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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  • Greg Dewar

    I’m really tired of the temper tantrum politics that the cab drivers, companies et al engage in. They can’t have a rational discussion, everyone just shows up and acts like a Terrible Two Year Old.

    BTW, in “real” cities like New York, cabs are cheaper and they have the back seat terminals. Last time I was in NYC I asked cab drivers how they liked them, and ALL OF THEM said that they were getting tipped better because people would hit the middle button (there are 3 15% 20% 25% and you can add in more too) first. Also, people on expense accounts liked them because they were better proof than some random slip of paper with a handwritten amount (minus tip).

  • Greg Dewar

    I’m really tired of the temper tantrum politics that the cab drivers, companies et al engage in. They can’t have a rational discussion, everyone just shows up and acts like a Terrible Two Year Old.

    BTW, in “real” cities like New York, cabs are cheaper and they have the back seat terminals. Last time I was in NYC I asked cab drivers how they liked them, and ALL OF THEM said that they were getting tipped better because people would hit the middle button (there are 3 15% 20% 25% and you can add in more too) first. Also, people on expense accounts liked them because they were better proof than some random slip of paper with a handwritten amount (minus tip).

  • Dean Clark

    Hi Greg, Thanks for the comment. I did not see anyone acting like a two year old or using temper tantrum politics. What I had seen yesterday were valid concerned drivers who want to feed their families and are paying extra money out of their own pocket for gas and credit card charges to cater to the wants of San Francisco riders. If the taxi drivers are truly independent contractors, they should not be forced to take credit cards in the first place. Credit Card acceptance should be by the individual who drives the cab. The SFMTA regulated and tells the drivers they must take credit cards. Doesn’t sound like independent contractor status to me. In addition, the SFMTA tells us we have to take credit cards, but only gives us three options of who will pay for it which does not include the SFMTA who made 9 Million and some change off the cab drivers in San Francisco last year alone!

    Dean Clark

  • Dean Clark

    Hi Greg, Thanks for the comment. I did not see anyone acting like a two year old or using temper tantrum politics. What I had seen yesterday were valid concerned drivers who want to feed their families and are paying extra money out of their own pocket for gas and credit card charges to cater to the wants of San Francisco riders. If the taxi drivers are truly independent contractors, they should not be forced to take credit cards in the first place. Credit Card acceptance should be by the individual who drives the cab. The SFMTA regulated and tells the drivers they must take credit cards. Doesn’t sound like independent contractor status to me. In addition, the SFMTA tells us we have to take credit cards, but only gives us three options of who will pay for it which does not include the SFMTA who made 9 Million and some change off the cab drivers in San Francisco last year alone!

    Dean Clark