Taxi drivers protest rideshares as government mulls new regulations

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Cabs line up along the CPUC in protest of "rideshare" industry.
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Car horns honked and tempers flared as around 30 taxi cabs circled around the California Public Utilities Commission yesterday [Wed/9], protesting what the cabbies call lax regulations of rideshare companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar.

"They're totally unfair competition," said cab driver Jonathan Khin, a 20-year cabbie who came to San Francisco decades ago from Burma. "They don't have to pay regulations and fees that we do."

The drivers complaints over the rideshares, known legally as Transportation Network Companies, were many: the TNCs don't provide adequate insurance for drivers, don't have the number of cars regulated (like cabs are), and don't have to pay regulatory fees that cabs currently pay. This all leads to an uneven playing field, and the taxi cab industry is getting creamed.

"I have 50 percent less daily riders," than he used to, said Myo Winn, a 10-year driver for companies like Yellow Cab and DeSoto.

badge

Cabbie Jonathan Khin holds up his SFMTA issued taxi ID, one of the many regulatory elements of the taxi industry that rideshares, or TNCs, do not provide. 

But the taxi industry has its own cross to bear. It's no secret that finding a taxi in San Francisco can be nigh-impossible at some hours, and even in some neighborhoods. Carl Macmurdo, the president of the Medallion Holders Association, didn't mince words about it: "There's been bad, poor service over the years from our industry."

That bad service left the taxi companies wide open for "disruption," as the tech companies call it. But that disruption came at a cost -- the still-young TNC industry has struggled to provide adequate insurance to its drivers, even suggesting that drivers personal insurance policies would protect them while ferrying customers. As we've written about before, this has left passengers, drivers, and even pedestrians left with huge bills for collisions that taxi companies have a history of paying out with less hand-wringing.

If the TNCs provided insurance like taxis did, would the taxi industry still have a problem with them? 

"Yes," Macmurdo told the Guardian, as the horns from nearby cabs continued to honk. "Seattle deregulated taxis and let medallions be open, and it was chaos. Government [regulations] balance the need between available cab service and the ability of drivers to make a decent living. There are thousands of the TNCs on the road and it's destroyed the industry. There are too many vehicles on the road competing."

But Marzia Zafar, director of the Policy and Planning Division at the CPUC, said that constraining competition is not the CPUC's role. 

"Our role is not to play favorites," she told the Guardian, standing in the courtyard of the CPUC building just after the protest ended. "We made the [TNC industry] safe, and let the free market do its job." 

Other regulatory bodies have gone the opposite way. Seattle City Council last month voted to limit TNC vehicles to 150 in the city at any one time, and the protest came on the heels of the California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones issuing a public letter to the CPUC calling for TNCs to carry the burden of insurance. 

Uber and Lyft have made progress in expanding their insurance coverage, he said, but the gap still exists, putting drivers, passengers, and pedestrians at risk.

"Our investigative hearing revealed serious insurance gaps in the current business model of Transportation Network Companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar,” Jones wrote in a statement to the press. “As long as TNCs are encouraging non-professional drivers to use their personal vehicles to drive passengers for a profit, a risk which personal automobile insurance simply does not cover, TNCs should bear the burden of making sure that insurance is provided. Our recommendations will ensure there is insurance protection for passengers, drivers and pedestrians.”

The report from the insurance commissioner asserted a long standing complaint of taxi drivers. Personal auto insurers, the report wrote, are not planning to offer coverage of TNC drivers "in the near future, if ever."

Now it's up to the CPUC to create new, stricter regulations to protect the public. Those regulations may come as soon as September, Zafar said.

 

 

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Comments

Remind me not to have too much faith in our crack public officials. A couple of things: 1) The TNCs at best are commercial rideshares and play off the name ride-share to set up an aura that you are being picked up by a chance friendly neighbor. But any time you charge it's a commercial transaction. And hey, hey could that be a motor vehicle for hire ... the classic definition of a taxicab.
And 2) for the record I personally went out of my way, having some faith in government as I also do in business never having learned Reagan's trust but verify, meeting with Mayor Brown in May of 1997 proposing centralized taxi gps dispatch for all cabs in SF. Calling it a "no-brainer" he said absolutely and then did jack about it as did his successor Gavin Newsom.
Having spent some brief time with Bobby and Teddy Kennedy and also the late Walter Johnson of the Labor Council here I can tell you there are some good public and private citizens, but it's too bad when some of them to didley, nada and jack.
Maybe I'll get a real life next time and SF will get the public officials who can get the job done.
SFDave4U

Posted by SFDave4U on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 3:59 pm

preserve their self-serving monopoly?

Really?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 4:35 pm

and hiked up the costs some crazy amount.

The cab industry kept a leash on the number of cabs that could be out thanks to government stooges.

I love the SFBG mentality around this, the government should step in and do whats right. After sticking it to cab drivers and the citizens that they should be serving, the government needs to solve this problem.

What simple minded true believers are our progressives, everyone gets the horn by the government, the government is the answer.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 5:27 pm

The government has had it's chance for the last 80+ years. Time for the free market to go to work.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 1:17 am

After decades of screwing everyone, the government should just let it go.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 6:45 pm

Exceptional post however I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject?
I'd be very thankful if you could elaborate a
little bit more. Kudos!

Posted by Game of War Fire Age Hack on Jun. 20, 2014 @ 2:55 am

""Carl Macmurdo, the president of the Medallion Holders Association, didn't mince words about it: "There's been bad, poor service over the years from our industry."""

Paybacks a beeeth, aint it?

Medallion holders have been safeguarding their Meds long after retirement, charging taxi drivers up to $100,000 a year merely to borrow the Meds.

Uber and Lift are helping bring supply in line with demand.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

TNC's are a total fraud in a conspiracy with Corrupt People Using California, aka CPUC

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 9:05 pm

"As we've written about before, this has left passengers, drivers, and even pedestrians left with huge bills for collisions that taxi companies would have quickly paid out."

http://sf.streetsblog.org/2012/08/14/taxi-driver-who-killed-man-in-tende...

QUICKLY PAID OUT?

http://sfappeal.com/2012/08/pedestrian-killed-by-cab-that-allegedly-ran-...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 9:09 pm

I like the comment about a quick pay out by cab companies. I was a cab driver for 9 years when I got hit by an uninsured motorist that caused medical problems for me. That was four years ago. The cab company did everything they could to not help me, including not carrying uninsured motorist coverage. Left me in a lurch with many bills. Not one of the cab drivers ever asked me how are you doing? Are you ok? I use to think it was just the cab companies that were terrible. The taxi industry attracts individuals (I can not even use the term people) to the industry that are some of the meanest and down right scum of the earth. I am glad the CPUC has opened the market for a free market and allowing the public to make a choice and allowing drivers to break away from a corrupt taxi system. The real reason why theses taxi scum bags are complaining is because they feel as though the people out there that are taking rides is their money and that they deserve as much as they can get. Well Taxi scum bags we all want to make money, some of us go to college and make a living, some of us make choices that are lucky enough for us to make money, and the taxi drivers just made a bad choice by trusting the cab companies and the SFMTA to support them. Stop blaming others for your choices you chose to drive a taxi, so shut up and drive and provide the customer service that goes along with the job. By the way scum bags my back and neck are damaged for life and going to the doctors almost weekly is not fun. Thanks for caring taxi scum bags and SFMTA for not protecting the taxi driver in the industry.

Posted by Dean Clark on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 10:41 pm

I like the comment about a quick pay out by cab companies. I was a cab driver for 9 years when I got hit by an uninsured motorist that caused medical problems for me. That was four years ago. The cab company did everything they could to not help me, including not carrying uninsured motorist coverage. Left me in a lurch with many bills. Not one of the cab drivers ever asked me how are you doing? Are you ok? I use to think it was just the cab companies that were terrible. The taxi industry attracts individuals (I can not even use the term people) to the industry that are some of the meanest and down right scum of the earth. I am glad the CPUC has opened the market for a free market and allowing the public to make a choice and allowing drivers to break away from a corrupt taxi system. The real reason why theses taxi scum bags are complaining is because they feel as though the people out there that are taking rides is their money and that they deserve as much as they can get. Well Taxi scum bags we all want to make money, some of us go to college and make a living, some of us make choices that are lucky enough for us to make money, and the taxi drivers just made a bad choice by trusting the cab companies and the SFMTA to support them. Stop blaming others for your choices you chose to drive a taxi, so shut up and drive and provide the customer service that goes along with the job. By the way scum bags my back and neck are damaged for life and going to the doctors almost weekly is not fun. Thanks for caring taxi scum bags and SFMTA for not protecting the taxi driver in the industry.

Posted by Dean Clark on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 10:44 pm

If only the taxi industry could have figured out a way to pick someone up in the outer Sunset without making them wait 60 minutes, or longer, or taking the call but never going out there at all. . .

If only those cab drivers hadn't cried about taking credit cards all those years and lied to us that the taxi companies took 20% of each credit card transaction. . .

If only the cabs in SF didn't have torn up back seats and weren't filthy and sometimes slimy. . .

If only the cab drivers could've had a conversation with their passengers instead of talking on their phones the entire ride. . .

If only the cab drivers didn't make us feel like we were from outer space if we wanted to sit up front. . .

If only the cab drivers knew anything about customer service. . .

Then the TNCs would never have happened.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 12:42 am

How about getting some private pilots with private planes and create an app to sell tickets for air travel for cheap? The tickets will really be inexpensive. We don't need to worry about FAA regulations, expensive airport fees, those trained pilots asking for big paychecks, insurance for the planes or the passengers. Believe me, air travel will be affordable again. All these regulations are for protecting monopolies. We will liberate the air travel. All you need is an app.

My ride sharing app is only the start.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 3:23 am

The cheaper airlines often have worse safety records.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 8:16 am

an airline the FAA would deal with it and not try and put a limit on the number of planes and what they can charge.

It cracks me up that the left complains about monopolies, for a monopoly to work the government needs to step in and pick a winner.

After decades the winner is taxi companies with the limited number of cars on the road, the losers are everyone else.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 10:09 pm

Ride-sharing companies are breaking laws and regulations every day. From regulatory fee evasion to use of smartphone while driving (and even two smartphones(!) as was recently uncovered by Mr. Raplan – an undercover reporter who drove one of the ride-sharing cabs for a week and had far from stellar results). Use of smartphone(s) while driving is strictly prohibited and is a major cause of serious, fatal, accidents. In fact, ride-sharing drivers were already involved in fatal and severe accidents. With no commercial liability insurance to cover losses and medical bills involved. Most readers would likely already know, the commercial liability insurance expense and enforcement is just not there for any of the ride-sharing law-breakers. To make things worse, ride-sharing drivers were also caught engaging in other criminal activities while driving passengers. The bottom line is that regulators who blindly support ride-sharing law-breaking model are gravely wrong and misguided.

Posted by TNC_is_FRAUD on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 6:33 am

Mears Transportation Group, a large Orlando-based firm founded in 1939, commissioned a poll in February, with the support of the Florida Taxicab Association, and found 78 percent of Floridians believe Uber should be regulated like taxis and other transportation providers.The poll surveyed 3,024 Floridians in four metropolitan areas Jan. 7-Feb.13, with a 1.8 percent margin of error.

Posted by Don on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 6:36 am

How about

"would you like to be stranded by a cab company because all the cabs are waiting at the airport or sitting in front of hotels downtown?"

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

Ride-sharing companies are breaking laws and regulations every day. From regulatory fee evasion to use of smartphone while driving (and even two smartphones(!) as was recently uncovered by Mr. Raplan – an undercover reporter who drove one of the ride-sharing cabs for a week and had far from stellar results). Use of smartphone(s) while driving is strictly prohibited and is a major cause of serious, fatal, accidents. In fact, ride-sharing drivers were already involved in fatal and severe accidents. With no commercial liability insurance to cover losses and medical bills involved. Most readers would likely already know, the commercial liability insurance expense and enforcement is just not there for any of the ride-sharing law-breakers. To make things worse, ride-sharing drivers were also caught engaging in other criminal activities while driving passengers. The bottom line is that regulators who blindly support ride-sharing law-breaking model are gravely wrong and misguided.

Posted by TNC_is_FRAUD on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 6:37 am

while driving, if used for navigation - is legal.

Everything you wrote is bullshit.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2014 @ 5:46 pm

An appeals court (not the CA Supreme Court) ruled it's legal, after 2 other courts ruled it's not, and the issue will most likely be decided by the CA Supreme Court.

Don't get me wrong, I think the cell phone law is stupid, but the authorities usually side with the authorities. I hope I'm wrong, but I'd be surprised if the CA Supreme court didn't side with the other two judges, and the ticket-writing cop.

Otherwise the poster makes some good points. Cell phone laws are stupid, but ride-share companies are basically taxis. Illegal, uninsured taxis.

Oh, and you know what else is stupid? Taking one point out of many, claiming (erroneously at that) that the point is wrong, and using the (erroneous) refutation as a springboard to denounce the entire post as "bullshit."

Posted by Greg on Apr. 13, 2014 @ 12:11 am

Well! in my point of view, The real reason why theses taxi scum bags are complaining is because they feel as though the people out there that are taking rides is their money and that they deserve as much as they can get.

Posted by John MN on Apr. 14, 2014 @ 5:47 am

while driving, if used for navigation - is legal.

Posted by accurwatch on Jun. 30, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

An appeals court (not the CA Supreme Court) ruled it's legal, after 2 other courts ruled it's not

Posted by accurwatch on Jun. 30, 2014 @ 7:41 pm

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