Taxi passengers received a little relief this past weekend, when city officials approved the issuance of 100 temporary cab permits to accommodate the crowds for the U.S. Open. Similar practices may be in store for future events.
Several of San Francisco’s biggest cab companies have extra cars available at their lots, but due to The City’s quota restrictions, those vehicles remain unused, even while customers struggle to get rides.
On Thursday, during the BART shutdown that paralyzed much of the region, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency let cab companies deploy extra cars to help unclog the congestion. The agency then let the extra cabs stay on for the weekend to accommodate the tens of thousands of visitors in town for the U.S. Open. It was the first time the agency approved such a request, which increased the number of cabs on city streets from roughly 1,500 to 1,600.
DeSoto Cab General Manager Athan Rebelos said the agency should make that a regular practice. Increased service could address crowds visiting The City for major events such as Pride weekend, the America’s Cup and the Outside Lands music festival, Rebelos said.
Rebelos, whose company deployed 24 extra cars during the weekend, estimated that his drivers worked an additional 192 shifts, earning a collective total of $38,000 while meeting the needs of The City’s travelers. He already has asked that the extra permits be released for this weekend’s Pride events.
“If this process is formalized, then we will be able to add cabs on a regular basis according to the projected demand,” Rebelos said. “This is a win-win for drivers, DeSoto Cab, SFMTA and the ridership.”
Luxor Cab President John Lazar said he was personally thanked by U.S. Open officials for the 16 extra cabs he deployed Friday and Saturday.
SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said this process should be formalized, so that spare taxis can be on the streets when demand exists. His agency is still considering whether to issue extra permits for this weekend, spokesman Paul Rose said.
Joe D’Alessandro, executive director of the San Francisco Travel Association, supports the idea. “One of the major complaints we get here is the lack of cabs,” D’Alessandro said. “There are lines of 50 people at hotels, who have to wait 45 minutes to get a ride.”
United Taxicab Workers spokesman Mark Gruberg said such an increase in the number of cabs on the street could come at the expense of public safety.
“Those spare cars are around in case other taxis break down, and that happens quite a bit,” Gruberg said. “If a driver is in the middle of his shift and senses something wrong with his car, he’s probably going to chance it, because he knows there isn’t another vehicle waiting around for him.”
SF Taxi Cab Stats
- 1,535 Active taxi permits in San Francisco
- 100 Extra taxis that were out on the streets last weekend
- 5,000 Taxi drivers in San Francisco
Source: SFMTA, United Taxicab Workers