Tag Archives: taxis

One Step Over the (Picket) Line

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If anyone happened to be surprised by the SFMTA’s recent decision to limit the number of taxicabs allowed to work at SFO to only those with paid medallions and wanted to know how the transit agency could pit cab drivers against each other so easily, you wouldn’t have to look much farther than Powell and Post. Or Fourth and Market. Or Howard and Third. Or New Montgomery and Market.

At each of these locations you’ll find a hotel owned by the multinational hospitality company Marriott International. And, over the past three weeks, you’ll see two things that shouldn’t be happening simultaneously: workers on strike, and taxis in the hotel cabstands, waiting for fares.

Last Wednesday, after picking up Veterans 233 from the National yard, I head out into The City, making the usual rounds. I cruise through the Mission, drop down into SoMa, check on Caltrain and then meander up the Embarcadero to investigate the Ferry Building and downtown hotels.

In Union Square, the picketers outside the St. Francis have upped the ante, making a full-on ruckus outside the erstwhile opulent hotel. Besides the usual bullhorn-led chants, they’re stomping, banging, rattling and creating a spectacular percussive racket. It’s awe-inspiring. But then, spotting a bunch of cabs queued up along Powell Street, as if business as usual, I’m immediately disgusted by my fellow cab drivers.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

Stranger than Fiction

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This week’s I Drive S.F. column for the S.F. Examiner is about the other side of San Francisco, the one you don’t see from an Uber/Lyft – the taxi side of The City … 

“Since they’re spoon-fed ride requests, Uber/Lyft drivers don’t have to troll the streets of the Tenderloin at 1 a.m. looking for junkies running late meet up with their dealers before they turn into pumpkins … 

“During my eleven months driving for Uber and Lyft, most of what I documented were studies in vapid entitlement, the occasional comedy of errors due to a technical glitch and jeremiads about the exploitative nature of the business model.

“Once in a taxi, though, things went into overdrive and I charged headlong into the unknown, fueled by a guileless enthusiasm tinged with fear and a thrash metal soundtrack. Each shift came with a variety of misadventures, discoveries and altercations. All I had to do was write it down.

“Although only some of the stories made it into the column, as many encounters weren’t – and still aren’t – suitable for the general reading public. The really wild rides are reserved for the zines, where I have more freedom to describe the sordid and ribald aspects of driving a taxi in San Francisco. But I still have to be careful what’s divulged, to not risk losing my A-card …” 

Read the whole thing here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

How to Hail a Taxi

If the social inept techies continue to sway public opinion, the urbane experience of hailing a taxi may soon become a thing of the past. Here’s a photoset of people getting into cabs throughout the ages…

(I also wrote a column about hailing taxis for the S.F. Examiner. You can read that here.)

Vintage Taxicab Ads

A collection of advertisements from the 50s, 60s and 70s for taxicabs manufactured by Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, Checker, Plymouth, and Pontiac. 

(Click an image for slideshow.)

The Poor Man’s Taxi Driver

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Do taxis only serve the rich?

Are Uber and Left really accessible to all?

That’s what my passenger in this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner argues…

“Honestly,” I tell him. “I’d rather deal with more than just one demographic of The City. Uber and Lyft only provide transportation for certain members of society, excluding the poor, elderly and disabled.”

“What are you talking about?” he exclaims. “Taxis are way more expensive than Uber! And if you use the ‘Pool’ option, it’s even cheaper.”

After making a bizarre argument that people who don’t own smartphones can save money on rides to the airport by acquiring a burner at Walgreens, he tells me, “Part of what I love about Uber and Lyft is that they’re affordable to everyone and not just the wealthy. Ask around. Most people could never dream of riding in a taxi regularly. Now, they’re riding in cars — nice cars, too — from their doorstep to work for only 3 to 5 bucks a pop.”

As he continues making privileged judgments about how poor people should behave, I bite my tongue. This guy has no clue what it’s like to be poor. And just because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development makes some announcement that Bay Area households earning six figures are now considered lower-class, that doesn’t mean the spoiled brats who find public transportation beneath them are actually broke. For most working-class folks, taking a cab is a luxury, not a right.

The more I think about his nonsensical ideas, the more my head feels like it’s going to explode. There’s just not enough time left in the universe to explain all the many ways his viewpoint is wrong and fucked up.

Read the rest here.

Ode to Street Hustle

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Like a game of chance, driving a cab requires more than just skill – it’s luck and determination that’ll make or break a taxi shift.

A good side hustle doesn’t hurt either…

The hassle and the hustle of cab driving.