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About The Bay: San Francisco Cabbies Try To Overcome Renegade Competition

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Taxis are parked near Union Square, San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Taxis with proper permits are parked near Union Square, San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Even as San Francisco lawmakers work to crack down on people posing as taxi drivers, the “real” cabbies are up in arms claiming they’re being taken for a ride.

KCBS’ Mike Sugerman Reports:

Unlicensed, and in some cases uninsured, drivers have been know to go as far as stenciling legitimate-looking logos onto their cars in an effort to pass them off as taxi cabs.

“Is it taking money out of your pocket?” asked KCBS’ Mike Sugerman.

“Oh of course they do,” one man responded. “Like about ten years ago there was just some limos, legitimate limo businesses. But now everybody goes by a Town Car and just drives like a cab.”

Cabbies do in fact need to be licensed and screened by San Francisco, and are required to be current on all taxes and fees.

“Solicitation of limousine, taxi or van services is prohibited,” blares an announcement at San Francisco International Airport, driving home the point that people should only get into legitimate cabs.

“When I come off the freeway, there’s one around the corner that says Yellow Cab with a 5-1-0 area code phone number on the cab,” one woman offers an easy way to spot the renegade taxis. Yellow Cabs all have 4-1-5 area code phone numbers on their vehicles.

Legitimate cab drivers lamented that it was a hard fight to win, adding that doormen are often no help.

“The front of the hotels, the guys just come out with the luggage and just talk to them, put them in Town Cars, get ten bucks from the limo driver,” alleged legitimate cabbie Nassar Bassimer. “And they can charge anything because they don’t have any meter.”

There was no way of knowing how many doormen actually do that, but Bassimer’s story was repeated plenty of times to Sugerman.

San Francisco is talking about $5,000 fines if drivers are caught operating renegade cabs.

Cabbies, however, were quick to point out that it would likely be a low priority for law enforcement to crack down on illegitimate cabbies.

“You know we don’t have the police for that,” claimed one woman. “They’re looking for murderers. They’ll be looking for them.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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