Another delay in rate hikes angers San Francisco cabbies 

As if San Francisco cabbies weren’t angry enough, the fare increases they have long awaited will be delayed for another month and a half — a setback expected to exacerbate Tuesday’s planned taxi strike.

It has been eight years since The City’s last taxi rate hike, and during that time, gas prices, car-leasing fees and the cost of living have all climbed. So the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency recently recommended increasing base fares by 40 cents, mileage rates by 50 cent, and waiting rates by 10 cents per minute.

Until Tuesday, the agency’s board of directors had been expected to approve those increases next week for implementation by Aug. 1. But California’s environmental review process will apparently delay that schedule.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said officials recently realized that the California Environmental Quality Act requires them to conduct an environmental review of the proposal. Before rates can rise, the agency must study the potential travel impacts, Rose said.

Cabbies are already miffed about a series of SFMTA policy decisions, including an initiative allowing cab companies to charge them 5 percent for credit-card transactions. In defiance of those measures, hundreds of drivers plan to strike Tuesday.

“They have been promising us meter rate increases for years, and to see this get taken off the table again is very frustrating,” driver and strike organizer Tariq Mehmood said. “Now you are going to see even more drivers refuse to work on Tuesday.”

Mehmood said cabbies will remain parked or drive around City Hall in protest.

The SFMTA is familiar with such environmental review. In 2006, a resident sued to stop the implementation of its bike plan, arguing that the agency had failed to undertake required reviews. A judge upheld the suit, halting the plan for four years.

Rose said the taxi-rate review won’t be nearly as lengthy, and that the agency hopes to have the increases before the board by Aug. 2 at the latest.

Cab drivers, however, remain restive. Mark Gruberg, spokesman for the United Taxicab Workers, called it suspicious that the rate proposals got pulled just a day after word of the strike became public.

“We don’t accept at face value the MTA’s excuse or explanation about the decision to stop the meter rate increases,” Gruberg said. “We feel like they’ve never wanted to deal with it, and now they have an excuse to push it down the road.”


SFMTA proposed meter-rate increases

Base fare $3.10 $3.50
Mileage rate $2.25 per mile $2.75 per mile
Waiting rate 45 cents per minute 55 cents per minute

Source: SFMTA

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Will Reisman

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