Taxis protest limo drivers, doormen 'stealing fares'

Some hotel guests today may experience a different kind of solicitation by taxicab drivers who say they are getting a raw deal from limousine driverswhom they accuse of disobeying state law to steal fares.

Cab drivers said they would gather at hotels across the city to distribute literature and hold protest signs decrying what they characterize as a corrupt disregard of state law by limousine drivers and hotel doormen.

Under California law enforced by the Public Utilities Commission, limousine drivers may not spontaneously pick up fares, but must only give pre-arranged rides, United Taxicab Workers spokesman Mark Gruberg said. He said limousine drivers in San Francisco routinely collaborate with doormen, to whom they pay kickbacks in exchange for the doormen steering customers to limousines.

The loss of taxicab revenue, especially on rides to San Francisco International Airport could be in the millions on busy weekends, Gruberg said. Because of the difference in licensing requirements—cab drivers must go through a four-day training and a police background check, while limo drivers need not—Gruberg said it is unfair to allow limousines to operate in the same way as taxis.

The protest comes on the heels of an announcement that San Francisco will issue 50 new taxicab medallions in the next few months, increasing the size of The City’s taxi fleet.

“Every time you put more cabs on the street, it’s going to have some effect on demand,” Gruberg said as he stood in front of the Hilton hotel in downtown San Francisco. He said with the extra cabs coming, and unfair competition from limousine drivers, experienced cabbies may be squeezed out of business.

amartin@examiner.com

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