Mayor's Taxi Task Force

Final Report

Task Force Members

Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr.,
Chair Supervisor Gavin Newsom,
Co-Chair Phil Anton, Driver, Regents Cab Company
Berhane Assefa, Driver, Yellow Cab Company
Jane Bolig, Driver, DeSoto Cab Company
Jose Caido, Mayor's Office of Disability Services
Dwaine Drew, Driver, Yellow Cab Company
Nathan Dwiri, Yellow Cab Cooperative
John Ehrlich, Captain, Permit Section
Phil Ferrucci, Dispatcher, Veteran's Cab
Robert Franklin, Driver, DeSoto Cab Company
Ruach Graffis, United Taxicab Workers,Taxi Course Teacher
Mark Gruberg, Driver, United Taxicab Workers
Kathleen Harrington, Golden Gate Restaurant Association
Neville Hunte, Municipal Railway
John Hutar, Hotel Council
William Lazar, Luxor Cab Company
Jerry Lee, Government Relations, UPS & Former Chair, Taxi Committee
Edwin Leung, San Francisco International Airport
Joyce Lieberman, Senior Action Network
Jamie Maddox, Driver, Yellow Cab Company, Proposition K Permit Owner
William May, Doorman, Fairmont Hotel
Tom Owen, City Attorney's Office
Jerry Robbins, Department of Parking and Traffic
Darshan Singh, Redevelopment Commissioner
Officer Ferrell Suslow, SFPD Taxi Detail
Loretta Whittle, Small Business Commissioner

Staff
Rebecca Prozan, Special Assistant to the Mayor
Heidi Machen, Legislative Aide to Supervisor Gavin Newsom

***************************************

April 21, 1998

San Francisco is always rated as the world's favorite destination and deserves to have world class taxi service. To that end, I am pleased to forward the report of the Mayor's Taxi Task Force. These recommendations will greatly improve cab service for every sector of San Francisco. This report represents the compiled effort from dozens of meetings and hundreds of hours devoted to bettering taxi service.

This Task Force is representative of the industry and consumers. Participants in the Task Force include: drivers, managers of taxi companies, seniors, disabled, hotel representatives, downtown businesses and relevant City representatives. The Task Force reviewed all aspects of the industry and made recommendations to be acted upon by appropriate City entities. Some of the topics discussed include: Paratransit issues, whether medallions should be issued, gate control, meter increase, centralized dispatch/dispatch standards.

Supervisor Gavin Newsom did an outstanding job of co-chairing the Task Force and he will carry needed legislation. Task Force members receive my deepest gratitude for their contributions to this report and for their service to the City of San Francisco. My office will work closely with Supervisor Newsom and appropriate City entities to implement their recommendations.

Sincerely, WILLIE L. BROWN, JR. Mayor

**********************************

April 21, 1998

It has been my distinct honor to serve as the Co-Chair to the Mayor's Taxi Task Force. For the past eight months, I have met on a weekly basis with a group of many dedicated individuals selectively chosen for the Task Force because of their proven expertise in and coverage of every area of the taxi industry. These citizens sacrificed their time in the hope of making a difference. Diverse viewpoints were welcomed and respected during our deliberations, leading to an unanticipated building of consensus on most agenda items.

The Task Force's goal was twofold: to increase the level of customer service and to improve working conditions for drivers. Through a process of debate, the Task Force developed many well-reasoned recommendations, which are included in this report. One of the most poignant facts learned during the process was that cab drivers suffer the highest incidence of occupational homicide.

The Task Force was sadly reminded of this fact by the tragic killing of a driver on his regular shift during the first week of December, 1997. I am confident that this interlocking set of changes contained within our report will improve the industry and quality of life for taxi riding San Franciscans and visitors; these changes will result in making San Francisco a leader among taxi services nationwide.

Sincerely, GAVIN NEWSOM Member, Board of Supervisors

***************************************

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Background
Airport
Parking and Traffic
Driver Training
Taxicab Regulations of the Chief's Rules
Dispatch Standards/Centralized Dispatch
Paratransit
Meter Rates
Medallion System
Environmental Solutions
Taxi Detail
Staffing
Hotel Graft and Illegal Limousines
Employment Status
Final Topics
Permit Fees
Complaint/Compliment Line
Seat Belt
Message Lights on Taxi Stands
Oversight
Working Committees
Glossary

BACKGROUND



INDUSTRY FACTS
Authorized Cabs: 981
standard taxicabs 950
wheelchair accessible/ramp taxis 31
total Number of Cab Companies: 34
Medallion Distribution: 1 to 313 medallions per company
Taxicab Dispatch Services: 10
Number of Drivers: 2,500 active full-time
2,000 active
part-time 1,500
inactive 6,000
total Airport Parking Spaces: 210
Average Annual Airport Exits: 1,142,000
Pre-Prop. K Permits: 515
Post Prop. K Permits: 441
Post Prop. K Ramp Taxis: 31
Corporate Permits: 132
Average Driver Shift: 10 hours (maximum allowed by law)
Average Trips Per Driver: 20-30 trips per shift
Total Fleet Size: 1,150 vehicles, including spares
# of Applicants Waiting for Medallions: 2,100
Current Fare: $1.70 flag drop, including the first 1/6 mile

SURVEY OF SERVICE


The Taxi Detail conducted a survey of taxi service, beginning on May 14, 1997, ending May 20, 1997. During this study, police officers randomly called selected cab companies from pre-selected areas of the City. The taxicab dispatch services were selected and called in the same ratio as the number of cabs subscribing to those services. Upon arrival of the taxi, the time from dispatch request to arrival was noted and the driver was paid $5.00, thanked for arrival, and advised that this was a Police Department survey. Those instances where either no cab showed within thirty minutes or where the dispatch service did not answer the phone were also noted. The results follow:

Companies and fleet size are in a constant state of flux. The following lists, as of this report, known cab companies and approximate number of permits:

OVERVIEW


Taxicab service in San Francisco has long been criticized as inadequate, inefficient and not of a caliber that a city such as ours deserves. This feeling has been expressed across the board by tourists, residents, cab drivers, cab owners, business people and people with disabilities. It seems everyone has had a concern about the state of San Francisco's taxicab service. Residents say cab service to their homes is unreliable at best. Tourists complain of long waits at hotels and at the Airport. Business people cite the lack of cabs downtown during rush hours. Cab drivers, who are independent contractors, say fares are too low, resulting in their inability to earn a living wage. Senior citizens and San Franciscans with disabilities who use cabs as a primary means of transportation complain that their most commonly used mode of payment - taxi scrip - is not accepted by all taxi services.

San Francisco's taxicab industry is governed by a City ordinance - Proposition K - passed in 1978, which was designed to promote the proliferation of small business cab companies. Although both are still in circulation, medallions issued prior to Proposition K are not subjected to the same regulations as those issued after the passage of Proposition K. Pre-Prop. K medallion holders are not required to drive their own cabs. They may lease their medallions on a 24-hour basis to any company - sometimes commanding a lease fee of up to $3,500 per month. Post Prop. K medallions must be owned by individuals rather than by cab companies. Holders, at the issuance of the medallion, must sign an affidavit promising to drive their cab for at least four hours in any 24-hour period on at least 75 percent of the business days during a calendar year. Taxi medallions cannot be sold or transferred.

The current waiting list of medallion applicants is roughly 12 years in length. As a result, cab company owners, whose income derives from leasing medallions, say they are forced to compete among themselves for medallion holders rather than competing for customers.

Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. hosted a Town Hall meeting in June, 1997 at which these concerns were aired. As a result, he appointed a Taxi Task Force, consisting of 27 representatives - residents, drivers, seniors, people with disabilities and City departments. Mayor Brown serves as the Chair of the Task Force, Supervisor Gavin Newsom as the Co-Chair. The Task Force has been meeting weekly for eight months under the direction of Supervisor Newsom.

The Task Force deliberated on a variety of issues, including, but not limited to: Airport deadheading; traffic laws; driver training; Police Chief rules; Paratransit; dispatch standards; meter rates; gate fees; number and type of medallions; environmental solutions; Taxi Detail, enforcement and oversight; permit leasing; customer service; and employment status, benefits, and safety for drivers. The following report is a list of recommendations prepared by the Task Force. All recommendations must go before the appropriate City body: the Board of Supervisors, the Police Department and/or the Board of Permit Appeals. Some recommendations may require voter approval.

RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE TAXI TASK FORCE



I. AIRPORT



The Airport issues are multi-faceted: residents are concerned about cabs waiting at the Airport for fares instead of picking up radio calls in San Francisco, tourists and business travelers believe there are not enough cabs at the Airport at certain times, drivers think the working conditions are unpleasant and that the starters (employees who direct taxi traffic at the Airport) are not properly trained.

The Task Force considered a flat fare from the Airport to downtown San Francisco as a deterrent to deadheading to the Airport (when cabs go to the Airport for fares without a passenger, instead of taking local fares). Similar fare structures exist in New York, Los Angeles and other cities in an effort to discourage cab drivers from waiting at hotels and at the Airport.

The Task Force reviewed many issues that did not receive sufficient support from the body. For example, the Task Force did not support a request from the Airport to charge the passenger a $1 fee to pay for ground transportation improvements. Cab drivers currently pay $2.50 to use the Airport's ground transportation facilities; the Airport would like to increase the fee to $3.50 and to require passengers to pay the extra $1.00, to cover the cost of taxi services at the Airport.

Task Force members were concerned that other ground transportation users, such as BART, shuttles, vans, and limousines were not paying a proportionate share. The Task Force also reviewed the concept of odd/even days at the Airport in an effort to reduce deadheading but could not come to consensus on this issue. In addition, the concept of Airport-only cabs did not receive sufficient support from the Task Force.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendations:

II. PARKING AND TRAFFIC



Cab drivers are not unique in complaining about San Francisco's downtown maze, rife with congestion, no left turn signs, one way streets, and a dearth of parking. What distinguishes cab drivers from the remaining public is the fact that a driver's income and ability to serve the public depend on successful navigation of these streets. The Task Force recognized that cabs are a part of our public transportation system, not unlike MUNI. Accordingly, the Task Force developed a set of traffic and parking concessions geared towards aiding cab drivers in efficiently performing the most prominent duty of their profession: driving.

Residents, seniors and the disabled community clamored for some means of luring cabs into neighborhoods. The Task Force concluded that cab stands might be one solution to making cabs more accessible. Thus, MUNI and the Department of Parking and Traffic worked cooperatively with the Task Force in identifying viable traffic changes and in locating appropriate sites for cab stands.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendations:

Recommended Extended Tow-Away Hours:

Recommended Neighborhood Taxi Stands:

Recommended Left Turns:

III. DRIVER TRAINING



The taxi industry experiences an average 33% annual turnover rate for drivers, resulting in 1,000 new drivers per year. It is essential that these drivers be well-trained. The Taxi Detail informed the Task Force that most of the complaints about taxi drivers are for poor driving which results in accidents; assaults on passengers; and harassment.

Currently, there are two driver schools: City College and Flag-A-Cab. Prospective drivers must complete one of these courses to qualify for the San Francisco Police Department's exam. Currently, preliminary courses last for 2 days at 8 hours/day at either Flag-A-Cab or City College. Topics include: Geography (2 hours); Crime Prevention (2 hours); California Civil Code (1 hour); Chief's Rules (1 hour); Traffic Safety (1 hour); Professional Ethics, Passenger Relations (5 hours). Courses are pass/fail. Once these courses are completed and passed, drivers take an additional 7 hour course on Paratransit issues and sensitivity training at the San Francisco Police Department.

The Task Force considered but did not support the following requirements for courses: stress reduction, minimum English requirements for drivers, and consolidating both training schools.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendations:

IV. TAXICAB REGULATIONS OF THE CHIEF'S RULES



The Taxicab Regulations of the Chief's Rules are the rules and regulations for the taxicab industry. The regulations define what permit holders, drivers, and cab companies must adhere to in order to keep their permits and maintain their businesses. The Task Force considered the regulation of replacement cabs and public safety to be high priorities.

Cabs generally travel at least 100,000 miles per year. When cab companies are located outside of San Francisco, drivers spend a considerable amount of time on shift changes. At least 20-25% of cab companies do not have a place of business in San Francisco and are not staffed Monday-Friday between the hours of 9:00a.m.-5:00p.m. This is a problem for consumers looking for lost belongings and for the police to have ready access to company files.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendations:

V. DISPATCH STANDARDS/CENTRALIZED DISPATCH



The Task Force discussed the issue of dispatching cabs from two perspectives:

The Task Force heard persuasive arguments supporting the creation of a centralized dispatch system. Model cities for such a dispatch system include: New York, Sydney, and Singapore. If implemented appropriately, all cab companies would be part of the centralized system and every cab would be accessible to consumers.

Anecdotally, the computerized dispatch system brings more drivers into the system. With computerization, orders are automatically given to the next driver in line in a given zone, thus leveling the playing field between drivers with varying degrees of familiarity with the streets. This system would make full use of available technology by allowing customers to use debit cards, credit cards, computerized Paratransit, etc.

Centralized dispatch would allow dispatchers to customize service and fulfill special needs. It would improve road safety by preventing multiple cabs from responding to the same call. In addition, technology would increase safety for drivers by allowing dispatchers to immediately locate cabs in distress.

The Task Force considered the following:

VI. PARATRANSIT



Paratransit is a subsidized transportation program for those who cannot use public transportation services (mostly for people with disabilities and seniors). Paratransit has been a part of San Francisco transportation services since the late 1970s, serving people on fixed and pre-arranged routes and expanding to taxi service in the late 1980s. San Francisco is unique in providing same day Paratransit service; in other cities consumers make a reservation one dayin advance.

In the early 1990s, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed. Under ADA, public transportation for people with disabilities became a civil right. Since MUNI cannot accommodate all residents, MUNI sought to supplement its services with taxi transportation. The service is provided by a grant from the federal government; the Paratransit budget is approximately $10.7 million with additional funding from BART and the City's General Fund. MUNI currently contracts with a Paratransit broker, Cerenio Management Group (CMG). Cerenio Management Group, following federal guidelines, determines who qualifies and ensures that the scrip (subsidized payments) is delivered promptly to the consumer.

Currently, eight cab companies participate in the Paratransit program, including: Town, National, DeSoto, Luxor, Yellow and three companies in Daly City. Participating cab companies must have a minimum of one million dollars in liability insurance and be accountable for processing scrip. MUNI is currently working to modernize the scrip program. In competitive bidding, the City awarded Yellow Cab Co-op the contract to begin implementation of the debit card program which will replace scrip.

In addition, MUNI has an active advisory council, the Paratransit Coordinating Council composed of users, agencies, and providers helping to monitor the Paratransit program. MUNI, in recent negotiations with the cab companies, reached an agreement on the following issues: continuity of service, equity of financial agreement, and improvements to the quality of service given to Paratransit consumers. In accordance with the agreement, the discount rate that companies were providing to the City has been lowered from 8% to 3%.

Performance standards have also been established, making companies accountable for greater customer responsiveness. In addition, participating cab companies will dedicate a special telephone line to Paratransit consumers. Companies must give 120 days notice before canceling their participation in the Paratransit program. Finally, an agreement to streamline billing and reporting of Paratransit scrip has been made.

Paratransit consumers enumerated many areas of concern about taxi service, including: little control over response times, varying degrees of responsiveness, fraud, and lack of sensitivity training for drivers. Accordingly, varying levels of response exist from cab companies who participate in the Paratransit program. The Task Force considered but did not reach consensus on the following issues: having all companies participate in the Paratransit program immediately and having the required liability insurance lowered to assist small cab companies.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendations:

VII. METER RATE



The Board of Supervisors is required, by ordinance, to review the meter rates annually. Current rates for taxicabs are: $1.70 initially, $1.80 per mile in $.30 increments per each 1/6 mile, and $.30 per minute of waiting time. A meter increase has not been granted since 1991; drivers and members of the taxi industry believe that an increase is long overdue. The Task Force wanted to give an adequate raise to drivers in such a way that would keep drivers in San Francisco, rather than pursuing more lucrative Airport runs.

The meter has been traditionally increased by raising the flag drop, the mileage, and the wait time. The Task Force was unwilling to recommend a meter increase until there was an absolute guarantee that service would improve.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:


VIII. MEDALLION SYSTEM



A. Interlocking Issues

The Task Force deliberated for many hours on possible correlations between meter rates, gate fees, the number of medallions, and permit leasing rates. Authors of previous taxi reform ballot measures had considered these issues together. This proved to be a very complex debate. From the driver's perspective: every time that the Board of Supervisors has raised meter rates, that raise has resulted in companies raising gate fees. Companies argue that an increase in the overall number of medallions would alleviate the need to charge such high gate fees per individual medallion.

With regard to permit leasing fees, most companies and drivers advocate a reduction or a cap on these fees because companies allocate a large portion of profit to leasing the medallions from medallion holders. These permit lease fees are recouped directly from the money drivers pay to companies in gate fees. The Task Force did not reach consensus on this issue.

B. Medallions

The Department of Parking and Traffic presented relevant information to determine the number of cabs which could best serve the City. San Francisco has the highest number of passenger vehicles per square mile in the world. However, San Francisco ranks low in the ratio of cabs per hotel room. The Task Force concluded after much deliberation that there was no clear formula to determine what number of cabs best serves a city's population. The Task Force carefully considered the implications of more medallions in the context of the planned increase in hotel rooms, expansion of the Airport and Moscone Center, and most importantly, the impact additional cabs would have on the ability to serve out-lying neighborhoods.

Additionally, the Task Force reviewed the possibility of peak-time permits, City-only permits, and Airport-only permits, which will be discussed in subsequent pages. The Task Force was particularly concerned about the impact that more medallions would have during off-peak hours on weekday nights and weekend days. The Task Force voted to make the following recommendations:


C. Gate Control

Gates are the rental fees that drivers pay to companies each shift. Unlike the meter rate, gate fees are not regulated by the City. The companies justify raising gates because a fixed number of medallions means that companies must spend up to $3,500 per month in lease fees in order to lure more medallion holders to a particular company. Since Proposition K, competition for medallions has increased and therefore medallion leasing prices and gate fees have grown.

Gates have increased dramatically over the last seven years, from an average of $65 in 1991 to an average of $95 in 1998, whereas meter rates (from which drivers earn money for gates) have remained constant. Other cities, such as Chicago, and Boston, regulate their gate fees. The Task Force considered having the Controller's office conduct an independent study of the industry to determine a fair gate. Considerations discussed but rejected included: the creation of a flat gate for the industry or the determination of a formula, individually tailored to companies utilizing their relevant costs, i.e. building, vehicles, profit, etc. Additionally, the Task Force discussed but did not adopt peak-time gate control, a ceiling on gates, and a motion to roll back gates to $66.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:


D. Medallion Leasing Rates/Control

Medallion leasing rates are the monthly fees which medallion holders charge cab companies to rent their medallions. The current trend in the taxi industry is that permits are being increasingly transferred to smaller cab companies. One theory behind this trend is that smaller companies have more cash flow because they pool funds for dispatching systems and office space. Unlike larger companies like Yellow Cab or Luxor who have large office spaces and other equipment, many smaller companies are able to offer more money for permits.

The majority of the Task Force believed the medallion leasing rates to be excessive. Cab companies and drivers expressed concern with leasing fees because competition is over medallion holders and not for customers and drivers. In addition, some cab companies believe permit holders are responsible for a company's lack of profits. The Task Force considered, but did not recommend the elimination of leasing altogether, which would allow companies to set gates at a level which ensures a reasonable profit and allows drivers to earn a living wage.

The Task Force also recognized the difference between pre-K and post-K medallions and considered but rejected placing a special cap on the former. Pre-K permits do not have driving requirements; thus, current drivers end up paying large amounts in gate fees to fund these permits.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:


E. SENIORITY SYSTEM FOR DRIVERS



Proposition K was intended to create medallion-holding drivers, on the theory that the pride of ownership will result in better customer service and greater dedication to the business. However, Proposition K does not describe an application process. Thus, the Police Department created a waiting list where more than 2100 applicants have been awaiting the right to hold a medallion, some for more than ten years.

Who may apply for a City allocated permit to operate a vehicle as a taxi? Currently, anyone who pays a fee and fills out an application may assume a place on the waiting list, which gives top priority to the person who has been waiting the longest. Under this system, applicants are rewarded for foresight rather than for record of service to the industry. Under a seniority system, drivers who had shown commitment through a long-standing record of service to the industry would be afforded priority rather than those who had complied with the standard registration process.

A seniority system could be accomplished in a variety of ways. For instance, an existing Board of Supervisors resolution, passed in 1988, sets policy stating that persons awarded permits must have been active drivers for the year prior to being awarded a permit. Because this law is not retroactive, approximately 150 applicants on the current waiting list will not have to meet the pre-requisite of an active driving requirement in order to become permit holders.

The Task Force examined and rejected the following suggestions:
The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:

F. Exceptions to the Driving Requirement



In December 1997, the Taxi Detail sent letters informing post-K permit holders that they could lose their permits if they do not fulfill the driving requirement, as required by Proposition K. Some respondents claimed infirmity or management obligations which did not allow them to meet their driving requirement. In some instances a medallion holder may not be fulfilling the driving requirement but may be working in the industry in another capacity.

The Task Force reviewed this issue carefully, but favored honoring the driving requirement in Proposition K. The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:

G. Conditional Permits:



1.) Owner Operated
The Task Force considered the implementation of conditional permits to be used only during designated times. Permits would have similar driving requirements to the current requirements in Proposition K. Theoretically, with owner operated permits, owners would elect to drive during the most profitable, or busy times. Thus, these newly issued medallions would not affect existing business during the slower parts of the day.

Opponents to the owner operated permits believe there is too much business at all times to have part-time cabs. In addition, gate fees may need to be raised to pay for new cabs and dispatch services. When Proposition K was reviewed by the City Attorney to determine whether owner operated permits would be legal, the City Attorney opined that permits may be limited by times and days, but that, under Proposition K, the City may not legally restrict leasing of the permits to a single operator. The Task Force did not make a recommendation on the issue of owner operated permits due to a deadlock.

2.) Peak Time
The Task Force gave careful consideration to the idea of peak time permits, defined as permits which allow cabs to operate at certain busy times during the day. These permits would be restricted by hours and shifts.

The Task Force deliberated whether or not to make accommodations for the age of the vehicle used for these permits.

The Task Force considered but rejected a motion which would have allowed permits to be operated Monday-Friday during the day shifts, Monday-Saturday during the evening shifts, with additional shifts to be determined by the company. The Task Force also failed to adopt a motion which would have limited 100 of the first 300 medallions to peak time operation.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:
If other permits are issued beyond the first 300, 100 will be conditional use/peak time permits. Recommended hours of use are Monday-Thursday 12 p.m. -8 p.m., Friday 11 a.m.-3 a.m. and Saturday 5 p.m.-3 a.m. Ramp Taxis will be exempt from these restrictions.

3.) City-Only Permits
The Task Force considered the implementation of a City-only permit to keep taxis in the City serving residents and tourists. The permit, like Paratransit permits, would be optional for people on the waiting list and would keep cabs from sitting at the Airport. In order to entice people on the waiting list to take City-only permits, A-card and permit fees could be lowered. In addition, companies would be asked to lower gates for City-only permits as an incentive to drivers. This motion, however, did not receive sufficient support from the Task Force.

H. DRIVING REQUIREMENTS



Earlier this year, the San Francisco Police Department sent letters to medallion holders explaining changes to the driving requirements for Proposition K owners. While the requirement had previously been interpreted to mean two full shifts a week, the new interpretation states that medallion holders (under Proposition K) will have to drive four-5 hour shifts a week. While this new requirement is a narrower interpretation of Proposition K, many Task Force members advocated for a return to the prior interpretation of the driving requirement. The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:
Set the driving requirement at 800 Hours per calendar year.

I. CORPORATE PERMITS



There are three kinds of permits: pre-K, post-K, and corporate. Corporate permits are permits which are held by a corporation rather than by an individual. Prior to Proposition K, permits could be held by corporations. Currently, 132 corporate permits exist. Proposition K states that any sale or transfer of 10 percent or more of the stock ownership or assets of a corporate permit holder shall result in the corporate permit becoming null and void. The Police Commission has approved various stock transfers but has never revoked permits.

The Task Force considered but rejected a compromise using a proportional formula that allows corporate permit holders to return a certain number of permits over a period of time rather than revoking them all at once.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:


IX. ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS



A. ALTERNATIVE FUEL CABS



The Task Force discussed how the taxi industry can improve San Francisco's environment by replacing some of the fleet with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) or electric hybrid vehicles. Electric vehicles, natural gas and propane are all cleaner than gasoline. CNG cabs are used experimentally in New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Toronto.

Some concerns include: the relative dearth of fueling stations; the fact that CNG tanks displace luggage space which is crucial to serving the public; and the high cost of the CNG vehicles, only recently available in larger sedan form. These vehicles typically get about 15.5 miles per gge (gallon of gas equivalent) when running on CNG. They achieve a range of 140-150 miles per tank, requiring that drivers refuel once daily. The fuel is less expensive than gasoline, with pump prices ranging from $.90 to $.95 per gge. CNG causes less wear and tear on engines, thus resulting in the need for less maintenance. Finally, according to the Police Department, which uses the CNG vehicles as a regular part of its fleet, the vehicles drive no differently from gasoline powered vehicles. Thus, drivers would require very little, if any, retraining.

PG & E provided a short presentation to the Task Force on these vehicles and has offered to assist in locating financing for a pilot project. The Federal Department of Energy has provided such financing to other cities. The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation: Endorse the implementation of alternative fuel taxis on a pilot basis.

B. CAB POOLING



In an effort to encourage people to share cabs, the Task Force considered having the City post a route that cabs could informally follow - a taxicab pool route that would transport a predetermined number of passengers for a fixed dollar amount. Accordingly, there would need to be extensive public education about the route. Initially, the Chief's Rules would have to be amended to allow cab drivers to solicit for additional fares when the cab is occupied. The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:

X. TAXI DETAIL STAFFING



Currently, the Taxi Detail has the following staff: one sergeant and one officer who work on passenger complaints and driver training, another officer who handles the overload of passenger complaints from the Department of Weights and Measures regarding the enforcement of meters, and an officer who works on issuing permits, and various Proposition K issues. Additionally, there are two clerical positions assigned to the Taxi Detail. The Task Force has approved a number of rules and regulations which, if approved by the appropriate City entities, will require enforcement by the Taxi Detail. Therefore, the Taxi Detail will need additional staffing to adequately monitor the industry. The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:

XI. HOTEL GRAFT AND ILLEGAL LIMOUSINES



Illegal limousines threaten the stability of the industry. Yet, how can limousine permits, which are issued frequently by the State's Public Utilities Commission, be regulated? Currently, limousines are allowed to pick up customers if those pick-ups are arranged in advance, however, many times at the Airport, hotels, and other downtown establishments limousine drivers will solicit passengers for pick-up. Ostensibly, such activity creates an unlawful competition with taxis.

According to anecdotal evidence, graft is rampant within the taxi industry. Specifically, some drivers bribe company employees for better treatment, such as access to a newer cab and longer fares. Additionally, some drivers pay a premium to hotel doormen for the guarantee of a better fare. Cash exchange of this nature is difficult to regulate. Accordingly, the Task Force did not reach consensus on this issue. The Task Force voted to make the following recommendations:

XII. EMPLOYMENT STATUS



Prior to passage of Proposition K in 1978, drivers were represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 265. Subsequently, cab companies have classified drivers as independent contractors. The Task Force considered whether these drivers should be classified as employees instead. Arguably, it would be in the City's interest to have cab companies employ cab drivers for two reasons:
  1. Payroll taxes would increase the City's General Fund (a previous Budget Analyst study said that if drivers were employees, it could collect up to $1.3 million a year in additional revenue); and
  2. drivers would be able to receive health benefits and not have to use City clinics for medical purposes. Although very few drivers choose to be classified as employees, some companies offer employee status as an option. Other cities, such as New York have union drivers, thus allowing drivers to negotiate most terms of their employment.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:


XIII. FINAL TOPICS



Permit Fees



Fees are required by state law to be limited to cost recovery. The Task Force outlined different increases to permit fees in order to pay for the staffing and other recommendations of the Task Force. The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:
Approve the following schedule of fees:

    Permit Type               Current Fee   981 Medallions  1281 Medallions

    Driver Applications          $53            $75              $65     
    Driver Renewals               29             45               40
    Permit Application           268            450              450
    Permit Renewal 
      (Paratransit)              138            250              220
    Permit Renewal               346            620              550
    Ramped Taxi 
      Application                277            325              325             
    Ramped Taxi Renewal          138            200              175                      
    PCN Application               96            200              200
    Color Scheme Change           68            125              125
    Lost Medallion               100            150              150
    Metal Medallion               25             25               25
    New Color Scheme 
      Application                 68          2,500            2,500
    Color Scheme Renewal        None          2,500            2,500                       
    Dispatch Service             347          2,500            2,500
    Dispatch Service Renewal     346          2,500            2,500  

Complaint/Compliment Line



In order to better serve the public, the Task Force unanimously supported a special number for the complaint/compliment line.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:


Seat Belt Message



New York taxis feature celebrity voices in recorded messages reminding cab customers to wear a seat belt. Drivers expressed concern because they did not want to hear repeated messages throughout their shifts.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:


Lights on Taxi Stands



Though taxi stands exist, they are difficult to see both from the driver and the passenger perspectives. The Task Force recommended that lights be placed on the buildings by the taxi stands so that the stands are more visible to taxi drivers and to passengers.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:


Oversight



The Task Force unanimously approved the establishment of a Taxi Commission to provide better customer service, oversight and regulation.

The Task Force voted to make the following recommendation:


XIV. WORKING COMMITTEES



At the conclusion of the Task Force, Mayor Brown and Supervisor Newsom created three working groups which will address issues which need greater deliberation and analysis. Those sub-committees include:

The Sub-Committees will make recommendations to Mayor Brown and Supervisor Newsom for implementation.

TAXI TASK FORCE REPORT GLOSSARY



A-card: A public passenger vehicle driver's permit issued by San Francisco's tax collector.
Cap: An upper limit set on the rates charged for leasing medallions and/or taxis.
City-only permits: A proposed medallion type which will only be valid for transportation of passengers originating within San Francisco.
Color scheme: The color that a cab company paints its vehicles to differentiate it from its competitors; also refers to the company itself.
Corporate permit: A medallion held by a corporation. Under Proposition K, these are to be phased out as corporation ownership changes and replaced with medallions issued to individuals.
Deadheading: When a driver travels a great distance without a passenger or a dispatch to pick up a passenger, usually at the Airport.
Fare: The amount that a cab driver receives from paying passengers for the rendering of taxi service; also refers to the passenger.
Gates: The fees which lessee drivers pay to Taxi leasing companies for the use of taxi vehicles.
Gge: Gallon of gas equivalent.
Global Positioning Satellite (GPS): Computerized tracking system which uses satellite to locate geographic locations; it is used to locate the position of vehicles which are linked to this device.
Graft: The illegal exchange of money to gain an unfair advantage.
Independent contractor: The employment status under which most cab drivers are classified. As independent contractors, drivers do not receive a minimum wage nor employee benefits such as unemployment insurance.
Medallion: A uniquely numbered metal plate issued by the Police which confers the right to operate a vehicle as taxicab. The number of available medallions is regulated by the Police Commission with opportunity for public comment regarding the number necessary to serve the "public convenience and necessity."
Medallion leasing: The medallion holders' practice of leasing taxi medallions to companies or co-operatives which subsequently sub-lease the medallions and vehicles to lessee drivers.
Meter rate: The amount cabs charge to consumers; currently $1.70 initially, $1.80 per mile in $.30 increments, and $.30 per minute for waiting time.
Paratransit permit: A medallion issued for exclusive use in a disabled-accessible vehicle with passenger priority given to those with mobility impairments.
Paratransit scrip program: A program funded by San Francisco's Municipal Railway which provides cash-equivalent coupons which can be used by the mobility-impaired for payment of taxi fares.
Peak time permits: A proposed medallion type which will only be valid during those time periods when demand for cabs is greatest.
Proposition K: A San Francisco voter's initiative passed in 1978, which reformed and revamped the taxi industry, specifically by imposing a driving requirement for post-K medallion holders and mandating revocation of corporate permits after at least 10% transfer of company stock.
Public Convenience and Necessity (PC & N): Public hearings held by the Police Commission to determine whether changes to the taxi industry serve the best interests of the public.
Ramp taxis: A vehicle (usually a mini-van) equipped with a lift, for the conveyance of wheelchairs.
Spare cab: A vehicle to be used as a temporary replacement when a medallion-numbered vehicle is out of service.
Starters: Employees of San Francisco International Airport who monitor and supervise the flow of taxis and shuttle vans.
Taxi Detail: A unit of the SF Police Department which supervises all for-hire vehicles and enforces the City's regulations.
Taxi stand: A curbside area designated for the exclusive use of taxis, at which taxis wait for passengers, commonly in front of hotels and large office buildings.
Taxi Task Force: An advisory body established by Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. in August 1997 comprised of representatives of the taxi industry, taxi drivers, and interested groups and organizations. Supervisor Gavin Newsom co-chaired the Task Force.


Back to the Taxi-L Regulation Page