Related: Taxi Drivers Protest At City Hall, Threaten Strike If Credit Card Fees Not Dropped

taxi.jpgAn hour before the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors passed the first taxi meter increases in eight years, taxis honked and circled around City Hall this afternoon, continuing protests against the SFMTA’s involvement in taxi regulations.

At today’s board of directors meeting, the board took taxi community feedback into consideration and voted unanimously in favor of the increases, acknowledging a delay in implementation.

Since its May 3 board meeting, the SFMTA held four town hall meetings and formed a taxi advisory council to present recommendations to the board on meter increases, credit card processing fees and other issues such as adding backseat credit card terminals.

Deputy Director for Taxi Services Chris Hayashi recommended dropping previously proposed rider surcharges including a $2 radio dispatch fee during off-peak hours, a $3 radio dispatch fee during the peak hours of 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday nights, and a fuel surcharge.

Hayashi said the majority of the taxi community would like to see a 10-cent increase per one-fifth of a mile, bumping the current rate to 55 cents, along with the same increase and rate per minute of waiting time or traffic delay.

Hayashi commented that the town hall meetings were valuable and that “there are a lot of good ideas and comments out there,” but requested that taxi decisions be more informed, recommending a consultant to look at the economics of the taxi industry.

Chris Sweis, chair of the taxi advisory council and manager of Royal Cab Company, said many of the proposed rider charges were “excessive” but acknowledged that the proposed meter increases are justified because the cost of business has gone up and because the last meter increase was in 2003.

After hearing the recommendations about the proposed meter increases, the board heard comments from taxi drivers and taxi owners.

Mychael Monroe, a San Francisco cab driver for 22 years, urged the board to pass a meter increase immediately.

“We need a meter increase now,” Monroe said. “It’s simple. We have waited eight years.”
John Lazar, Luxor Cab Company president, echoed other cab drivers’ and company owners’ sentiments and told the board, “this increase is necessary and warranted.” He also said he opposed dispatch surcharges.

Board member Malcolm Heinicke acknowledged that it had been eight years since the last fare increase for cab drivers but said that the public had not seen services increases, as well.

“I favor fare increases if we could match them with service improvements,” Heinicke said, causing many cab drivers to abruptly leave the meeting upset, assuming the fare increase would be denied.

Despite the disruption, the board proposed to delay a vote on the modified meter increase proposal until the board’s second June meeting, but the delay was opposed in a 3-2 vote. Four votes are needed for a motion to pass.

The 10-cent meter increases will not be implemented until after a June 21 vote on an entire taxi services package. The board is scheduled to discuss peak-time rates, taxi medallion issues and drop rates, or the customer pick-up rate, at its June 21 meeting.

SFMTA Chief Financial Officer Sonali Bose said the passed meter increases cannot be put into action until after July 1.

The board also voted today in favor of delaying the July 1 deadline for implementation of electronic waybills for at least 120 more days. The waybills will be installed to track taxi-customer transactions.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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