Tag Archives: uber

Pimp my Taximeter

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As the prime movers behind the Uberization of San Francisco’s taxi industry, Flywheel, the taxi-hailing app, and Flywheel, the taxi company, seem so intent on emulating Uber that they’re even taking a page out of deposed CEO Travis Kalanick’s “Guide to Being a Complete Dirtbag.”

Last Wednesday, Flywheel sent out a message informing drivers not affiliated with one of their color scheme partners that we’ll no longer be receiving orders through the app. Unless, that is, we switch to one of the six color scheme partners.

Drivers were understandably outraged that Hansu Kim, the owner of Flywheel, the app, and Flywheel, the taxi company, would actually kneecap 1,000s of drivers who rely on the app for part of their income, as well as stymie users who expect Flywheel to provide prompt service and, through this divisive act, traduce the industry in the public eye.

As one driver put it: “Just when you think it can’t get any worse …”

But wait. It gets worse.

Since the color scheme partners listed in their first message all use Flywheel’s TaxiOS, instead of the traditional taximeter, most drivers assumed that was the proviso: Adopt their backend, app-based metering system and shoulder the massive costs associated with acquiring hundreds of smartphones to run the app, removing the old taximeter equipment and then paying them monthly service and network charges and a percentage of Flywheel orders, credit card-processing fees and dispatch orders routed through the app.

Displaying Uber-like greed, Flywheel seems to want a piece of all our action, on top of what we’re already giving the cab companies for leasing vehicles.

In return, we get the Flywheel orders back, for which we’d been paying them a cut of appropriately 13 percent.

Now that’s what you call a hornswoggling.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

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Canary in the Coal Mine

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I was talking with a journalist recently about the inevitable death of the taxi industry. He seemed surprised by my response, that taxis aren’t going anywhere.

“They may not look the same in the future,” I said, “or function the same, but when the day comes that a retired couple from Omaha flying into SFO is required to not only possess a smartphone but also download an app, give a third-party company their personal information, agree to terms of service that allow them to track their movements and then sell that information to other companies for marketing purposes just to get a ride into The City is the day you can officially say San Francisco has lost its soul.”

We were at The Orbit Room, and while he wrote down my comment, one of those old streetcars from Vienna clattered past on Market Street.

No, taxis aren’t going anywhere. And automated vehicles are a long, long way off. In San Francisco, anyway. Unless The City invests millions of dollars in public infrastructure.

Several months ago, I drove two guys who picked my brain about which streets in The City were the worst to drive on. As soon as I found out they worked for Ford, I challenged them on the issue of self-driving cars.

“You know they’ll never work here, don’t you?” I demanded. “It’s hard enough for a human to drive in this city, much less a computer. Besides potholes the size of Lake Merritt, many streets don’t even have clearly marked lanes. How are lasers supposed to detect something that’s not there? It’s impossible, right?”

Both guys nodded.

No, taxis aren’t going anywhere.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

Teatime for the insurrection

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The In-Between: Tea Talks

This was a very interesting project I participated in with a few other cab drivers. The idea, as conceived by creator Lexa Walsh, was to have people from diverging points of view get together over tea and hors d’oeuvres and talk things through.

The project gathers artists, writers, tech workers, “sharing economy” laborers (Uber and Lyft drivers, AirBnB hosts) and their critics (taxi drivers, tenants rights activists) together in a hospitable environment so each may share their positions in a safe yet open and critical dialogue. Each position will be respectfully held in the space.

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Besides taxi drivers, there were supposed to be a few Uber/Lyft drivers, but she wasn’t able to find any willing to participate. So we sat around the table, drinking tea and talking about the problems we face because of the onslaught of unregulated/untrained drivers.

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Some of the quotes were commemorated on plates that hung in the backroom gallery at Adobe after the talks.

 

Uber/Lyft drivers just wanna be taxi drivers

If Uber is so cool and taxis are so lame, why do so many Uber drivers try to turn their cars into taxis?

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Used to see this one around for a while. Not so much anymore. Guess they got tired of being mascots for a lost cause.

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A few touches here are there to make sure the car is branded just right…

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This guy is the chicken dinner winner of the dipshit Uber mascots. Willing to bet he’s since painted this over.

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Creepy Uber driver with a little Uber toplight.

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Not sure what’s more pathetic, the personalized license plate advertising Uber or that the driver actually thinks people love Uber.

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Even drivers who don’t brand their cars covet what taxi drivers get without question: tips. This guy is so desperate for them he’s willing to offer free water, phone chargers, jerk off cream and dental care.

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The silver Prius with the SpoonRocket car topper placed like a taxi toplight. He was all over town for several months…

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Until he was eventually run out of town when confronted by a group of taxi drivers and the SFPD.

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Whatever the fuck this guy is up to, he’s got all the bases covered.

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Company branding for SF Pride. Rainbow spots? Like a pox?

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Uber’s “self-driving” cars are so desperate for attention…

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A self-driving car looks like a futuristic taxi… At some point, they’ll probably cover the sensors with ad boards. Because why not?

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For Halloween one year, I was a Lyft driver. It was scary. And all I did was confuse people.

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As Uber/Lyft drivers complete the transformation into half-assed taxi drivers , they’ll start refusing to provide service unless the circumstances are exactly to their liking, just like the taxi drivers did before Uber and Lyft, and the golden age of the passenger will come to a screeching halt. I think we can all agree on one thing: that day can’t come soon enough.

 

The silent us are out there: a letter from a reader

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July 28, 2017

Kelly,

I’ll be brief: I appreciate your columns. I don’t always enjoy them, because some of your experiences push my buttons, good and bad, but I do appreciate them. A long time ago, another cab driver used to post his column, and it also was worth reading. I believe it was called Night Cabbie.

I’ve lived in the Castro for over 20 years. I used to hate waiting for a cab when I needed one, like when I had 4 bags of groceries from Safeway. They didn’t come when called, and in the daytime, they were all parked downtown at the hotels. I knew that my $6 (way back) plus $1-2 tip could not compete. And I resented that I was “second class” behind downtown fares.

And Uber swung the pendulum my way. Any ride, any time. Yippee. But then the reality set in. Uber was mean and aggressive, very un-SF-like. I tried Taxi Magic/Curb, but without a credit card guarantee, they would blow me off too. Finally, Lyft came along. Soon, I noticed that 40% of taxi drivers were “new”. The regulars quit, retired, or started driving for Uber. It bothered me a bit.

Finally, the taxi industry got their shit together and produced an app: Flywheel. Took a while to work the kinks out, but it’s fine now.

I like the experience of taxis. I like that the driver usually knows where I’m going and the best way to get there without relying on “Wayz” app or gps. I like that taxi drivers will pull up in front of my door, get out, and help me with those bags of groceries. I like that the drivers know where and how to flip a U-turn and get it done without whining. I like that I don’t have to worry about surge pricing. And I know that taxis have all the proper certifications and insurance.

I like Flywheel because it levels the playing field for fares, from Yellow Cab and Luxor down to the small independents.

I’m glad that Uber came along. It changed my life for the better in getting a ride. I usually split between Lyft and taxis depending on circumstances, but I want my taxis to stay around.

So you keep writing and keep driving.

The silent us are out there.

David Fusilier
San Francisco, CA

SF Pride in all its splendor

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My column this week is about driving a taxi during Pride weekend.

On Saturday, The City is abuzz with gaiety. Market Street is like a jugular vein from Civic Center to the Castro. Traffic streams inbound and out. The sidewalks are crowded with partiers who stop at each bar and inquire, “Is this a gay bar?” To which the answer is always, “Yes!”

It is Pride weekend, after all.

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People, people everywhere, but not a flag in sight.

In the doldrums, I try to stay optimistic. Around midnight, the phone networks become overloaded, forcing people to wander onto side streets and up 17th to get a connection so they can order their Ubers and Lyfts. Other people jump in taxis.

“Oh, thank you so much for taking me home! I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t been there.”

It feels good to be appreciated, however misguided.

Read the rest here.

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