Just how big a hit the taxi industry has taken since app-based ride services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar rose to popularity has been quantified, and The City's transit agency, as cab regulator, has several courses it can take to help level the playing field.
The taxi industry's health "overall is being impacted clearly" by competing transportation network companies, said Kate Toran, who took over as interim Taxis and Accessible Services director for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency in June and was named to the position permanently a couple weeks ago.
In her first presentation in the role to the SFMTA board of directors at 1 p.m. today in City Hall Room 400, Toran plans to discuss the downward trend in average trips per taxicab from 1,424 per month in March 2012 to 504 this past July.
"There's been a real reduction, but obviously this doesn't tell the whole story," she said. "Part of the story is we don't have hard data yet from the [transportation network companies'] side to really analyze the full impact on the streets and our air quality."
Toran has approached staff at the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates transportation network companies, about conducting a joint study with the SFMTA on the impacts of taxis and TNCs competing in the for-hire transportation industry.
Transportation network companies, unlike cabs, are not required to accommodate wheelchairs. Total wheelchair pickups by wheelchair-accessible taxis dropped from 1,378 per month in March 2013 to 768 per month this past July because it was difficult to get drivers to commit to the program that takes more time and money.
"The ramp taxi program is just a vulnerable program in the taxi program overall because it costs more to operate, maintain and it costs more in gas for the drivers," Toran said. "It takes more time to do wheelchair securement, so it's kind of the first to go."
In an effort to boost incentives for drivers to join and stay in the taxi industry, the SFMTA waived dispatch renewal, color scheme renewal and driver application fees for fiscal year 2014-15, reduced some medallion-use and renewal fees and eliminated metal-plate fees.
Other possible regulatory actions the transit agency has contemplated to make cab driving more financially attractive to drivers include reducing fees for medallions, which allow holders to operate taxis. Other ideas include reducing the fee to transfer medallions by 20 percent, eliminating the $500 ramp taxi medallion use fee, lowering the medallion renewal for transferrable medallion holders and allowing taxi wrap advertising.
"It's time for [the] MTA as a regulator to really review the regulations and make sure our regulations have been thoroughly reviewed and that they still make sense," Toran said. "Our bottom line is public safety, but to the extent that the regulations can be more flexible and more responsive and we have a process to update."DOCUMENT RELATED TO THIS STORY: