Tag Archives: SFMTA

Looking for Fares in All the Wrong Places

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My column this week for the S.F. Examiner is an attempt to shed some light on one of the most confusing aspects of the taxi industry: the medallion system.

While discussing health problems and money woes, Loco and I shiver in the chilly night air and surreptitiously eyeball the BART passengers emerging from the station.

Loco has a paid medallion. As he describes the headaches and heartbreaks of paying off a $250,000 taxi medallion in the Age of Uber, his story echoes those of other paid medallion holders I’ve spoken to. It’s always tragic, since the only solution is for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to admit that the program to sell taxi medallions is a complete failure and offer financial amnesty to anyone who forked out a quarter of a million dollars for their worthless piece of tin.

The medallion was supposed to be a safety net for drivers as they got older. But for those struggling to pay off loans when the vehicle-for-hire business is in the toilet, it’s an albatross. 

Read the rest here.

[image via]

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Between a Jackhammer and a Piss Cup

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Not to brag, but I totally failed my piss test… 

In this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner, I detail the indignities the SFMTA subjects cab drivers to while Uber and Left drivers ride roughshod all over The City.

One of the many perks of driving a taxi in San Francisco is the recently enforced mandatory drug test we must pass in order to renew our A-Cards. 

The last time I had to urinate for employment was in 1993, when I applied for a porter position at Martin’s department store in Gadsden, Alabama. Just like then, I’m sure to fail. But this time, I don’t have to drink copious amounts of water for a week and jog around the block three times a day to exorcise the traces of marijuana in my system.

Fortunately for potheads like myself, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is kind enough to allow a medical marijuana exception. So with a recommendation from the reputable Oakland 420 Doctor, I won’t lose my job.

Read the rest of the column here.

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Stand Up for Taxi Drivers: Philip Liborio Gangi on the fate of the S-Medallions

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This is a Personal Statement From Philip Liborio Gangi: A San Francisco Taxi Driver since 1978

San Francisco will be losing 135 experienced and long-time taxi drivers this year. Some drivers who have been serving the public for over 40 years. This does not have to happen.

In 2012 the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (MTA) issued a new type of taxi medallion known as the S-Medallion. These medallions were issued to drivers in part as a reward for long-term service. The drivers who got the S-Medallions had typically driven more than 25 years and had never received a medallion under the old system. When I received my S-Medallion my name had been on the regular medallion waiting list for 16 years and I had been driving a taxi in San Francisco for 35 years. At the time I received my S-Medallion Michael Harris was the Director of Taxi Services at MTA. I remember him specifically saying to me that MTA was looking to reward long-time drivers and that I should not have to wait for my name to come up on the regular medallion list.

Well 3 years later Michael Harris is working in a different division of MTA and the new Director of Taxi Services at SFMTA, Kate Toran, says that the S-Medallions were only a pilot program and that she is discontinuing the program and will start putting the S-Medallions out of service at the end of July 2016.This will empty the streets of long time and experienced taxi drivers. Paratransit Coordinating Council last week came out in support of the S-Medallion and said they would be sending a letter to MTA.

With car services on the streets of San Francisco like Uber and Lyft I am making only about one-third of what I used to make driving a taxi in San Francisco. A few recent nights I only went home with $80 after a ten hour shift. That comes to eight dollars an hour, less than a
minimum wage worker. My S-Medallion is currently giving me a $30 discount each night I drive for CityWide Cab, my taxi company. Without my medallion and that discount I do not believe it would be worth driving any more. After driving for 38 years here in San Francisco I find it very sad that the city will be losing me, an experienced driver who knows the streets among all the other S-Medallion holders who also would not only find it unprofitable to continue to drive, but feel betrayed by the city after all these years. Most S-Medallion holders I speak with will also not be sticking around if the city takes back their medallion.

I do not want to be pushed out of my job. It’s not what it used to be, but it’s part of my life. After 38 years, I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen the Moscone Center and AT&T Park being built. I’ve seen happy 49ers fans celebrating in the 1980s on Broadway when the city’s team won the Super Bowl. I helped get people around the city during the 1989 earthquake. Over the years I have seen San Francisco change from a big town to a major U.S. city.

Please help Save the S Medallion, help MTA make the right decision and keep these long-time drivers on the streets. Keep the S-Medallion part of San Francisco. Write to MTA and the Board of Supervisors and request that the S-Medallion stay part of the San Francisco taxi fleet.

Sincerely,
Philip Liborio Gangi
S-Medallion Holder #S-17

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Top photo by Trevor Johnson. Bottom photo courtesy of author.

SF Taxi Under Siege: Death of a Cab Stand

caltrain_cab_stand_2 This is the Caltrain cab stand at 4th and Townsend. I start most of my shifts here. While I wait for the 5:05 train from the peninsula to arrive, I get my shit situated, log in to my Flywheel phone, pick the Slayer CD I want to listen to that day and make sure my seat is adjusted comfortably. When the train whistle sounds, a crowd pours out of the station and all the taxis fill up and speed away. My heart always races when I get to the front of the line, hoping I get a decent fare. caltrain_cab_stand_3 Cabs outside a train station makes so much sense that it’s hard to believe the MTA took half of it away this week. Taxis used to have the entire stand, including a cut-out space close to the station entrance, where passengers can easily access the cabs. But this Wednesday, when I arrived at the Caltrain cab stand, there was a Bay Area Bike Share rack in the front of the stand. Originally, the bike rack was on the sidewalk, right next to the station. There was no notice of the change to the cab drivers. At first, the cabs waited at the front of the bike rack, but later, the cabs were pushed back twenty feet. caltrain_cab_stand Almost immediately, Lyft and Uber cars began to pull into the area to unload their passengers. I’m all for a more bike-friendly San Francisco, but if the intention of the city is to encourage bike-sharing programs (which aren’t cheap, btw), why put the bike rack in the midst of so much vehicular activity? Wouldn’t this be more dangerous for the bicyclists trying to park the bikes?

Also, why was there a Lyft party going on across the street that day? caltrain_lyft_party That night, back at the cab yard, this notice was posted by the cashier window: caltrain_cab_stand_SFMTA_noticeThe cab stand was already crowded, with numerous tech company shuttles and the Megabus using the area to drop off passengers as Caltrain. It’s outrageous that the MTA would give up what’s left of the cab stand to private companies like Lyft and Motivate, the company that runs the Bike Share program. But not very surprising.

As if to shade the deal in misinformation, there is this notice on the Bay Area Bike Share website. The stated reason for the “permanent” move is to avoid construction.

And the mystery of why Lyft was having a party across the street from Caltrain that day was solved by this graphic: caltrain_hotspot As part of Lyft’s constant efforts to compete with the Muni, they’re offering $3 Lyft Line rides that originate at Caltrain.

And that’s how San Francisco treats its taxi drivers.

As the tech dystopia continues to unfold in the Bay Area, the day will come when the only way to get around this city other than on foot is with a credit card and/or smart phone, surrendering all your personal information and activity to a corporate third party in the process.

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Google street view of the original cab stand (the first bike rack is visible next to trees):

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