San Franciscans could have easier time catching cabs — but may have to pay for it 

Taxi passengers in San Francisco could soon have an easier time hailing a cab — but it will come at a cost.

Today, the board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will consider a proposal to add 87 more cabs to The City’s current 1,500-vehicle fleet during busy travel times. But the increase could coincide with a trio of meter rate hikes that would raise the cost of a 3-mile trip by more than $2.

Finding a cab can be notoriously difficult in San Francisco, particularly on weekends and at night. To address this shortcoming, the agency’s staff has proposed adding 35 “peak-time” cabs, which would only run between 4:30 p.m. Fridays and 3:30 a.m. Sundays.

The staff also wants to add 50 more “part-time” permits, which would only be in service between 40 and 60 hours a week, most likely during the busiest times, noted SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose. Lastly, the agency proposed adding two more permits for clean-energy cabs, bringing the total number of new taxis to 87.

Many cab drivers oppose this increase due to the extra competition this will bring. Consequently, SFMTA has recommended meter rate increases that would bring in extra money for drivers, but also make San Francisco one of the most expensive places in the country to take a taxi.

In May, the board conditionally approved two meter increases based on time and distance rates. Today, it will consider a third hike that would raise the baseline cab fee from $3.10 to $3.50.

Under the new rates, a three-mile trip with three minutes of wait time would rise from $10.75 to $12.85. San Francisco cabs would be the country’s third-most expensive, trailing just San Jose and Honolulu, according to an SFMTA study.

United Taxicab Workers spokesman Mark Gruberg said the meter rate increases are long overdue and are needed to offset any increased competition among cabbies. He said some drivers would be OK with more competition if The City did a better job of cracking down on illegal limousines and town cars.

Driver Tariq Mehmood, who has organized several rallies in protest of SFMTA taxi policies, said the proposed increase in cars would cut drivers’ business by 10 percent. Nonetheless, he said he was calling off a 24-hour taxi strike planned for today.

Athan Rebelos, general manager at the Desoto cab company, said The City needs far more than just another 87 cabs. He said 500 more are truly necessary to meet public demand.

East Bay resident David Wotton, who frequently takes cabs to and from his job in the Financial District, said 87 new cars would be a good start, even if it does cost extra to take a taxi.

“I can never find a cab when I need one,” he said. “It’s always a huge headache.”

If the measures are approved, they would take effect 30 days later, said Rose.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Taxi cab confessions

“I would never take a cab again if they raise the rates. Taxis are already too unreliable. I would much rather use Ubercab and cruise around in town cars.” — Kimanthe Kithika, San Francisco

“Sometimes it’s incredibly hard to find a cab, and other times it’s not so bad, so I don’t know if there needs to be more cabs here. I don’t like the idea of paying more, but if the extra cars really help me find a cab when I need one, I don’t think I’ll mind that much.” — Shane Lan, San Francisco

“Taxis are an expense I don’t like to take in San Francisco, so I use them rarely. If they end up costing more, I’ll probably avoid them altogether. I’d rather take BART or Muni to get around.” — Nathan Schmidt, Vallejo

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Will Reisman

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