Cab drivers show up for medallion discussion

March 6, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Taxis can be hard to get in San Francisco and while a study is being done to find out how many cabs there should be out on the streets, the issue of who would own any new cab permits, or "medallions," is already heating up.

Cab drivers showed up at San Francisco's City Hall to start a discussion on medallions. However, the Municipal Transportation Agency and its board of directors decided to cancel a preliminary discussion on how to transition to a permanent taxi medallion program.

"In working with the Taxi Advisory Commission, through taxi town hall meetings that we are having, we haven't yet gotten to the point where we are ready to bring something forward," said Edward Reiskin from the SFMTA.

Two years ago, the city wanted to collect revenue. It started a pilot program selling each taxi medallion for $250,000. City officials say the program has been successful. They are now moving to make it permanent, with some changes. Cab drivers are concerned those changes may hurt them.

There is talk of cutting short or eliminating the waiting list for those eager to buy or sell a medallion. The MTA is also looking at different ways of issuing permits or how cabs get leased.

"Possibly issuing permits directly to companies for them to lease directly to taxi cab drivers," said Reiskin.

But most cab drivers say selling medallions to large taxi fleets will hurt them.

"Instead of us leasing the medallion from the company, like 95 percent of the drivers have to, I am one of the lucky ones that got a medallion and now they have to lease it to me. So after 25 years it's kind of nice to have this much leverage," said taxi driver Eric Craigin.

The MTA board hopes to discuss the different proposals and options at a meeting in May. The possibility of possibly adding more medallions will be taken up in the fall. Currently there are 1,500.

The large taxi companies are urging the MTA to issue more medallions and add more taxis. A spokesperson for Luxor Cabs says the cab companies want to own the medallions to make sure the right number of cabs are on the street at any given time.

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