Dealing with the faux cabs


Lots of comments on my article outlining the problems with the fake cabs that are riding around town without medallions or proper screening. The main complaint the trolls have appears to be their dislike of cab drivers and the difficulty of getting a cab in some places and at certain times. I've never had a bad experience with an SF cab driver in 30 years of living here and taking cabs, but I'm sure there are others who have; no industry is perfect.

My main concern is that the cab interlopers are lying and cheating -- insisting that they don't have to follow the same rules as everyone else. Somebody in one of the comments said that there's nothing wrong with "ride shares," and it's true that everyone from Craigslist to Caltrans has some verison of a ride board, and it's not uncommon for casual carpools to share gas costs.

But that's not what Lyft and Uber etc. are doing. They're private businesses, set up with venture capital backers, with the aim of making a profit by ferrying passengers around cities. That's the definition of a taxicab business. If these were just casual shared rides, there would be no business model and they wouldn't have investors.

I'll tell you how we can settle the issue quickly. How about all of us who need a ride around town contact Lyft, get a lift, and then voluntarily pay nothing. Or just offer the price of gas -- $4.50 a gallon, most of these cars get 25 miles to the gallon, most rides around town are five miles or less, so that would be 90 cents.

Passengers get profiles on the system, just like drivers. Anyone who does that will quickly find it impossible to get rides. Which will demonstrate that this isn't ride-sharing, it's commerce. And while I'm all in favor of competition, everyone should play by the same rules.



You all should just STFU and stop complaining when YOU can't get one!! You hear?
Or when your driver asks you to make out with your friend so you can get a discount (like the recent MTA report pointed out) or when your cab has bedbugs (like the recent MTA report pointed out) or when your driver becomes violent (like the recent MTA report pointed out), you need to STFU and take one on the chin for working class solidarity!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

The good outnumber you.... Obviously you can't find Flywheel, or your just cheap where you won't pay a decent fare. Just wait till you need a cab.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 6:59 am

want ever more regulation, licensing, registration, along of course with all the fees, charges, fines and whatnot?

The history of the internet is putting people directly in touch with those who actually provide a service, cutting out the middle man. Remember travle agents? Who uses those now. Those airline ticket offices downtown have all gone. Most financial transactions are now done on the internet, sidelining all those full service brokers. Even real estate, with Redfin, is disintermediating.

So Tim, in tech-savvy supports all this, right? Wrong. He's old school, and thinks we should move back to the pre-Thatcher, pre-Reagan days with command and control centralized bureaucracies, preferably with a heavy government influence.

AirBnB, Lyft, even CraigsList (which of course took almost all of SFBG hooker ad reveneue) are all threats to old-style, old-school hierarichal power structures. And Tim doesn't trust people to do things for themselves. No, he thinks we all need a nanny state (unionized, of course).

We do not.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

Disintermediation is one thing, lack of market feedback based on the quality and price of service that one gets with unregulated utilities like taxicabs is what sinks your premise. If some jerk gives you crap service or causes injury, then there is no recourse with unregulated utilities such as cabs.

Highly regulated commerce is high functioning commerce because those regulations instil consumer confidence and consumer confidence is good for business.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

unclog my sink.

Sure, he is not bonded, insured, registered, licensed, whatever.

But if I am happy to accept that, who are you to tell me that I should not have that choice?

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

You don't care if your neighbor busts a main pipe, floods your house, costs you $30,000 in damages -- and then says he can't pay because he has no insurance.

If you want to put yourself off as a plumber for hire in CA, you have to have a license that reflects your training and insurance in case something goes wrong. As it often does in plumbing and other home repair.

Same with driving a cab.

Posted by tim on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

without an official approval (with fee, of course) from some clueless, faceless bureaucrat in a cheap suit.

Internet? What internet?

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

make certain decisions on their own without the government getting involved.

Progressives and conservatives are so odd, they way the define what is acceptable government involvement in other people's lives is so self serving.

This is a new angle though, people can't look at a situation and decide what works out best for them, we need the government to make all these choices for us. If you live in a neighborhood that cabs won't go to because it is too far from the tourists you should just stay home I suppose.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

has insurance and an excellent driving record.

Posted by Guest on May. 12, 2013 @ 7:43 am

No it is not, your neighbor is not advertising services to a general customer base.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

As do a lot of other people.

So this is simply customer choice.

I can choose a guy with licenses, registration and whatever up the wazoo and pay a lot.

Or take my chances with a guy with none of that who is half the price, and just as good, if not better.

What business it is of yours which I do? Competition is a good thing unless you are a central soviet committee member.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

What you're advocating is a lawless society in many ways. You're saying plumbers don't need to have licenses nor do cab drivers according to you. So how far do you extend this? Can anyone come off as a lawyer or doctor or structural engineer?

And what happens if these unlicensed people (and thus unqualified people in many if not a majority of the cases) build an apartment complex and it's not up to code - "hey man, screw them regs!" according to you - and something catastrophic happens as a result - something like the building falling down in a moderate quake, or a fire where many are killed, etc etc.

Even an unqualified plumber could potentially do a lot of damage due to massive water damage from not fixing it right.

Yeah I know you hate govt but just because you have this foolish dislike of govt, doesn't mean you can give real arguments for why govt regulations don't save lives. All you got is, "ever heard of the internet!" it appears.

Your come back to Marcos when he said people need the confidence that it's a functioning, legit system was incredibly lame - your come back was to not address his point but to go onto something else. When someone does that, that's a sign they can't rebut the point so they change the subject and pretend that's a rebuttal. You're lame lame lame.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 8:55 pm

Because all of our laws, like those around drug use, work SO well. What we need in this country is more bans, more regulations and more punishment until morale improves!!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

Lu, sometimes I think you wish the Progressive Era never happened.

Posted by Hortencia on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

You will eat your poisoned meat and you will LIKE it.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

when you have nothing else.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

Take your patent medicines and call me in the morning.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

Stop trolling Marcos, you're better than this.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

sterilize you for the good of the community because of progressive measures.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

Food and drug regulations lead to fascism?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

Not gonna do your strawmen.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 7:21 pm

Yet you reply and reply and reply.

Auto safety is a good indicator for regulation. Taxi policy here is beyond dysfunctional but the solution to that is not a free for all.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

to provide fee revenue to the city, and fine revenue when their "rules" are technically breached.

There isn't a shred of evidence that a licensed operator is a better and safer driver. In fact, a Cartel member may not bother to maintain a high standard if competition is suppressed.

Personally I prefer a "for cash only " unlicensed service provider, not least because I want to stick it to a city which always sticks it to us.

Posted by anon on Apr. 14, 2013 @ 6:14 am

the best thing about your argument is that it presumes that cab drivers are better at driving than the new wave of ridesharing drivers. what a joke.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 9:40 pm

When doing construction back in the day I would see licensed contractors doing some of the most shoddy shit work I have ever seen.

Cab drivers in SF have to pass a short class, then off many of them t go trying to get over. After being a messenger I long ago learned to get in and off handedly suggest the way to get where we are going so as not to go the long way or "get lost."

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 3:31 pm
Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

So let's get rid of drivers licenses also, who needs 'em?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 6:54 am

Anarchy! Yay! Let's break down the structured governmental taxi business and make everyone go into stranger's cars!!! Sounds like fun! We'll even make it more chaotic by handing the app to a friend to pretend he is you driving! Or better yet, we should leave a note for a stranger on Craigslist to sign in and start driving around for murder victims!!!!! Whoooohooooo!!!!!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 7:07 am

Who even needs a real life when there is epic virtual shit happening on the internet RIGHT NOW?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 7:25 am

Getting a cab in the financial district on a Friday afternoon/evening is damn near impossible. In some neighborhoods, it's often difficult to get a cab at any day and time.

There are not enough cabs at times when people need them.

The City wants to be a transit first City. Newsflash -- Muni sucks. It has sucked for as long as I can remember. It will always suck no matter how much money you dump into it. The City implements Sunday parking meters, makes parking meters exorbitantly expensive, makes parking tickets exorbitantly expensive, etc. all to feed the beast of Muni. It's throwing good money after bad.

At least give people more cabs.

Posted by The Commish on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

like the Marriott downtown, the Hyatt etc... at the airport, at 18th and Castro after 9:00 PM and sometimes in North Beach too. If you're not in any of those places - forget it.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

getting a cab in Sf is as easy as getting one in NYC.

Until then, I'm going off the grid for cabs. Screw regulation - it doesn't work.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

Used to call a cab around 8am about once a week, I always had to wait a long time, then the same guy picked me up every time, as we went by the hotels we would see lines of cabs. I just started calling him after awhile.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

I agree, Commish. More cabs. It's happening. But all cab drivers need permits and insurance. I'd be happy to have Lyft and Sidecar and the rest in the game -- they've got a good idea, let them run with it. Just get the same permits as everyone else.

Posted by tim on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

moot. I do not need a permit to give someone a ride, so why does that change just because they give me some gas money?

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

Because in the real world, bad shit happens - bad shit like people kidnapping and injuring and / or killing people, bad shit like people robbing people, etc etc.

Then when this kind of stuff happens - and it will eventually - the City of SF is on the hook for not foreseeing this and will end up paying out millions to the victim if still alive or the family of the victim.

You live in a fantasy world where regulations and permits aren't needed instead of the real world. In the real world, regulations serve a purpose - that's why society decided to have them in the first place, because without them, too much bad shit happened and society decided it didn't want that bad shit to happen.

Welcome to the 19th century.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

How exactly? The latest MTA report on this issue shows a whole range of abusive behavior from cabbies including sexual and physical violence, hazardous driving, vermin-infested cabs etc...

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

The insurance stuff is SFBG nonsense. Lyft and Sidecar have excess insurance above and beyond what the individual drivers have:

It took me about 2.5 seconds to Google that. Tim likes to insinuate that the taxi alternatives have lax insurance but it isn't true.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

The additional "protections" that the city supposedly requires are useless. They are merely a source of revenue for the city, and that is the real reason why Tim is worried - he sees peer-to-peer internet-based business as stripping the vested municipal interests of their monopoly, and he really, really hates that.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

Those are simply smokescreens for this strange sort of class solidarity argument he's making - that taxi drivers need more customers, that they're working class and thus everyone should be forced to support them because these new-fangled operations which have sprung up, with their iPhone apps, are endangering the livelihoods of our working class brothers and sisters.

His objections have veered wildly between what I just wrote and the bogus "crazed-driver-at-the-wheel-of-a-Lyft-car, mowing-down-pre-schoolers-in-the-crosswalk" argument. Taxi drivers get in accidents too - accidents are always going to occur with any moving object and there's no evidence to support the basis of his claim that Uber, Lyft or Sidecar are any more or less dangerous than a SF taxi.

He's spinning his wheels here. People love alternatives, they do not like state monopolies (as taxis in San Francisco were for so long) and they will not tolerate going back to being forced to stand on the street for 20-30 minutes vainly attempting to hail a cab, then having the driver refuse to take you where you want to go or accept your method of payment because "we have to pay the transaction fee". Anyone else heard that line before?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

structures as long, of course, as it is "his" people running it.

When it's anyone else, then it's an outrageous affront to civilization and he calls for maximum resistance.

He's like a teenage socialist - but for his hooker-funded mouthpiece here, nobody would ever listen to him

What would he do for a living if (when) SFBG folds?

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

cab companies are giving the city money, cab drivers are extorted by the city through the new medallion system for more money on top of that. Follow the money into the black hole that is the city, then you will see past Tims red herring.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

are the exact type of citizen-driven operations the SFBG has always claimed to be in support of. But when they compete with a city-run monopoly, well, the Guardian then starts singing a WHOLE different tune.

Again, the bankruptcy of modern progressive philosophy is on full display for everyone to see here.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

I agree -- we need more cabs. But I disagree that "it's happening." The latest proposal to put more cabs on the street has been met by resistance from the drivers who say the City needs to get rid of Lyft, etc. first.

Thus, Lyft and Sidecar will likely flourish while the drivers and cab companies get left behind complaining.

Posted by The Commish on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 8:51 am

needs to be a policy thing at all. Let there be competition for running cabs and the number of cabs out there will be determined by market demand.

It's not a number that should be set in stone by anyone.

Posted by anon on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 9:54 am

Never in 30 years had a problem getting a cab in SF Tim?
Try living in the Outer Richmond or the Sunset and calling a cab.
If you call three companies, you'll be lucky if one shows up in two hours.

Posted by the dude abides on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

There are lots of reasons to support ride sharing in San Francisco.

I live in the Richmond district. I've never been able to hail a cab from the neighborhood. When I call dispatch, sometimes a cab will show up, but most times they don't. It's a gamble, and if I need to get somewhere in a hurry, especially if it is related to work, I can't afford to gamble. I have used Lyft several times, they arrive promptly, and they are reliable. I know when a driver says they are coming to get me in 10 minutes, they arrive in 10 minutes. If there is any question, I can track them on a Google map in real time.

When I am downtown and need to get home, I have been turned down on many occasions because the driver doesn't want to go to the Richmond. I understand this is illegal to do, but that doesn't stop some cab drivers from doing it. Again, a Lyft driver has never turned me down, even when I need to get from downtown to the Richmond.

I rarely carry cash. I don't like to carry it for safety reasons. I feel less likely to get mugged without it on me, and if I do get mugged, at least they won't get any cash if I'm not carrying it. Ever try to pay with a credit card for a cab ride in the City? Nearly every time I try to do it, I get grief from the driver. Most outright refuse that form of payment. Some have asked me in advance if I am paying with cash and then refuse the fare. Others have informed me they don't accept credit cards after I have reached my destination, even though they have a Visa decal on their window. This is ridiculous. It is the year 2013, credit card payments are a way of life. I'm sorry using a credit card takes money out of the pocket of the driver. I don't think that's fair, but it is not my fault. If the cab industry is so well regulated, then they should have some regulations for drivers that prevent them from losing money on credit card transactions. I should not be left on the corner for lack of carrying cash. Again, never a problem with Lyft.

Once a cab driver insisted I pay by using his personal Square device if I wanted to use a credit card. Hey, I like new technology, so I said "no problem." That turned out to be a disaster because he entered a $60 tip that wasn't authorized. I'm not a cheap tipper. This driver brought me home from the airport and I had authorized a generous $10 tip which is what I usually give for a ride of that length. Apparently, that wasn't good enough for this driver. When I called the cab company to complain and seek a refund, they told me it was out of their hands and I needed to track the driver down myself because the payment was processed outside of their payment system. When I called Square to attempt to track the driver down, they told me he set up his account anonymously and couldn't provide any information. Luckily my credit card company refunded me for the overcharge, but the driver got off scott free and earned an extra $50 from the ordeal without any consequence. That's steeling.

It's time for a change in the way we transport ourselves here in San Francisco. I take pride in not driving my personal car around the city. I care deeply about global warming and try to live my life by example, using as few resources as possible and limiting my carbon footprint as best I can. I try to use MUNI whenever possible, but sometimes it doesn't cut it and I need a cab.

Sometimes you need a reliable ride. Lyft is always there for me.

Tim, you shouldn't be afraid of technology improving our lives. I have great respect for cab drivers. I think they should be paid more. I think it should be easier and less expensive to get a medallion to legally operate. There is clearly a shortage of cabs, and yet the drivers constantly try to limit the number of medallions given out. I think there are a lot of challenges the City needs to address in this regard. But, I'm not going to wait around for the City to act. It simply takes too long to get anything meaningful done in terms of reform, and I have places I need to be!

Posted by Nick P on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

I won't take credit cards in a variety of situations, and if you walka round town with no cash, then you will have problems and enbarrassment from time to time.

Cash also has the perfect attribute of being untraceable. With electronic payment, there's always a paper trail of where you were and what you bought.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 10:53 am

I am not that worried about the "paper trail" I'm leaving while taking a cab from say, Russian Hill to the Richmond.

Posted by The Commish on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

entitled to only take cash if he wants. The CC fee eats into his profit.

Posted by anon on Apr. 14, 2013 @ 6:12 am