San Francisco cabbies still upset with new policies plan strike 

Despite potential changes that could lower credit card fees and improve The City’s cab-tracking methods, San Francisco taxi drivers are still planning for a 24-hour strike Aug. 2.

Drivers have been up in arms for months about city taxi policies. One is an initiative that allows cab companies to charge drivers up to 5 percent for each credit card transaction. The second is the installation of electronic waybill systems — technology that records all movements of city taxi drivers — that many cabbies find intrusive. Both policies are backed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates the cab industry.

In reaction to those rules, drivers have staged several protests, the latest a two-hour event where drivers created gridlock around City Hall on June 21.

On Monday, the Taxi Advisory Council, a committee of the SFMTA, will discuss both issues. John Han, a member of the 15-person committee, said he hopes the body will recommend reducing taxi credit card fees to 3 percent, similar to what most businesses pay for such transactions.

He said the fees could be reduced if cab companies stop installing backseat monitors. Companies justify charging drivers the 5 percent fee because of the monitor’s cost.

Han also said he hopes the council will adjust the electronic waybill system. Instead of tracking each individual cab driver, The City would keep archives of broad travel trends, a change Han hopes will alleviate some of the privacy concerns held by cabbies.

Tariq Mehmood, a cabbie who is organizing the work stoppages, said The City needs to completely scrap the electronic waybill system.

“They are still not listening to us,” Mehmood said. “Our No. 1 concern is the electronic waybill system.”

Hundreds of drivers participated in the last protest, and Mehmood said he expects at least that many to take part in the 24-hour strike planned for Aug. 2.

While Mehmood said the electronic waybill system is an intrusive and inaccurate way of measuring where each cab driver goes, other drivers say the opposition stems from a concern that the IRS could track taxi fares. Some cabbies don’t record fares so they can avoid paying higher taxes, driver Christopher Fulkerson said.

Cabbing it

A glance at the taxi industry:

7,000: Registered cab drivers
34: Taxi companies
1,500: Taxi medallions in circulation
125: New medallions that could be added to system

Source: SFMTA

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Will Reisman

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