Commission agrees to 69 more taxicabs

Sixty-nine more taxicabs will begin cruising for fares along San Francisco streets in the coming months after approval by the Taxicab Commission on Tuesday.

The addition of taxicabs on city streets is meant to improve service, reducing the time it takes for a cab to arrive after calling for one or making it easier to hail one on the fly. The unavailability of cabs has become a regular complaint received by the commission.

In February, the commission increased the number of cabs by 50. At that time, commission staff had recommended 100 more, which was supported by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The number of cabs had not been increased for more than six years. In 1997 there were 821 cabs in San Francisco and in 2000 there were 1,381. Between then and February, there had been no increases.

The previously approved 50 cabs have not yet hit the streets.

The commission’s issuance of permits for the 50 cabs has been delayed by two factors. A cabdriver had appealed the commission’s vote to add more cabs — the appeal was eventually denied — and there is a lengthy process to issue permits.

Those permits are expected to all be issued by January, Taxicab Commission Executive Director Heidi Machen said. The permits for the 69 additional cabs are expected to be issued gradually over the course of the first eight months in 2008.

A push to increase the number of cabs came after the release of a commission report this year revealing that half of the people who call for a cab during the week are left stranded, and on Friday evenings, those who call for a cab never see one 95 percent of the time.

Many cabdrivers feared there was not enough business for more cabs. They also argued that to improve service, The City should not add cabs but beef up traffic enforcement to keep bus-only lanes — which cabbies can use — clear and do something to relieve traffic congestion, such as improving Muni.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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