taxi.jpgThe San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors today voted to pass a proposal that would lower the maximum credit card fees that taxi companies may charge drivers.

The board’s proposal lowers the maximum rate that taxi companies can charge drivers for debit and credit card processing fees from 5 percent to 3.5 percent.

Taxicab drivers honked their horns in chorus while circling San Francisco’s City Hall this afternoon shortly before the board’s meeting convened at 1 p.m. to protest the fees.

The meeting was packed with taxi drivers, taxicab company owners, and other parties representing various industry interests, eager to share their opinions on the decision publicly.

“There is a lot of money in the industry,” SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said.

Mark Gruberg, a spokesman for United Taxicab Workers, drives a vehicle owned by SF Green Cab and said he fundamentally disagreed with cabdrivers baring the financial responsibility of credit card users.

“These are charges that should be borne by the taxi companies,” Gruberg said, adding that having the taxi driver pay the credit card transaction fees takes a percentage from the driver’s income and has led many drivers to refuse credit cards altogether, which he said is inconvenient and potentially dangerous.

“The more cash you get out of the cab, the safer the cabs are,” Reiskin said.

One cab driver said that most taxicab drivers are part of the working poor and that well-off taxi riders aren’t likely to complain about fee increases.

“What you’re doing is ripping off the taxi driver,” said one driver who emphasized that taxi drivers rarely receive benefits such as health care or paid vacation days from their employers.

A spokesman for the SFMTA said the board unanimously voted to pass the proposal.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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