Taxicabs are a hot-button issue in San Francisco, with debates about the number of them on the streets and how they are dispatched to waiting riders.
Now the wild world of the taxicab industry will receive a closer inspection from city lawmakers Monday.
A hearing on how to improve taxicab efficiency and reliability will be convened at the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Economic Development committee meeting, the first of what will be quarterly reports on the industry.
Supervisor Scott Wiener, who was elected on a platform of transportation reform, sponsored the reports on taxi service, which he says is inadequate and badly needs to improve.
Wiener said that San Francisco sorely lacks enough cabs to serve The City’s customers, often leaving potential passengers stranded for long periods of time, particularly on the weekends. He wants significantly more cabs and a centralized dispatch system, where callers can be directed to any nearby available taxi.
The idea of adding cabs to city streets has long been opposed by many taxi drivers, who say competition is already fierce enough for a job that has never offered a lucrative payday.
Wiener said the hearings can address those concerns. He wants to convince drivers that more cabs will increase their earnings, since passengers will be more willing to call on taxis if they believe service is reliable.
John Han, a veteran driver, was skeptical that more cabs are needed. However, he said, problems of service could be addressed by a centralized call center that efficiently connects passengers with cabs.
Large cab companies, such as Luxor and Yellow Cab, say they need hundreds of more taxis to meet demand for their services.
The quarterly hearing Monday will feature the first accountability report from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates cabs in The City. Wiener said the SFMTA has been slow to address industry issues since taking on oversight of cabs in 2009. These hearings will be a way for the SFMTA to proactively address those concerns, Wiener said.
SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said the agency is looking forward to working with Wiener.
“While much work has been done, we are committed to putting more cabs on the road and establishing better coordination with taxi companies as we go forward,” Rose said.