SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Taxi fares could soon be going up in San Francisco for the first time since 2003.

The proposal is on paper and the Municipal Transportation Agency’s (MTA) review process begins with Town Hall meetings next week.

Cab drivers historically have had mixed feelings about fare hikes since they want more money in their pockets, but they don’t want to drive away customers.

Driver Dean Clark complained about gasoline inflation and had other pressing concerns.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

“We’re paying out of pocket for increased gas cost and have been. Once again we don’t have health care, we don’t have any retirement,” said Clark.

He went on to explain that he’s not crazy about the meter-rate increase because he wants to keep his services “affordable and accessible” and not to just be for wealthy people.

The debate is expected to continue over the next month as MTA looks at a proposal that would raise the fare for wait time and driving distance, while leaving the initial drop rate unchanged at $3.10. The proposal also calls for a new gasoline surcharge and fees for using the dispatch service.

MTA Commissioner Malcolm Heincke would be inclined to support some kind of fare increase under certain conditions.

“If we are going to enact a fare increase I think it has to also come with a corresponding increase in service,” said Heincke.

That would translate to more cabs on the streets so people can get a cab when they want one. The MTA will hold a formal commission meeting on taxi fare hikes on May 17th and will also hold six Town Hall meetings with the first two scheduled next Tuesday at 1 South Van Ness Avenue.

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Comments (12)
  1. Dave Schneider says:

    SFMTA director Heinicke’s quoted remarks are interesting that a fare increase could come at a price of an increase in service.
    What’s been OMITTED AND NOT DISCLOSED HERE in those remarks –and I’m a thirty year SF cab driver, former Chicago Legal Aid lawyer and local free-lance journalist — is a discussion of centralized gps dispatch so that the passenger can get the nearest available cab regardless of company (after all under the California Constitution taxicabs and their owners are public utilities) and also so drivers can get real time notification of attacks on drivers.

    Mayors Brown and Newsom both committed to centralized dispatch.

    The SFMTA commissioners including Mr. Heinicke know that — yet nothing seems to be done. It could give you a heart attack … my friends know what I’m talking about … .

    . . . dave schneider

  2. Bob says:

    I’ve stopped taking cabs in SF. They have become too expensive. When I would go to the airport I would use a cab but have stopped. I now use Supershuttle. It is not worth putting our $50.00 for a cab ride to the airport and on top of it, the driver expects a BIG tip, for what? DOING HIS JOB.

  3. Greg says:

    I suspect wealthy riders are already moving towards better quality of service and vehicles, ala Uber or other towncar services, Task Rabbit and other personal helper services, or even Zipcar. I personally stopped using cabs as soon as there were real alternatives, such as the above, and as these options become more discoverable, expect old-school taxi ridership to decline.

    There is also the taxi-specific complaint I have: chain smoking, always-on-the-phone shouting in a non-English language, bad drivers that are rude and/or hostile. That is the norm here in SF, and what drove me to find literally alternative to taxis. Now I pay a bit more, but am at least treated with some dignity and respect.

    So the fear of driving non-wealthy customers away is a real one, but one which is only partially based on pricing.

  4. Steven says:

    I agree with Gregg on these comments, chain smoking, always-on-the-phone shouting in a non-English language, bad drivers that are rude and/or hostile. Most but not all of the cab drivers in SF have a real chip on their shoulders. Cabs are very dirty ( you think Bart has issues, Take a cab) and a lot of the cabs are very old. How about bringing the cabs in line and have them all drive similar cars (same color) NY just sealed the deal on new checkers…… Whatever happened to the London Taxi they were testing in SF some years ago… Seems like that just faded out….. All cabs should be clean, pleasant and accept credit cards and not just when the driver chooses too….. Again SF were we should be leading and setting the standard for the country we are behind!

  5. brangieblows says:

    I am a regular taxi user in SF who has been chewed out by drivers twice in the last week. The first time, the driver complained the entire time I was in his cab, telling me that it was “not worth it” for him to pick me up since I wasn’t going far enough. The second time was because I handed the driver a credit card for a $15 fare instead of cash. That time I was treated to a lecture about how the credit card companies were stealing from the drivers.

    I’ve been thinking for a while that I needed to change my habits. A fare increase will be the last straw for me.

  6. Mugwump says:

    The SF Taxi industry is rife with corruption and greed. Drivers and passengers are the big losers. Everybody has their hand out: Taxi companies charge drivers rediculous exhorbitant gate fees exceeding $120 per day. Hotel door men expect bribes of $8-10 per airport ride, diispatchers want $5 daily tips, drvers have to pay their cab companies to cash credit card reciepts, drivers have to tip garage mechanics, and pay arport fees. Medallion rentals go for $4,000 per month. The MTA should cut taxi company gate fees, then drivers could make a living wthout gouging the passengers with another fare increase. SF taxis are among the most expensive in the country. Come on MTA do something for the public good for once in your existance!

  7. RB says:

    I take taxis somewhat regularly in SF–and, in my experience, I’ve usually found the drivers somewhere from a “just doing my job” attitude to downright friendly. It’s actually been rare (but not unknown) for me to encounter a rude driver. So, generally, I don’t have a huge problem with the drivers.

    However, the one thing I have to agree with Steven and Greg about is the talking on the phone in a non-English language…or even in English. I have no problem with people speaking other languages…but I don’t really need my driver yaking on the phone, even with a hands-free headset, when he should be focusing on driving and keeping us safe. (Why they haven’t instituted a law against cab drivers talking on their phones while “in service” is beyond me!)

    The other thing is that many of the cabs are filthy. It may not be my vehicle…but if I have to sit in it, it would be nice to not have the “ewww!” factor.

    And, finally, there is definitely a shortage of cabs in this city–at least during peak periods. I’ve had to stand flagging down cabs on corners for 30-45 minutes in the past, depending on the time of day and area of the city I was in. This has never happens to me when I’m in New York, and I find it astounding that it happens so frequently in SF.

    If they fixed these issues, I don’t think I would mind some rate increases. But if rates increased and these issues remained, I most likely would look into alternatives. It just wouldn’t be worth it any longer.

  8. ethan says:

    how bout make it illegal to have to sit through a redition of how busy/not busy/unhappy they are? it’s a job…just do it.

  9. Zim says:

    I’m an avid taxi user where ever I am, and two years ago, I undertook a 2 month study based on simply researching Taxi Service in other major cities, especially after my trip to NYC.

    I never understood the Medallion thing. All it does is gives the holder the right to charge huge fees, to the point some holders are making over $100K a yr. Under the guidelines, drivers, including medallion holders, must drive 800 hrs a yr. There are MANY medallion holders who do not. They should be taken away by the City. Yet, some of these holders are claiming disability and state the City cannot take away their income. Well, the Medallion is City Property, not private, and this IS going to court, and as in other Cities, the holders WILL lose the case.

    As for lack of health insurance, I’ve preached this to every driver I ride with; many cabbies in major cities have teamed up and bought group health plans. No different than how the City deals with employees or waiters in other major cities. The insurance plans are available. Imagine the cost benefit if over 100,000 drivers nationally (probably more than that) teamed up to create a group plan.

    I think SF, should go the way of NYC & other cities; create one cab company run by the city, with city dispatch. Drivers contract directly with the City by buying an annual permit for $5,000. A driver who owns his car, can lease the other 2 shifts, but each additional driver must permit with the City as well. THis eliminates the Medallion process all together. Dave touches on this very point above.

    NYC has been able to institute a solid Taxi Inspection Service Program, where cabs are inspected quarterly. In SF, who really inspects the cabs. Ever since MTA has taken over the Taxi Commission & Inspection, that’s when it all got worse.

    I rarely see the Driver’s card on the dash anymore. I don’t care what language you speak, stay off the damn phone, and stop smoking when your car is empty; the car stinks. The only joy I get is I work in Law Enforcement and usually start as a Citizen, commenting about “no ID”, “smoking” or “can you get off the phone.” When I get lip service, I pull my badge, suddenly it’s apology central. That doesn’t work for me, and I tried to be civil about it, and I file a report. I tell everyone to file reports, and CC your supervisor of your district. Its the only way it will change.

    1. Greg says:

      Zim –

      OR we, as taxi consumers, could start using all of the other available ways to get around. Bypassing the entire mess and coming up with a better solution is what I suspect will happen. It will look a lot like the digital music vs. old school record label situation…suddenly the entire taxi thing will look as archaic as buggy whips, while people are using Zipcar, TaskRabbit, Craigslist, Uber, GetAround, AirB&B, Twitter, and other new and disruptive services to get around. The old guard will have no idea how to compete, since they have been talking about esoteric taxi-specific issues that actual PAYING CUSTOMERS don’t give a damn about…and they’ll wonder why people would rather use these other services that offer a much better experience for PAYING CUSTOMERS. Meanwhile, customers will be using their iPhones to order service, collecting incentive points they can spend on freebies, reviewing specific vehicles and drivers, sharing tips online, or other new and interesting things that have nothing to do with the drivers and everything to do with the experience. If someone made local transportation even 10% ‘funner’, I think that person would win big time in the minds and wallets of actual paying customers.

      Think JetBlue or Virgin Air versus Generic Nameless Airline That Everyone Hates. There will be a Virgin of local transportation, it’s only a matter of time, that will put the whole concept of taxis and medallions and all the other stuff that NO ONE but taxi drivers care about into the realm of history.

      I do appreciate your insights and perspective, but still sounds like stuff that only people directly involved in the taxi infrastructure care about, not the actual paying customers, frankly.