Cabs clash with traffic officers over festival regulation

With more than 70,000 people attending the festival each day, Outside Lands tends to be a lucrative weekend for cab drivers when they can get to their passengers. (Natasha Dangond/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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Taxi drivers’ complaints about The City’s handling of the Outside Lands music festival have escalated once again.

At Tuesday’s San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors meeting, Luxor Cab driver Douglas O’Connor complained his passenger was manhandled by a city parking control officer.

O’Connor said the officer yanked his passenger away from his cab in an attempt to get him to drive away from the festival.

The allegation lands amid complaints from other taxi drivers who said they were turned away from Outside Lands.

Driver Mary McGuire told the SFMTA board during public comment that parking control officers told her to “move on, move on.”

“I’m beginning to feel like a criminal,” McGuire said to the board.

Nearly 70,000 people attended each day of the festival Aug. 7-9 in Golden Gate Park, according to its producers. The massive crowd is considered a lucrative lure for taxis and others.

It was there that O’Connor clashed with law enforcement.

“A parking control officer got in an altercation with my passenger,” O’Connor told the SFMTA board. “At Fulton [Street] and 30th [Avenue], I pulled up to the bus stop, as I’m allowed to do as a taxi driver. A parking control officer swarmed me and threatened a $288 ticket.”

That’s when the situation escalated.

“The female parking control officer blocked him,” O’Connor said, of his passenger, “and slammed the door shut almost on his hand. I was not sure if my passenger was going to get arrested or not.”

The officer grabbed the passenger’s hand and yanked him away from the cab and directed O’Connor to move, he said.

The board didn’t directly respond to his complaint, nor to the complaints of other taxi drivers at the meeting.

O’Connor said he plans to file complaints with The City.

The Examiner contacted the passenger, and his account matched O’Connor’s. The passenger did not wish to give his name because his father is retired from the SFPD and well-known. He said the officer shouted at him continuously as he walked down the street and was “very, very aggressive.”

Paul Rose, a spokesman with the SFMTA, said because the area near 30th and Fulton was an entrance to Outside Lands, parking control officers were tasked with “keeping traffic moving.”

Taxis were restricted from the north and south sides of 30th Avenue, he said, between Cabrillo and Fulton streets.

As for the allegations that a parking control officer manhandled a taxi passenger, Rose said, “We’ll look into that.”

The incident wasn’t the only moment to get taxi drivers’ ire up about Outside Lands. They alleged other cabs were blocked from picking up passengers.

Taxi driver Barry Taranto emailed the SFMTA about the alleged Outside Lands stiffing. In response, Michael Harris, an SFMTA taxi inspector, wrote to Taranto that he heard Outside Lands went smoothly for cabbies.

The taxi stand on Lincoln Avenue flowed “quite well,” he wrote to Taranto. However, Harris noted, the taxi stand on Fulton Street encountered some “conflicts.”

Harris wrote that parking control officers and SFPD encountered a large number of concert attendees getting in and out of the park on the Fulton Street side of Golden Gate Park. He speculated the temporary bus zone may have been too close to the temporary taxi zone, causing these conflicts.

Parking control officers, Harris wrote, “were attempting to control the crowds and keep transit moving.”

Outside Lands partnered with the Transportation Network Company, Lyft, with designated pick-up spots and 40 “Lyft ambassadors” to help direct passengers to vehicles.

Representatives from Outside Lands said all types of transit were welcome and they did not ask the SFMTA to direct any taxis away from the festival due to their partnership with Lyft.

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