If the proliferation of ridesharing companies in The City is any indication, San Francisco needs to significantly increase its fleet of taxicabs to meet current demand levels.
With about 1,620 taxis currently in operation, San Francisco would be better served with an additional 680, to be phased in over the next several years, according to a long-awaited independent study released this week.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which manages taxi policies in The City, recently authorized the addition of 200 new cabs, of which 120 are now in service. But that increase doesn’t fully address San Francisco’s needs, according to the report conducted by Hara Associates, which specializes in taxi regulations and other transportation issues.
The study, commissioned by the transit agency, noted that The City’s population has increased by 23 percent since 2000 — the last time the taxi industry fleet was notably adjusted — but the number of cabs on city streets has only increased 14 percent. Also, dispatch service is notoriously unreliable, creating uncertainty for passengers in San Francisco’s outer neighborhoods.
“There is a significant taxi shortage,” the report said. “In addition to failure of dispatch to the home, downtown
passengers are often queuing for taxis at empty stands.”
The report recommends adding 120 cabs next year, 200 more in 2015 and 280 over the ensuing years based on market dynamics.
Ed Reiskin, transportation director for the transit agency, said the agency would review the report and make recommendations to its board of directors for improving taxi service.
“Our customers have expressed the need for more taxis on city streets and this report confirms that need through an industry expert,” Reiskin said.
Mark Gruberg, a spokesman for the driver organization United Taxicab Workers, said no new cabs should be added until the transit agency figures out how many unregistered vehicles are operating as part of ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft.
“How do you determine the need for cabs when we have thousands of rogue vehicles in operation?” Gruberg said. “Driver income is already down because of illegal competition. Putting more cabs out on the street will only make it worse.”
Jim Gillespie, a manager at Yellow Cab, said San Francisco needs more taxis, but any increase in vehicles should be matched by enforcement.
“The SFMTA has been real remiss in recent years in adding more cabs, so these ridesharing companies have filled the void,” Gillespie said. “They can’t just add a bunch more cabs without enforcing against the illegal vehicles. Without enforcement, the drivers would definitely be hurt by the extra competition.”
The transit agency is scheduled to discuss the report at town hall hearings this week and at its board of directors meeting later this month.
Sources: SFMTA, Hara Associates