A 20-year-old incentive for cabdrivers to drop off their passengers and race back to SFO within 30 minutes may be eliminated to curb reckless driving and boost income for the airport.
Cabbies pay a $4 fee every time they leave the airport after waiting in a line for travelers to hail them. If they return within a half-hour, the $4 is waived for the next pick up. Also, the cabs have rights to a shorter line, ostensibly getting access to more passengers. Then they pay a $2 fee for every short trip after that.
But San Francisco International Airport officials are on the verge of charging $4 every time and ending the special, shorter line. Officials say the short trip incentive encourages speeding or driving carelessly and they say it only covers about 57 percent of an annual $3.2 million curbside contract to manage the short trip cabs.
“It’s still being negotiated,’’ said San Francisco International Airport spokesman Mike McCarron. “I think something will happen within the next month.’’
Drivers could be paying even more money, on top of gas, their shift fees and bridge or other tolls, to operate at the airport, an area that’s distant from anywhere else in The City, said spokesman Mark Gruberg for the taxi union United Taxicab Workers.
“They’re paying at least $10 an hour for the cab alone, that’s not including gas,’’ said Gruberg, who also drives a cab. “We need to figure out a way the short system works but keep in mind the airport’s biggest objections.’’
Upsetting the impatient and eager taxi drivers wouldn’t help safety issues, he said.
Los Angeles and San Jose airports don’t charge a fee, but they do implement a minimum fare, so it’s more worth it for cab drivers to wait rather than race back for another fare. Oakland charges every driver $3 a trip, but lets short trip drivers into a shorter line.
An alternative for SFO might be a $15 minimum fee for passengers, whether it’s down the street or to the next town.
However that plan has to connect to one more piece of the puzzle.
The drivers are allowed to charge their passengers a $2 fee wherever they go, even if their short trip fee is waived, so drivers want SFO to increase it to $3 and essentially charge an $18 minimum, said Carl Macmurdo, president of the Medallion Holders Association, cab owners.
“There really is a safety problem, too. And just about everyone is in agreement that time-based shorts are a recipe for major accidents,’’ Macmurdo said.
Airport taxi charges
- No minimum rate
- Drivers pay: $4 a trip
- Passengers pay: $2 fee
Short trip incentive:
- Cab back in 30 minutes: $4 is waived, gets into a shorter line
- Every time after the first short trip: $2 fee, shorter line
- Minimum rate: $15
- No short trip incentive
- Drivers pay: $4 fee every time
- Passengers pay: $3 fee
Source: SFO, Medallion Holders Association