A trip to the airport is often considered one of the last lucrative trips for taxi drivers as the use of ride-hail services has boomed in recent years. (James Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Taxi industry considers charging $30 flat rate to SFO

The San Francisco taxi industry is pondering charging a $30 flat rate to the San Francisco International Airport in a bid to compete with ride-hail services Lyft and Uber, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

Though no formal change has been proposed, taxi drivers, industry leaders and regulators met in a town hall meeting at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency in late September to discuss the move.

From some parts of town, a ride to the airport can reach $60 and is often considered one of the last lucrative mainstay trips for taxis. Lowering the SFO fare may be a monumental shift, taxi leaders said.

“If they put that flat rate out for the airport, that’s the way you gotta do it,” said Luxor Cab owner John Lazar, who added if the price is instituted industry-wide, “I think volume would increase, yeah.”

Cab drivers can set their own prices, and on an individual basis could charge a $30 flat rate on their own. However, an advertised price drop may be an effective tool to lure riders, Lazar and other taxi professionals told the Examiner.

A ride from the Marina District to SFO via UberX can cost between $31 and $40, according to the company’s online fare calculator, and its carpooling option UberPOOL costs between $31 and $32. Lyft’s fare calculator advertises a ride to SFO from the Marina at $34, and “lower than” $34 for its carpool service, Lyft Line.

Lyft and Uber trips to SFO have soared in recent years as the ride-hail services matured.

Trip data provided to the Examiner by the airport earlier this year showed 20,389 Lyft trips and 125,341 Uber trips to and from the airport in January 2015. But those trips are now at far higher numbers: By January 2017, ride-hail trips to and from the airport boomed to 115,469 for Lyft and 431,501 for Uber.

The idea to lower taxi prices to SFO was hatched by local taxi operator Tariq Mehmood, who has galvanized taxi drivers behind industry issues before. Mehmood acknowledged that taxis have lost ground citywide, but particularly at the airport.

“We will try to get back our customers,” Mehmood wrote in an email to the Examiner.

Kate Toran, head of taxi services at the SFMTA, which regulates city taxis, said the agency could institute a flat rate for companies citywide, but no decisions have yet been made.

“Does the industry do that? Do they band together as a group? It’s currently allowed,” she said. “It’s still up for discussion. We’re looking at what our options are.”

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