Hitching a Ride
Reader welcomes the competition: If this article underscores anything (well done, by the way), it's that the SFMTA is willing to believe a lot of conspiracies, but it is not willing to concede the basic fact that there have historically been times when it was near impossible to get a cab in San Francisco ["Chopped Livery," Rachel Swan, feature, 3/27]. I don't take town cars because I want to — I take town cars when it becomes uncertain that a cab will ever pick me up. Congrats to the start-ups who recognized a business opportunity among thousands of underserved consumers.
Writer's article hails praise from cabbie: Kudos to Rachel Swan for her article on the cab industry and the proliferation of "faux cabs" (which indeed they are). I have been driving a taxi in San Francisco for 28 years and usually find myself cringing at the misconceptions I find in the press about my job and the industry at large. Swan not only got all the facts right, but she wove them into a narrative that informed even a veteran like myself. Perhaps the central problem is that the demand for cabs varies wildly in San Francisco and always has, whether talking about the time of the day, the day of the week, the time of the year, or the part of the city. Christiane Hayashi of the SFMTA addressed some of this with the "S" medallions, the "peak time" medallions, which put more cabs on the street on Friday and Saturday when they are needed. Much of the rest of the week there are actually too many cabs driving around empty because Californians maintain their own cars.
SFMTA should be on the consumer's side: I live and work in San Francisco, and the SFMTA should be working for me, not for the drivers or cab companies. This is a private industry; if a cab driver can't find fares, he'll find his own way out of the industry. What the regulator should focus on is protecting the public: universal service to/from all areas of the city, accepting credit cards, adequate coverage at all hours of the day, and making sure there is financial responsibility in place in case of accidents. Nothing else matters. I have spent too much time on hold with Yellow Cab only to have the line go dead, and too much time waiting for a dispatched cab that never arrived. Yes, the rules ought to apply to all service providers equally, and no one should be able to compete by unfairly dodging regulation — as long as those regulations are designed for the benefit of consumers.
We should rethink vigilance: The Isaac Bluxome, Jr. section of your article "Roads to Hell" [Joe Eskenazi, Sucka Free City, 3/27] does a disservice to history in general and to the Vigilance Committees in particular. At the time the committees were formed, the government of San Francisco was the most corrupt imaginable, including the police and judiciary. It may be of particular interest to you that journalists who spoke out against them were murdered, as in the case of James King, editor of the San Francisco Bulletin, by James P. Casey, the convicted criminal who controlled much of both state and local government, and who was tried and hung by the 1856 committee. The Vigilance Committees should be seen less as random bands of vigilantes and more as an "Occupy" movement.
Blog Comments of the Week
A burrito causes a lot of neighborhood upset: Let the customers in the area decide what places they wish to patronize ["Chipotle Writes Petition to Take Over Castro Spot, San Franciscans Create Counter-Petition," Molly Gore, SFoodie, 3/21]. I have rarely gone to a Chipotle, but if people want it at that location, they will eat there; if not, it will close. The San Francisco Planning Commission should stick to major development policy matters, re-zonings, etc. and it should not be involved with micro-managed building usage. (Yes, people can have a "local" vegan hut, but no they cannot have a franchise that makes organic-ingredient burritos? Whatever!) It really is a governmental overreach. Butt out, and let the local market decide.
In "Chopped Livery" [Feature, 3/27] we said that Uber adds a 20 percent surcharge to fares, but it actually charges drivers 10 percent and adds an adjustable gratuity.