which is an income loss to drivers. He suggested that SFMTA should post a sign that credit card fee should have a $10 minimum. He compares New York’s laws of $15 minimum. Sometimes he has to demand cash since there is no power for the credit card machine, sometime runs out of paper. He suggests that we should vote on it and make it a law to have a $10 minimum of credit card charges. He said 80% of the drivers are refusing the credit card and he doesn’t like it.

Ms. Housman responded to Tone Lee’s issues. Regarding the long-term lease issue, she understands it that cabs must change shifts on company property; don’t understand what the problem is with getting a LT lessee, getting their subleases to come in.

Mr. Rebelos has questions about State and federal laws and discussed it.

Chris Hayashi clarifies different laws in the state in different factions to protect independent contractors.

Mr. Lapp said single operator medallion that you proposed that will make enforcement extremely difficult, also the reason why we have an influx of limos than other services during peak-time, would it be possible to you not having fixed hours that actually correspond to the greatest period of demand that the single operator driver have to operate. What is going to best serve the city during the highest period of demand. Also, have corresponding positive effect on enforcing the hours.

Chris Hayashi said she’s not worried about enforcing the hours. Her feeling is that they are going to self-regulate to the most profitable time.

Mr. Han follows up on the issue of driver’s who does not want to go on the record because of fear of retaliation. Do you recognize this as a problem that has to be addressed.

Ms. Hayashi clarifies the statement: How do we make people willing to come forward with information. The only idea she has is for certain companies to say that they welcome complaints.

Mr. Han asked if the SFMTA recognizing the issue regarding the confusion between independent contractor and employees. He cited some worker’s comp issues. He asked if we are starting to go towards that direction so it get looked at and start having policies to deal with this issue.

Ms. Hayashi agrees. She said that she has made recommendations to the state legislative committee regarding changing the state language regarding worker’s compensation to require it for taxi drivers regardless whether they’re considered independent contractor or employees.

Public Comment

Mr. Gruber (inaudible) Issues and complaints, independent and not working for the MTA; a regulatory apparatus, voice to hear the driver to work to resolve issues. Maybe this person already exist (Michael Harris) need to be formalized, publicized a lot more has to be done around it for it to be considered a credible alternative.

Mr. Gruber also addressed the Limo issue, we point out that it’s a funding problem. He said that there’s so much money available to do it, the fees that we pay MTA. $20m are collected from the industry on the medallion sales and how much money is used to solve the problems on this service area to deal with illegal vehicles. Comes back to the use of taxi revenues.

Robert (?) on the limo, said that it’s a funding problem that this limo a supply problem.

Mr. Kim comments, economic is driving this industry. Supply of taxis is short that lead to the exploitation of the limos. He suggested that the letter to medallion holders, we really need to define things, how gas and gates needs to be run, proof and documentation on what an operator is. He also thinks that not every person has the right to be a taxi driver. Supports the driver’s bill of rights but not every person has to be a taxi driver.

Mr. Rathbone comments that driver’s advocates should focus on the contract. He supports the contract. He is supportive on the broker investigation and enforcement should continue. Regarding the change of shift issue, enforcement is the responsibility of the company and the medallion holder and the driver. Generally, the MTA staff is doing the correct thing to get compliance.

Naim Malik comments on worker’s comp. He said the credit card minimum charge should be $15 and not $10. The shift change on the company and a lot of drivers don’t want to go because every time they go they have to see the gas and the cashier and the dispatcher. He said the law should be forced to the company since there is a bribery issue.

Public comment closed.

8.  TAC discussion of the final presentation for the board (Discussion and Action)

Future of the Taxi Advisory Council

Mr. Sweis advised to focus on the future of the TAC so we do not reopen things

that are already been closed.

Mr. Han prefers town hall meetings since it’s easier to attend and more people can participate. Maybe 2 days with the morning and night session to accommodate driver schedules.

Mr. Mounsey believes that there should be something, maybe a liaison. Maybe do it every 2 weeks the way that we’ve been doing it. A lot have been discussed and this should stay the way it is.

Mr. Sweis said that in the event that the council should continue, what should be changed. Maybe format, maybe no. of members.

Mr. Korengold said to maybe cut it down to once a month after the medallion pilot program is over. He likes having the body because it’s a way that owner and driver can sit down on the table. He thinks there should also be at least one town hall monthly as Mr. Han said.

Mr. Lapp is ambivalent on continuation of the TAC. He said that it may be good to have a regular form and once a month is sufficient where all the participants of the industry together could meet and have some input. It’s useful to have Q&A so issues are so narrow and make input.

Mr. Hybels said carry on.

Ms. Housman agrees with Mr. Hybels and feels that it’s important that there’s a body that like a liaison to keep everyone informed. She feels that MTA can play innocent on issues without an active body like this and maybe do it every 3 weeks or twice a month. She said the town hall is very useful.

Ms. Graffis agrees with Ms. Housman except for her version of 3 weeks. She agrees with 1 town hall meeting and 1 TAC meeting monthly. Would like to make a motion, the only thing that got voted unanimously is the money stays in this industry.


Public comment

Mr. Rebelos feels that town hall is more effective and productive and the problem on the advisory council is it’s too big. He said maybe a 4-5 person council and maybe give it more weight rather than being an advisory council.

Mr. Sweis said that the way this council is handled by the MTA is basically giving it no “balls”. They (TAC) don’t report to the board on a regular basis, none of their recommendations gets passed; it gets passed around and eventually gets dismissed. If this council is going to continue, the one purpose this council can serve effectively is to help the MTA quiet the noise. It will be worth its weight if the fact gets to the board. He thinks the number is too big, 15 is huge and makes it an ineffective meeting. Members of the council need some education on how to conduct these meetings. Training the council properly, cutting the number of members, giving it regular meetings in front of board directors, and make this the only body that the MTA listen to, will make it effective. Aside from that, it’s a waste of everybody’s time.

Mr. Rebelos said if it will continue, he thinks somebody from staff should be part of the council and it should be 4-5 members max. It can easily represent the different sectors of the industry and the city’s interest. He said that this is not a properly organized body and the most dysfunctional meeting. If not possible to change it, he prefers to just go to town hall meetings.

Mr. Han asked Mr. Sweis what would be your recommended make-up of the reduced size council.

Chris Sweis said 10 members. 2 members each from segments that are represented.

Ms. Graffis comments on Mr. Rebelos’ statement. That it is necessary to hear different points of view.

Mr. Rebelos explains. He says that this council goes nowhere and the council has no effect on the MTA board.

Ms. Housman said that this council gets a little respect. She said that this council was not educated or sent to a class so our meetings are less than efficient. She feels that there is a reason to continue this. She agrees with cutting back on the number of people or getting them to classes for new council or new commission members and she’s open to the resolution.

Mr. Mounsey said the first rules that have to be adopted - one person speaks.

Mr. Korengold – clarifies that there was an orientation in the website and should do it on the new members. He likes that council since this is the only body cab drivers have that they’re forced to sit in an organized way to comply with Robert’s Rules and he thinks it’s gotten better. He agrees that it’s a huge council but it is necessary to keep the numbers given the diversity of the cab industry. He said the council should be an odd number.

Mr. Lapp said that the council was formed due to the pilot program. Going forward it needs to be “segmentize” in representation. He agrees with the Town Hall meetings.

Mr. Han asks about compensation for being in the council. Benefits?

Mr. Hinds said problem is this council doesn’t have a direct method of communicating. He would like to see a set of recommendations to give input when you come to the council and reduce the size of the council. He would like to see the recommendations the next meeting.

Mr. Lee – he said that there’re a lot of types of drivers and needs to be represented so 15 people are not much and would like this body to continue. If we want this industry to be effective, we need to have one voice, one opinion. He said the government is there because of the regulation and the business is not privatized. This is a body that allows you to sit together to protect our interest. He said that we have to give the government some money.

Mr. Rebelos thinks that already has the means to communicate their thoughts, their concerns just by going to MTA board. He said this room feels like the crying room at the church; don’t want to deal with that. He said the reason for the streamline council is for it to be a decision making body; MTA board would look to the council for direction but a lot of the board don’t really understand the cab industry. They need an informed body that they can look at and say, these are the experts of the industry and they can tell us anything they need to know and we can depend on them and they represent certain segments of the industry appropriately. Maybe we can elect the council but the people in this room will be concerned to talk to the right people and lobby on who’s going to be in the council. He thinks it will be more effective if formed properly.

Mr. Han said not everybody has the same access to the MTA board. He suggested that the members votes on the future of the TAC council. He said that he would like the TAC be a part of the exclusive taxi agenda in June to some degree. He would like TAC to continue in some form or fashion.

Mr. Sweis presents a motion to vote on the continuation of the TAC in some kind of form.

Ms. Housman resolve to continue council.

Mr. Mounsey 2nd the motion.

Public comment.

(Unknown) said it’s a necessary and useful bridge between the industry and MTA to continue.

Mark looking to the future agrees with Chris Sweis’ remarks. There should be regular reports to the MTA. He said there needs to be a strategic and tactical and proactive approach to issues. Concentrate on things where the industry can speak with a single voice. Be proactive in generating and formulating policies that has to be taken to the MTA board. Delicate balance as to the composition on the body and he feels the composition is heavily weighted.

Mr. Malik said he learned a lot. He said meeting once a month is enough. He said the members should be elected by SF drivers and medallion holders, cab companies since it’s making decisions for our future and our families future.

Richard wants to commend everybody for the amount of energy and seriousness shown. He likes the mix of the council meeting and town hall meetings.

Public comment closed.

Ms. Housman resolve the Taxi Advisory Council continue in some form or fashion.

The council voted on the continuation of the Taxi Advisory Council.

Ayes: Ruach Graffis; John Han; Dan Hinds; Tara Housman; Barry Korengold; Timothy Lapp; Tone Lee; William Mounsey; Athan Rebelos; Chris Sweis

Nays: 0

 10 in Favor, 0 opposed


Meeting adjourned at 4:12pm.

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