You’d think an event that brings an extra 45,000 people to San Francisco streets would be a boon to local taxi drivers, but cabbies in The City are saying that fares are exceptionally hard to come by at this year’s Oracle OpenWorld event at Moscone Center.
Drivers said that road closures near the event make it nearly impossible to get to, and taxi stands set up at Moscone Center are situated in an area with little foot traffic. Making matters worse, by the time drivers manage to make it to the convention, all of their fares have been bigfooted by corporate shuttle buses and Oracle-sponsored pedicabs.
“The Oracle convention is actually horrible for business,” said Christopher Fulkerson, a driver with Metro cab. “Getting down there is an absolute nightmare with all the road closures and one-way streets. And when you get there, there is no one to pick up.”
Fellow driver John Han, who runs a blog called Taxi TownSF, said it was helpful that the convention center set up a taxi stand — a spot where cars can idle without getting slapped with citations from parking control officers. But the stand was on Fourth Street between Mission and Howard streets — a stretch far removed from the center of the convention.
“It’s pretty barren and desolate over there, as far as fares are concerned,” Han said. “There is really no reason to stay parked there if you’re a driver.”
Paul Rose, spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which manages taxi operations in The City, said the cab stand has been set up on Fourth Street for the past five years of the convention. He said the agency is eager to reach out to drivers to gather feedback on a better location for the stand.
With an estimated 45,000 patrons attending the event — equal to almost 5 percent of The City’s population — the convention-goers had to be moved somehow, but many cabdrivers were dismayed at the visitors’ preferred mode of travel.
Han said that most convention-goers are being ferried around The City on corporate shuttles. Or they’re getting rides on the pedicabs — small carriages powered by bicyclists. The pedicabs are emblazoned with the red corporate banners of Oracle.
“I talked to a guy directing traffic at the convention, and he said he was telling everyone to get on the pedicabs or take the shuttles,” Han said. “He said he was telling people that if they want a cab, they should just grab one on Market Street.”
Mark Gruberg, spokesman for the United Taxicab Workers, said that the Oracle OpenWorld convention could be a blessing for the industry, particularly for those struggling to make ends meet driving a cab.
“Anytime you have an injection of that many people to The City, it should mean more fares for drivers,” said Gruberg. “But for some reason, the benefits don’t seem to trickle down that far.”
The technology summit has drawn many to The City.