SF Taxi Under Siege: Death of a Cab Stand

caltrain_cab_stand_2 This is the Caltrain cab stand at 4th and Townsend. I start most of my shifts here. While I wait for the 5:05 train from the peninsula to arrive, I get my shit situated, log in to my Flywheel phone, pick the Slayer CD I want to listen to that day and make sure my seat is adjusted comfortably. When the train whistle sounds, a crowd pours out of the station and all the taxis fill up and speed away. My heart always races when I get to the front of the line, hoping I get a decent fare. caltrain_cab_stand_3 Cabs outside a train station makes so much sense that it’s hard to believe the MTA took half of it away this week. Taxis used to have the entire stand, including a cut-out space close to the station entrance, where passengers can easily access the cabs. But this Wednesday, when I arrived at the Caltrain cab stand, there was a Bay Area Bike Share rack in the front of the stand. Originally, the bike rack was on the sidewalk, right next to the station. There was no notice of the change to the cab drivers. At first, the cabs waited at the front of the bike rack, but later, the cabs were pushed back twenty feet. caltrain_cab_stand Almost immediately, Lyft and Uber cars began to pull into the area to unload their passengers. I’m all for a more bike-friendly San Francisco, but if the intention of the city is to encourage bike-sharing programs (which aren’t cheap, btw), why put the bike rack in the midst of so much vehicular activity? Wouldn’t this be more dangerous for the bicyclists trying to park the bikes?

Also, why was there a Lyft party going on across the street that day? caltrain_lyft_party That night, back at the cab yard, this notice was posted by the cashier window: caltrain_cab_stand_SFMTA_noticeThe cab stand was already crowded, with numerous tech company shuttles and the Megabus using the area to drop off passengers as Caltrain. It’s outrageous that the MTA would give up what’s left of the cab stand to private companies like Lyft and Motivate, the company that runs the Bike Share program. But not very surprising.

As if to shade the deal in misinformation, there is this notice on the Bay Area Bike Share website. The stated reason for the “permanent” move is to avoid construction.

And the mystery of why Lyft was having a party across the street from Caltrain that day was solved by this graphic: caltrain_hotspot As part of Lyft’s constant efforts to compete with the Muni, they’re offering $3 Lyft Line rides that originate at Caltrain.

And that’s how San Francisco treats its taxi drivers.

As the tech dystopia continues to unfold in the Bay Area, the day will come when the only way to get around this city other than on foot is with a credit card and/or smart phone, surrendering all your personal information and activity to a corporate third party in the process.


Google street view of the original cab stand (the first bike rack is visible next to trees):


9 thoughts on “SF Taxi Under Siege: Death of a Cab Stand

  1. Karen

    I ride my bike to Caltrain every morning. The area around the taxi stand and bus zones is always a sh*t show, with mega buses, taxis, and business shuttles regularly blocking the bike lane. BUT, I support getting personal cars off the road and the use of public transit, so I was happy to navigate around the chaos and deal. Then I noticed the other morning that they (weirdly) put the bike share stand in the road. I also noticed this morning there were no taxis waiting at the station (I think that’s a first in my memory). My curiosity about the situation led me to your post.
    I think it’s a good idea to try to make some order out of the chaos that is 4th and Townsend. However, I don’t think it should be on the backs of the city’s taxi drivers. You’re trying to make a buck just like everyone else. And your business is regulated (unlike Lyft and Uber, which scare me. I have been almost hit a million times by Lyft/Uber/Sidecar drivers with one hand on the wheel and both eyes on their phones trying to find their pick up).
    I feel for you, dude. Hope SFMTA realizes its mistake and changes things for the better.


  2. Dave

    Hey Kelly,

    re |”the day will come when the only way to get around this city other than on foot is with a credit card and/or smart phone, surrendering all your personal information and activity to a corporate third party in the process.”-d.

    Continuing that thought: ‘-who then make it available to national security agenc(ies) On Demand, in Real Time, in the format most convenient to them… And so the ‘Digital Revolution’ becomes the Digital Choke-Chain as SF’s gen-pop is ‘persuaded’ to pay for the installation of the oligarchic root-kit…’

    Of course, I’m just making that up. You’d never write such a thing.



    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don Anderson

    Thanks for this great documentation, and also for your blog and zine, which I’m a fan of.

    Caltrain is also where the last SF jitney picks up, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be ironic if Lyft — which likes to tout the jitneys of yore as its supposed ancestors — helped drive the last one out of business, after more than 100 years?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dave

      Hi Don!

      “Caltrain is also where the last SF jitney picks up, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be ironic if Lyft — which likes to tout the jitneys of yore as its supposed ancestors — helped drive the last one out of business, after more than 100 years?”-d.

      Yes, Woudn’t it though? But there’s that quote about Irony, History and Coin, isn’t there?
      One could also make the observation that this would be *expected* since it’s what the gig-economy is based on: harvesting the remnants of an erstwhile middle-class in the form of overeducated workers driving vehicles purchased with the final fumes of their credit, and in Lyft’s case – hijacking the goodwill and historic PR of another business, while financially injesting it.
      It’s all so very ‘New San Francisco’…
      I look forward to the ‘Post-New-New SF’.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Matt

    Sorry but San Francisco residents have been shit on by the taxis for way to long. The death of the industry was their own doing. How many times have we been kicked out for wanting to go to the Sunset or Richmond? How many times have we been told that the credit card machine was broken? How many times have they failed to show up on time when a ride was set up in advance? How many times has cab drivers deliberately taken the slowest route possible? The death of the cab industry is something to celebrate, not mourn.


    1. piltdownlad Post author

      I think we can all agree that the taxi industry fucked itself. Certain cab drivers were notorious for their horrible customer service and the cab companies didn’t respond fast enough to new technology. Still, there are reasons why cabs didn’t want to drive to the Richmond and Sunset in the past. It wasn’t profitable. Think about it, if you hail a cab downtown going to 22nd and Anza at 5pm, that’s going to be a $25-$30 fare. And that’s all the driver will make during the busiest time of day because it will take him an hour to make the trip and return to where he can find another fare. Several short rides during that time period could net the driver around $50-$70. And credit cards… I agree, not accepting them was short-sighted, though, like long distance rides with a dead-head back to the city, it wasn’t always profitable for the driver, what with transaction fees and having to wait to get access to their money. But hey, all that’s changed. Cabs go to the Richmond and Sunset all the time now. And there’s Flywheel, so you never have to worry about getting a cab when you need one. Unlike with dispatch calls, where people would call multiple companies and when the driver showed up, there was no guarantee that the fare would still be around…

      Should you hold a grudge against taxi for their past indiscretions? Why not. But are Lyft and Uber really the solution? Their business models are predatory and exploitative. I drove for them for 11 months and switched to taxi because I wasn’t making money (unless I scammed the system) and wasn’t being respected. I used my own personal car and drove it into the ground. For what? So people like you could celebrate the death of taxi? C’mon. I hate the Bart but I wouldn’t want to see it destroyed. I hate the post office, but what’s the alternative? As it is, you can send a letter anywhere in the US for fifty cents. If UPS and FedEx were in charge, you’d be paying much, much more. In a taxi, rates don’t fluctuate. So a ride from Union Square to the deep Richmond is always the same. Unlike with Uber and Lyft… I once drove a guy from 4th and Mission to 30th and Lake during Uber surge for $116.

      If that’s the kind of world you want to live in, and you don’t care that these “on-demand” companies are destroying the city, then dance on the grave of taxi all you want. But that just makes you an asshole, no better than any taxi driver who may have kicked you out of their cab for wanting to go the Richmond or refused your credit card. In fact, you might even worse. Taxi drivers can change. Can you?


  5. Chris

    You’ve probably picked me up a time or two. I am on that 5:05 train a couple times a week and go to Pac Heights on Lyon. Next time you get a Pac Heights fare ask if your fare posted on your blog.

    I do not understand why they would put those bike racks there. Cars are still going to pull in making it dangerous for people trying to use the racks.

    Do know that some people use Taxis exclusively. I use Flywheel to get to Caltrain and use that cab stand to get home. Good luck, dude.

    Liked by 1 person


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