Taxi-driver strike planned in San Francisco 

Hailing a cab in San Francisco is never easy, but it might become harder Tuesday.

San Francisco cabdrivers, upset by what they consider onerous credit card fees and intrusive industry oversight practices, are planning a strike. Tariq Mehmood, the driver spearheading the efforts, said cabbies will either circle their cars around City Hall in protest or keep the vehicles parked.

“The idea is to make taxi gridlock,” Mehmood said. “This is the only way to create awareness about the problems facing our industry.”

Drivers are upset about a ruling from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency that allows cab companies to charge drivers 5 percent for each credit card transaction. They also have privacy concerns about new electronic waybilling equipment, which digitally records fare and travel data. Many also oppose plans to add television screens in the back seat, which would air advertisements.

Mehmood said he plans to try to persuade every cabdriver in San Francisco to participate in the strike. While nearly a dozen cabdrivers parked near Union Square and in the Financial District said they were unaware of the planned action, all but one said they would participate.

“Last week, I lost $200 in credit card fees,” said driver Bijaya Manandhar. “We’ve met repeatedly with The City about this, but they never listen to us.”

Jiwan Subba, another driver planning to strike, said the electronic tracking is unnecessary, and the companies have never explained what information it captures.

Mark Gruberg, spokesman for the United Taxicab Workers, a drivers organization, said he thinks participation Tuesday will be widespread.

Christopher Fulkerson, a driver with Metro Cab, said he only expects a few hundred drivers to take part, and participants will drive around City Hall for a few hours.

“This will have no effect on cab passengers,” said Fulkerson. “The rest of the drivers will be working their regular shift and enjoying the extra business.”

The SFMTA, which regulates cab operations in The City, also offered a dim view of Tuesday’s strike.

“We do not believe Mr. Mehmood’s comments are representative of most San Francisco taxi drivers,” said agency spokesman Paul Rose. “We feel that the vast majority of the drivers will continue to provide the service to the public.”

Tuesday’s strike could have a significant impact on visitor experience for tourists and convention-goers, said Lori Armstrong, spokesman for San Francisco Travel, a visitor organization.

“When you need a cab, you need a cab,” she said. “Hopefully our visitors will find a way to manage if they can’t get one.”

The Giants are playing a home game and six conventions are planned for Tuesday, including one that is expected to draw 10,000 people.


Cab crunch

Major events on Tuesday that could be disrupted by a taxi drivers strike.

Event Location Expected attendance
California Building Industry Assoc. Moscone Center 10,000
Urban Area Security Initiative Moscone Center 1,200
Google sales conference Moscone Center 1,900
Giants home game vs. Twins AT&T Park 41,000

Source: S.F. Travel Association, Giants

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Will Reisman

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