Tag Archives: taxi dispatch

Everything Will Be Illuminated

taxi-top-light-bw-christian-lewis-web

I’m rolling through the Bayview on Jerrold, heading back to the Mission after dropping at Third and Newcomb, when the order goes out over the radio.

“11th and Folsom. Drivers, 11th and Folsom.”

Artur repeats the cross streets for several minutes, his voice becoming increasingly irate.

“11th and Folsom, drivers,” Artur pleads. “C’mon! Someone go pick him up!”

I grab the mic. “This is 233. I’m by the yard but can probably get there in 10 minutes.”

“Thank you, 233. Go to 320 11th Street.”

Since rush hour is on the make, I figure Rhode Island over Potrero Hill is my best bet. I down-shift and take the inclines with gusto.

Despite making great time, there’s gridlock on Division. And forget about making a right onto 11th at Bryant. So Harrison it is.

After finally getting through the intersection at 11th, I flip a U-ey in front of Slim’s and pull up to the address.

A few minutes later, a guy emerges from the liquor store. He’s on crutches. His clothes are in tatters. There’s a giant cast on his left foot that looks like a kindergartener’s papier-mâché project gone awry. And he’s holding a gas can.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

The Man Behind the Madness

 

This week’s column is about one of the unsung heroes, and soon to be casualties, of the taxi industry: the window man.

On Saturday morning, I turn in my cab around 7 a.m. Before making the long trek to the 24th Street BART station, I hang around the National office, chatting with Jesse about the corner market he recently bought on Silver and Cambridge. While it wasn’t in the greatest shape when he took over, with the help of his sons, they’ve cleaned the place up, started carrying fresh produce, stocking craft beer and reopened the deli. Business is booming.

“So … how much longer are you gonna stick around this dump?”

Read the rest here.

Playing the Radio

I play the radio loud. Which is the only way to decipher cross streets when Artur calls out dispatch orders in his overworked and underpaid drawl.

The Russian accent doesn’t help. Especially when the two-way starts cracking up.

Believe it or not, National/Veterans still has regular customers. And Artur will browbeat drivers on the air to get them filled, calling out orders repeatedly and even singling out cabs he can tell are nearby, like a school teacher trying to get the class to answer a question nobody knows …

Last Friday, after dropping in The Castro, I’m inbound on Market while Artur is trying to fill an order for Geary and Webster. A regular customer at the Safeway needs a ride, but there are no takers.

For the next several minutes, Artur’s voice gets increasingly choleric: “Drivers! Geary and Webster! Somebody go pick her up! This is a regular customer! Come on!”

Even though I’m not close, I check in. “This is 233. Market and Sanchez.”

“233. God bless you. Go get her, please. I’ll give you a bonus load.”

With the promise of $10 off my gate, I get in the left turn lane. I figure Steiner through the Western Addition is my best bet. But there’s an Uber with Nevada plates in front of me, and when the light goes from green to yellow and then red, the driver doesn’t move.

Read the rest here.

[photos by Christian Lewis]

Just Another Night in a Sanctuary City

christian-lewis-sfo-taxi-cabstand

I’m inbound on Market. At Guerrero, a Luxor, a Citywide and a Vina are already waiting at the signal. Toplights blazing. When I roll up, two girls charge across the street from the Orbit Room and jump into my cab.

“We’ll be right there,” one screams into her phone. “We just got in an Uber.”

Uhhh …

Later, outside the W hotel, I pull up next to a Citywide. Out of nowhere, a guy makes a beeline for my cab.

“I’m not going far,” he says. “Do you know the Mint Plaza?”

I might feel bad about sideloading if the fares weren’t all crap.

After a futile loop through the Financial, I’m outbound on Sutter. There’s a Flywheel cab in front of me. Toplight on. Which doesn’t mean shit anymore. Even though their fancy new TaxiOS meters are supposed to revolutionize the taxi industry, they still haven’t figured out how to make the toplight go out automatically when they have a fare.

As we approach Stockton, the Flywheel moves to the center lane. I pull up next to him at the light. When the doorman at the Grand Hyatt blows his whistle, my Pavlovian response is to inch forward. I look over at the Flywheel driver. He’s actually empty, glaring at me. I can tell he’s salivating, too.

He may have been in pole position, but he changed lanes. That fare is mine. He’d have to do something cra—. What? He’s got his left turn indicator on? Oh, hell no! I inch forward. He inches forward. I inch forward a little more.

When the light turns green, I gun it and pull up to the hotel with the Flywheel hot on my tail. Sorry, Charlie. I avoid eye contact as he drives away.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

The Story of Magnificent Meg and the Taxi Dispatcher

national-veterans-cab-san-francisco-dispatch

The dispatch office at National/Veterans Cab Co.

From this week’s I Drive S.F. column in the S.F. Examiner:

“You’re with National,” she states the obvious, slurring her words. “I used to call you guys all the time to order a cab, and the dispatcher always said, ‘Hey, Magnificent Meg! Where you going tonight?’ You guys made me feel so special. And always made sure I got a cab. Sometimes it would take a while, when it was busy, but you’d call me back and let me know when the driver was going to show up.”

“Why’d you stop calling?” I inquire, anticipating the answer.

“Well … I started using Uber … Just at first, you know, to check it out. Then, later, it was easier to use the app than make a call. And it’s cheaper. But I hate Uber now. The drivers don’t know where they’re going and they’re creepy. It’s just, like, a habit.”

She pauses for a few seconds.

“Still, I miss the old days when I’d call National and I was ‘Magnificent Meg,’” she said. “That’s why, when I saw you parked there, I wanted to tell you how much it meant to me.”

Read the rest here.

Photo via