More power may be on way to crack down on illegal cabs in SF 

A crackdown on illegal cabs in San Francisco is signaling the start of a larger effort to turn around The City’s oft-criticized taxi industry.

In addition to efforts to halt illegal cabs from trolling city streets, efforts are under way to solve the persistent complaints about how it is nearly impossible to find a cab on Friday or Saturday nights, during large events or any time at all in certain areas of San Francisco.

Two years ago, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency assumed control of the taxi industry, which is considered an integral component of The City’s overall transportation system. The agency inherited the long-standing challenges of setting fares, determining the number of cabs that should be allowed on the streets, and customer service. Unlike Muni, there are no customer service standards in the City Charter for the taxi industry.

The cracking down on illegal cabs “is one piece of a much broader discussion that we need to have in this building as well at the SFMTA around taxi service in the coming year,” said Judson True, legislative aide  to Board of Supervisors President David Chiu.

On Thursday, the Public Safety Committee is expected to vote on legislation, introduced by Chiu, that will allow the SFMTA to crack down on illegal cabs with the power to issue administrative citations and impound vehicles. A vote was postponed two weeks ago after Supervisor Malia Cohen wanted the agency to return with more information on how it plans to improve service.

Under the legislation, a team of up to seven SFMTA taxi investigators will have the authority to issue administrative citations of up to $5,000 for offenses. Illegal cabs are usually cabbies from other cities, Lincoln town cars driving around waving down fares, or limousine drivers.

Taxi Director Chris Hayashi said the enforcement could position The City to add more legally permitted cabs to the streets. And she said the city agency is going to study the supply-and-demand of the taxi industry.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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