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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Local Cabbies Worry Taxis Will Become San Francisco's Next Endangered Species

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 4:40 PM

  • Coburn Palmer

It was an unusual sight outside City Hall today -- empty cabs, and lots of them! 

If you've visited San Francisco for even a few hours on a Saturday night, then you already know how irksome it is to track down a taxi. Well, driving a taxi is no walk in the park, either. Cabbies gathered today outside City Hall to honk away their frustrations about the most controversial issue plaguing that community: taxi medallions.

The drivers' complaints specifically target the SFMTA's policy of selling permits, also known as medallions, for $300,000, on top of charging drivers to process credit cards from fares. In addition, the SFMTA is ignoring the recommendations of the Taxi Advisory Council, drivers claim.

"The SFMTA has shown a total disregard for drivers," said event organizer Mark Gruberg. "Their sole interest is money."

Every one of those cabs you see driving around San Francisco must have a permit to operate in the city. However, not all taxi drivers who own a medallion operate a cab. Often, medallion owners rent them out to other drivers to make some much-needed cash. Cabbies commonly think of those medallions as their "retirement plans" -- the only ones they get.

Having these medallions also allows cabbies to bypass what they call "the gate," or the $150 they would otherwise have to shell out to rent a medallion daily, according to Iza Pardinas, a local cab driver.

Until August, cabbies could get medallions by putting their name on a wait-list, but that could mean they could wind up waiting for years before actually getting one. Medallions became all that much more unobtainable as of late after the SFMTA decided that instead it would sell medallions for $300,000, making it cost-prohibitive for taxi drivers. 

"Without the medallions the [taxi driver] is condemned to a dead-end job," said Gruberg. "The medallion was really the guys only way up."

Tara Housman, who recently resigned from the Taxi Advisory Council when, she says, she realized the Board of Supervisors wasn't listening to her committee and its recommendations for taxi drivers in San Francisco, was also at the rally today to air her complaints. 

"The report was left languishing on the desk of someone in the SFMTA hierarchy," said Housman. "I understand there's a need for money, but they're squeezing the drivers."

Making it even harder for cabbies to secure medallions most likely means there will be fewer taxis out there to hail -- and that probably won't bode well for tourism.Now, the cab drivers are calling on city supervisors to help them.

We put in a call to the SFMTA, but nobody over there gave us a call back.

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Coburn Palmer


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