More unregulated cabs on the street


So the state regulators have decided that it's just fine for companies that pretend not to be taxi operators to operate taxis in San Francisco. That means Lyft and Uber can keep picking up passengers, charging them a "recommended donation" and avoiding the regulations that San Francisco wisely put in place to protect the public.

But the fact that the state thinks this is just fine and dandy, for now anyway, doesn't mean San Francisco has to do the same. This city has the right to put rules in place for people conveying passengers within its 49 square miles -- and those rules ought to apply to Lyft and Uber and Sidecar, too.

Cabs have to carry medallions, or permits. There are a limited number, and they can't be owned by corporations, only by active cab drivers. You can buy one now -- for about $200,000 -- or you can get in line and wait, for about 15 years. If the city wants more cabs on the streets and likes the Lyft model, fine: The Municipal Transportation Agency can issue more permits, and if the venture capitalists backing Lyft want to pay for them, they can do so.

I'm not against Lyft or anyone else who has a good idea to serve the public in a way that isn't being offered now, and I agree that this is the kick in the pants a slow-moving industry needs to develop (fairly simple) apps that allow people to figure out where the nearest cab is and when it's coming.

But right now, we have an unregulated industry operating in competition with a heavily regulated industry, and it's not fair. The City Attorney's Office ought to look into this; the supervisors ought to investigate and force the newcomers to follow the rules. Sure: Lyft. But not this way.


long as the city insists on restricted the number of medallions and available cabs, such that hailing a cab in SF is orders of magnitude more difficult than in similarly congested NYC.

I sometimes informally give people rides for cash and I'm as safe or safer than licensed cabs, plus I actually speak English.

Fix the real underlying problem and these alternatives would not be needed anyway.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 10:26 am

I'm a SF cab driver. What is your name and drivers license number? I'd like to turn you in if your pulling people off the street for cash. A 5000.00 dollar fine for that offense. And great stereotype, since I do speak English.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 7:23 am

"I'd like to turn you in if your pulling people off the street for cash. A 5000.00 dollar fine for that offense."

Aww... a relic of a collapsing monopoly wants to sic the law on you.

Isn't that sweet...

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 7:56 am

I drive u long time!!!!!!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 10:16 am

The medallion system is broken. The taxi industry in this city is broken. There is nothing protecting anyone the way things work now except shitty taxi drivers and their mafia-like stranglehold on our transportation.

Lyft and Uber are doing good things.

Posted by Parvo on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 11:17 am

"Cabs have to carry medallions, or permits. There are a limited number, and they can't be owned by corporations, only by active cab drivers. You can buy one now -- for about $200,000 -- or you can get in line and wait, for about 15 years."

There is no government bureaucracy so inefficient and ossified that Tim won't support it.

If you really want people to get along without personal automobiles, you need to have cheap alternatives. Cheaper taxis make it a lot easier to get around without a car - but Tim would rather support a system where you have to pay an outrageous 200K for a medallion to transport people.


Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 11:38 am

You can pay $200,000 *OR* wait fifteen years.

Medallions can be active 24/7, so if a purchaser elected to pay the amount rather than wait, the price could be amortized over those fifteen years thusly:

200000 / (15 * 365) = 36.

Works out to thirty-six dollars a day; or twelve dollars per shift; or a buck and a half per hour.

Hardly worth getting "outraged" over unless you are really desperate for it.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

just lately, there had been people on the list for decades who had been waiting, the rules were changed just in time to screw them so that the city could make some money.

The city changed the rules screwing people who scrape by so that they could keep paying our over class city workers. Lowering benefits or adding health costs to our over class of city workers elicits howls from the progressives. When the rules change is done to people actually just getting by, Lillipublican sides with the government.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

the market wouldn't demand the services of Lyft, Uber etc... The state made a wise decision - look at the reports filed by angry riders with the taxi commission if you want to see some of the horrors to which people have been subjected by taxi drivers including sexual and physical abuse.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

Should have been the title.

The dinosaur-like, god awful cab service we had before these folks came along was a joke. Imagine that, you call for a taxi- that don't even tell you if they're coming, they have credit card machines and tell you they don't work (21st century anyone?)...AND to top it all off they provide incredibly rude service.

But the author, a breathless foe of the "1%" - thinks it sounds about right to pay $200k to drive a cab.

Everything government touches turns to crap - and City cabs are a case in point.

I am sure they will do their level best to ruin Uber and Lyft.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

Its people like you who should have looked, and found, that there are apps EXACTLY the same to hail a nearby taxi. Flywheel, Uber X, Taxi Magic. People these days, man. Oh, and we don't have to fist each other.. I mean fist bump. :)

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 8:22 am

I realize SFBG probably can't afford fact checkers, but my God, this post is riddled with errors.

Uber has a completely different business model than Lyft or Sidecar. Uber charges a fee based on time of day, distance and travel time. There is no "suggested donation." Further, all the drivers accessed through the Uber app are licensed drivers in licensed vehicles.

Uber has developed technology that matches available licensed drivers (including taxes, black sedans, and black SUVs) to customers. Unlike SF's incumbent taxi companies, customers can see in real time exactly when their car will arrive, who their driver is, and their drivers rating. Drivers see similar information regarding the prospective passenger.

The drivers pay Uber a small percentage of the fare. In return, they generate additional income during down times (e.g., in between shifts and previously scheduled reservations). Note that these drivers/vehicles are ALREADY licensed and insured. They are not citizen volunteers, nor are they employees of Uber.

Uber is successful because it offers something our regulated, broken system doesn't -- reliable transportation to customers, and new customers for drivers.

Not sure why Tim doesn't like something that benefits customers and for drivers, but the people have voted with their feet and their wallets.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 9:12 am

Still don't know whether the motorcyclist lived:

Posted by Carl Russo on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

Still don't know whether this motorcyclist lived:

Posted by Carl Russo on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

The cab companies have only themselves to blame. For years it has been impossible to simply call for a cab and be assured it will come or get any answer from a cab company about when and if a cab will come.

That said, one should not have to have smart phones and apps (and pay $70 + a month) to get a cab in this city. Cab companies should have a central dispatch and tell passengers when a cab will be there. Cabs are licensed to serve San Franciscans. What we have now are cabs that rarely go to the neighborhoods to pick up fares but who wait at hotels for the airport fare. San Franciscans end up being chumps here.

Posted by Guest Pontifikate on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

I understand your favoritism towards cab drivers, you made that a point years ago. But there is a real issue with cab drivers and cab companies in San Francisco that even the SFMTA will not address. Its not just about getting a cab or not, its the whole broken system of the industry. Changes have been made over the years that are directed at the cab drivers to take more money out of their pocket. If the cab industry would move more in the direction of the opponents model of having one driver per car that is a taxi (single operator, not sharing with other drivers), cut out the greedy cab companies, have a rating system for the cab drivers so the SFMTA could do their job more efficiently in reprimanding cab drivers who are doing a poor job. The industry would be more effective. They could sell those permits for 50K each and make a lot more money than charging 300k for a license that has no responsibility for the passenger or gates and gas drivers, and only benefits the medallion owner, cab companies, and city of San Francisco.

Face it City officials, cab companies and medallion owners are not responsible people. They were able to get the city of San Francisco to agree not to replace air bags in taxis when in a prior accident, and not even have to insure the driver behind the wheel anymore. Just to carry liability insurance. Tim I appreciate your stance but these other companies (Sidecar, Lyft, and Uber and anyone else who might enter the market) are better suited driving and carrying passengers around the city than a San Francisco Taxi Cab! The cab industry is obvious about not caring about the passengers or the cab drivers.

Posted by Dean Clark on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

There were a few cab drivers with tech background and business experiences proposed a system anyone with a phone can call and book a cab even a landline and use the city's 311 system. The proposal was killed by the back door deals at the city hall as the cab companies foreseen their future that they will be out of business if the program is launched. The city has enough taxis to cover the demand but lack the system to utilize what is already there and the drivers did their own study how can they improve the reliability of the taxi services with public convenience.

The proposal includes kiosks at public places like hospitals, museums and many others including taxi zone with drive-in island as in Asia that people just walk to the cab stand instead of flagging a cab on the streets that cause traffic hazard and safety. The driver whom was so active in getting the system into action was retaliated by can companies and had to cope with the hardships.
The failure of taxi industry include the SFMTA and the Mayor since the directors are appointees and not elected by public; the city's lack of regulations, making can industry as cash cows to pay the Muni's employees' benefits and pensions. The cab drivers get no benefit what so ever and cannot have union as the state law since they are classified as ICs make the authorities and companies upper hand.
I can write 100 pages about that but wil stop here as everyone smart enough can figure out what is the point.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 12:42 pm