While everyone was focused on a potential carmageddon during the Metallica concerts at Chase Center last weekend, an actual transportation quagmire was brewing in the south.
Down at SFO, they were closing one of the three runways for 20 days to make repairs.
For travelers, this means delayed flights, redirected flights and canceled flights. What impact this will have on taxi driving was a mystery at first, but the prognosis wasn’t positive.
At least we have Chase Center…
The media hysteria about parking limitations and potential gridlock around the brand new arena leading up to the first concert on Friday was definitely effective. Despite sporadic Uberjams, traffic was minimal and finding fares easy enough. I was even able to access the cabstand in front of the venue shortly before the concert broke. Afterwards, I just picked up rides from the perimeter.
On Sunday, Metallica is back at Chase. Meanwhile, at SFO, there are 400 cancelations, and hundreds of delays.
The day before, there were more delayed flights than ones on time. It was not a profitable day at the airport. But then Saturdays are rarely gangbusters. Even though some drivers speculated that all the delayed flights would lead to rides later than usual, things dried up before midnight.
Expecting a similar situation, I spend most of the day working The City, hoping some of the hordes of metal heads wandering around the Wharf and Union Square will need a taxi to the show. But most opt for Uber or Lyft instead.
Around 8 p.m., I decide to try my luck at SFO, planning to hit Chase later. After getting a ride down the Peninsula at 9:45, I contemplate deadheading to The City and focusing on the Metallica concert, but it only makes sense to go back to the airport.
Waiting in the entry lot, I notice there are still a hundred or so flights coming in. Almost all of them delayed.
Ninety minutes later, I get a fare at the international terminal going to the Dogpatch, a few blocks from Chase.
I head down 16th Street, just as the concert is breaking. The sidewalks are crowded with people. Within a few minutes, I’m loaded. Two guys going to the Buchanan Hotel in Japantown.
Heading back to Mission Bay, I check Hackers and see Barry’s post: cabs needed at SFO.
I jump on the Central and race down 101. After tagging in, a starter motions me past the entry lots into the empty donut lot, where another starter sends me on to the terminals.
At the taxi stands, there are lines of travelers standing with their suitcases. I pull up and load instantly. A guy going to Hotel Nikko. He’s not in a good mood. His flight was delayed six hours, he says.
“How long did you have to wait for a cab?” I ask.
“Oh, just a few minutes. That wasn’t an issue. It was being stuck in Denver since this afternoon…”
I drop him off and head back to SFO. Fortunately, there’s no traffic. Just a few cabs and some Ubers and Lyfts speeding past.
Again, I drive straight to the terminals. My next fare is going to the Inner Richmond. Her flight was delayed five hours. On top of which, she tells me Lyft wants $70 for a ride that’s normally around $20.
No wonder the Uber/Lyft drivers are acting like speed demons.
I drop her off and repeat the process two more times. Then it’s open lot, and we bypass the holding lots altogether.
Around 3 a.m., there are only stragglers. After waiting 15 excruciating minutes at terminal one, I finally get a fare to SoMa. When I pull into the guy’s alley, he asks to be dropped off by his car.
“I have to move it by 4 a.m.,” he tells me. “I was supposed to be home around midnight.”
I look at the clock. It’s 3:45. “You just barely made it.”
As I turn onto Howard, ready to head home to Oakland, there’s a parking enforcement officer driving down the street, giving out tickets to the few remaining cars, followed by a street sweeper. When it comes to schedules, no matter what, they’re always on time.
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. He is a guest opinion columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner. His zine “Behind the Wheel” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.idrivesf.com.