taxi.jpgHundreds of taxi cab drivers circled, honked and protested in front of San Francisco City Hall this afternoon and threatened to strike if the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency failed to discuss driver fees, costs and work benefits.

Representing many of the city’s cab companies, including Luxor, Yellow Cab Cooperative and Green, the drivers were protesting a 5 percent credit card processing fee, implementation of electronic waybills and lack of SFMTA benefits, especially since the Taxi Commission merged with the SFMTA in March 2009.

Credit card processing fees and electronic waybills meant to track all transactions began on April 1, according to SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose.

“(The) SFMTA made the decision to provide credit card access to our customers. We remain committed to that,” he said.

As for the electronic waybills, Rose said they help “get a better sense of what services we need to add and (if) they help with taxi cab deployment.”

At today’s SFMTA board meeting, cab drivers–many with 20 or more years experience–voiced grievances, ideas and compromises they believed the SFMTA should consider.

Arrow Cab Company driver Rick Keshishian said that if the SFMTA can impose fees and regulations, drivers should be considered SFMTA employees and should receive the same benefits as San Francisco Municipal Railway drivers.

“We are supposed to be self-employed,” Keshishian said. “We are treated like we are part of the herd.”

Brad Newcomb has been with Green Cab for 25 years. At this afternoon’s meeting he told the board, “Ever since (the) SFMTA took over, it has been a disaster. I think it’s time for a strike.” (Thanks, CVA, correction made below 3 PM 5/4)

Brad Newsham has been a San Francisco cab driver for 25 years, the past four with Green Cab. At the meeting, he told the board, “Ever since (the) SFMTA took over, it has been a disaster.”

SFMTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford reminded those in attendance, which included people in an overflow room, that no action would be taken on any taxi driver issues at today’s meeting.

Two taxi town hall meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, May 11 and Monday, May 16. Taxi concerns are on the agenda for the regularly scheduled Tuesday, May 17 board meeting. At today’s meeting, Rose said possible changes to taxi cab rates would be discussed.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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