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. 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. 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? That night, back at the cab yard, this notice was posted by the cashier window: The 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: 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):