In the name of boosting public confidence in taxi reliability, minimum dispatch service standards were adopted Tuesday that will increase incrementally every year through 2015.
The standards set numerical requirements on affiliations with medallions and the number of successful calls per day.
By the end of the year, a dispatch service must affiliate with at least 50 medallions and successfully complete an average of at least 250 requests per day. The standards will increase to 75 medallions and 375 calls per day by 2014 and 100 medallions and 500 calls by 2015.
Dispatchers failing to make the cut will be placed on probation and have their permits revoked unless they meet the requirements after 90 days.
"Dispatch has not worked in San Francisco for decades," said Chris Hayashi, deputy director of the Taxis and Accessible Services Division of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, whose board voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt the standards. "This is in the interest of being able to give the public the transportation they want."
Most of the public speakers from the taxi industry praised the decision. Hansu Kim, president of 170-car DeSoto Cab Co., said, "It's long overdue."
"This will basically make sure that every dispatch company is serving the public that will help the industry as a whole," said Kim, whose company already meets the standards. "The new illegal, unregulated services — I won't call them ridesharing — popped up simply because taxis have not met the need for service."
Smaller-scale cab companies, however, decried the changes.
John Wiley, an attorney for 117-car SF Town Taxi and 140-car Arrow Checker, said the standards will make it hard for his clients to compete with more renowned taxi companies and mobile-based ride services Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. On top of that, about 75 percent of taxi business comes from hailing, he said.
"We're dealing with a changing environment where our share of the taxicab business that used to exist through dispatch calls is dropping," Wiley said. "We lose market share to Uber, Lyft, so it's going to be a big problem for everyone meeting the numbers except for Yellow Cab that has such a large market share that they will never have a problem meeting the standards."
His suggestion that the standards item be delayed until the transit agency implements a centralized e-hailing dispatch system serving all cabs did not sway board members.