SFMTA increases SF taxi meter rates

May 17, 2011 5:50:18 PM PDT
San Francisco taxi drivers get the raises they wanted after a key vote on Tuesday. It's good news for them, but not so good for passengers. The cabbies point out they haven't had a raise in nearly a decade.

The amount a passenger is charged the minute they step into a cab is likely to go up, but that was not determined Tuesday. What was approved is what a person will pay as they travel in a cab or if they're stuck in traffic. It's something the cabbies have been fighting for since 2003.

There are 7,000 cab drivers in San Francisco. They are independent contractors, but the industry is regulated by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The SFMTA has not approved a raise for cabbies, an increase in meter rates in eight years. At the same time, the cost of living has jumped, gas prices are skyrocketing, and there are credit card processing fees. That's why some drivers are threatening to strike and there are protests outside city hall, and inside the chambers

"We're tired of waiting. We need a rate increase now," said Yellow Cab driver Mychael Monroe.

Tuesday, after a series of town hall meetings, the MTA staff recommended a hike in what drivers can charge their passengers. Right now San Francisco's meter rate is about average for big cities -- $2.25 cents a mile. Los Angeles is $2.70 and New York is $2.00. The proposal would raise San Francisco's rate to $2.75 a mile.

"We offer this meter increase in the spirit of respecting the hard work that these folks do and acknowledge that its time some of these increased costs be compensated through this meter rate increase," said Chris Hayashi from the Municipal Transportation Agency.

But Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced a resolution opposing an increase in fares. He says service needs to be improved first by putting more cabs on the street.

"We have poor cab service in San Francisco. To make that service more expensive without improving it, is a big mistake," said Wiener.

But cabbies say they shouldn't be penalized for a system the city regulates.

"Drivers need this increase. Do not hold it hostage to these other issues of service over which drivers have absolutely no control," said Green Cab driver Mark Gruber.

The supervisor's resolution is non-binding so the cabbies will be getting their raise, which will take effect next month.


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