taxi.jpgThe first of several scheduled San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency taxi town hall meetings this week and next started heated as several dozen cab drivers, cab company owners and SFMTA officials discussed taxi issues from credit card fees to meter rate increases.

The meeting covered topics including use of credit cards in taxis, credit card transaction fees, implementation of backseat payment terminals in cabs, and fare increases.

The meeting focused on who should pay credit card fees, with SFMTA Deputy Director for Taxi Services Chris Hayashi outlining three options: cab drivers, cab companies, or passengers. Another key issue was the 5 percent credit card fee drivers are absorbing when passengers use plastic.

Hayashi said the SFMTA implemented the 5 percent credit card fee with a third party that processes the cards, VeriFone, as a driver protection. Drivers can hire their own merchant accounts, but the SFMTA wanted to prevent cab companies from directly collecting on any credit card fees, she said.

Hansu Kim, president and owner of DeSoto Cab Company, refuted claims that the cab companies are making money off advertisements on backseat credit card terminals.

Instead, he said his company has decided to use the backseat terminals to help drivers earn more tips with the credit card machine’s tip prompter.

“I’m wary to eliminate something that could give drivers more money,” Kim said.

Saam Aram, who has driven a cab for 20 years, passed out paperwork at the meeting proposing to form a new taxi commission that would end the SFMTA’s involvement in taxi services in San Francisco, according to the group Cabbies Helping Cabbies.

“I’ve been coming to SFMTA meetings for over a year,” Aram said.

“There has been no action.”

Green Cab driver Brad Newsham spoke at the meeting, despite what he said was his frustration that the town hall meetings were being held too late in the decision-making process.

“(The credit card) policy went in effect some time in the past few weeks,” Newsham said. “(SFMTA) should have the meeting before implementing the policy.”

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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