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Cab Fares to Rise — but Not Just Yet

SF transit board approves preliminary fare hike, delays implementation


San Francisco taxi fares will be going up — but not just yet.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors on Tuesday agreed to increase the rates for both one-fifth of a mile of driving and one minute of waiting time by 10 cents, to 55 cents each.

But the board put those changes on hold until it can consider a proposal to increase the “flag drop” fee, charged at the beginning of each taxi ride, by 40 cents to $3.50.

That measure, a last-minute revision to the proposal, couldn’t be voted on at Tuesday’s meeting because of public-notice requirements, but all five members present said they would support it. The board plans to take it up June 21.

The package of fare increases would likely take effect Aug. 1, said Christiane Hayashi, the deputy director for taxi services. They would place San Francisco’s taxi fares among the nation’s highest.

Board member Malcolm Heinicke said he wanted any fare boost to come with corresponding improvements in taxi service. Supervisor Scott Wiener had sent out a press release Tuesday morning opposing the fare hikes and complaining about the difficulty of getting a taxi during rush hour and weekend nights. The board is planning to consider a plan to put more taxis on the streets during peak hours. 

The fare increase was welcome news for taxi drivers, who had staged a protest outside City Hall earlier in the afternoon. Cabbies in the city are upset about a host of changes, including a 5 percent fee on credit card transactions that cab companies began imposing last month.

For much of the tense meeting, it appeared the board might wait to vote on any of the fare increases until they could be considered as a package. Drivers made it clear they didn’t like that idea, noting during the public comment period that it had been eight years since their last pay increase.

“We’re tired of waiting,” driver Mychael Monroe told the board to applause and shouts of “Amen.” “I'm sure you have had a raise in eight years.”

When Heinicke introduced a motion to delay the fare proposal, a cluster of taxi drivers stormed out of the room, muttering, “It’s a strike,” and, “This is bullshit.”

The motion failed, but barely. Only then did the board take a vote — “as a show of good will and support for the drivers,” said SFMTA chief Nat Ford — on the preliminary fare increase, which passed unanimously.

Also Tuesday, the SFMTA board agreed to lift a July deadline for taxi companies to implement electronic waybilling, which would automatically track information about the trips cabs make. Electronic waybilling was one of the issues that drivers criticized during their protest.

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