San Francisco taxi drivers partnering up with Uber to pick up passengers

Luz Pena Image
Friday, November 11, 2022
SF taxi drivers hopeful Uber partnership will drive business
Flywheel taxi drivers in San Francisco are partnering up with Uber in a pilot program to offer rides via the rideshare company's app.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's official. In San Francisco, taxi drivers and Uber are partnering up, meaning you could request an Uber ride and a taxi could show up.

Who could've predicted this? In 2015, taxi drivers were protesting against Uber blaming the rideshare company for a decline in their business.

Fast forward to 2022, hundreds of Flywheel's taxi drivers are now working with Uber. They have both apps on a touch screen that lets them jump from one to the other.

"If we get a call here the Flywheel automatically goes offline. If we get Flywheel, Uber shuts down," said Wahab Alhindawi, a taxi driver.

Wahab Alhindawi has been a taxi driver for 25 years. We rode with him for about 15 minutes. During that time frame, he got more request from Uber than he could accept. On Flywheel, he typically gets one request every 45 minutes.

"Look at the app. That is number eight," said Alhindawi as a new ride request popped up.

MORE: SFMTA pilot program will allow riders to see their cab fare before taking the taxi

Getting to this point wasn't easy. Many of his colleagues have left the taxi industry and Alhindawi still owes $170,000 on his taxi medallion. Something regular Uber drivers don't have to worry about.

Luz Pena: "You were one of the taxi drivers who opposed working with Uber."

Wahab Alhindawi: "I was, yeah."

Luz Pena: "What changed?"

Wahab Alhindawi: "Because the business is dead you know. We don't have a business like we used to before."

According to Flywheel, at some point San Francisco had over 700 medallions. In the last five years, 350 medallions have foreclosed. The majority of these drivers left the industry during the pandemic. They say this partnership may be their saving grace.

MORE: Are taxis the new rideshare? Frustrated Bay Area residents turning to taxi cabs amid price surge

"It's better for us to work with them and come together and serve the city here of San Francisco," said Muwaffaq Mustafa, general manager of Flywheel Taxi.

Luz Pena: "So, if you can't beat them. Join them?"

Muwaffaq Mustafa: "I guess that is what you can say. If you can't beat them join them."

Mustafa explained how the fares will work with taxi drivers involved.

"Most fares are going to be estimated on the meter rate. So the whole program will come up with upfront pricing. So meters will offer the customers the price. If the customer agrees, that is how much they will pay. We offer the same thing to the driver," said Mustafa.

The one-year pilot program is Uber's way to get more drivers on the road. The company said in part:

MORE: Battle at SFO between cab drivers over $250,000 medallions

"As we continue to update and test our taxi offerings, we're excited to announce that beginning today in San Francisco, some riders may be matched with a San Francisco taxicab, if they're nearby. We look forward to learning from rider and driver feedback about this pilot as we work towards our goal of getting every taxi on Uber by 2025."

"That is good if they are joining all together. So no competition. It's good," said Uber driver, Sovim Bartaula.

As for Alhindawi, it's good day, but tomorrow - it's TBD.

Luz Pena: "So partnering up even with a medallion, is it worth it?"

Wahab Alhindawi: "I don't know yet but let's be honest with you. More business is always good for us."

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