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SF Taxi Workers Alliance Opposes SF MTA UBER Deal

by SF Taxi Worker Alliance
The SFTWA is opposing a deal for UBER to profiteer from Taxi drivers. It is supported by the billionaires at UBER and Mayor London Breed who takes money from them. Breed and previous mayors supported deregulation and a free hand for UBER/Lyft and other operations that have seriously harmed the taxi drivers of San Francisco.
SFTWA Statement on Uber-Taxi Deal
PRESS RELEASE
https://www.sftwa.org
https://www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoTaxiWorkersAlliance/
April 4, 2022
For immediate release

CONTACTS:
Evelyn Engel: 415-265-7814 evelynengel [at] sbcglobal.net
Barry Taranto: 415-271-6512 barryto [at] pacbell.net

SFTWA Statement on Uber-Taxi Deal
One of the most significant changes ever proposed for the San Francisco taxi industry will be considered by the SFMTA Board on Tuesday, April 5.

Uber and the Flywheel taxi app are teaming up to offer Uber rides to San Francisco taxi drivers. On Tuesday, the SFMTA Board will vote on whether to amend the transportation code to allow an “upfront fare pilot.” This pilot will allow taxi apps—so far just Flywheel—to dispatch trips that originate with Uber at rates that are not required to match taxi meter rates. Time and distance rates will be set by Uber and may be higher or lower than the regulated taxi meter rate.

Is this in the best interests of taxi drivers, the taxi industry and the public? Uber and Flywheel will certainly benefit. Uber has a driver shortage, especially full-time drivers. This deal gives Uber hundreds of experienced, full-time drivers at no cost. And both Uber and Flywheel will get a commission on each trip. Taxi drivers will see additional demand, but will they benefit financially? Fares that are not enough for Uber drivers will not be enough to support taxi drivers, many of whom have higher expenses, including medallion loan payments.

We’ve been told that program rules will contain safeguards to protect both taxi drivers and our traditional taxi passengers. But the program rules are not included in the Transportation Code changes going before SFMTA on Tuesday. The SFMTA Board is voting on a “blank check,” authorizing the upfront fare pilot with Uber without revealing what the final program rules will be. Here are just a few of our concerns:

How much will drivers pay in commissions? We have heard the figure 15% mentioned, but whatever the initial amount, what is to stop Uber from raising it? There must be a cap on commissions.
Will drivers know if a ride originated with Uber? Drivers should have the right to refuse these rides. But we have heard that drivers won’t be informed if the ride originated with Uber. Drivers must have that information before they accept the ride.
Will drivers know what the fare will be? Before accepting rides, drivers have a right to know if the fare will be at a rate below the taxi meter rate.
Will drivers be subject to “deactivation”? Drivers have a right to know if Uber’s policy on removing drivers from their app will apply to them. Deactivations often come out of nowhere without explanation or the right to appeal.
Will traditional taxi customers, especially those in the Paratransit Program, be well served? The sheer volume of Uber rides that will be diverted to taxis at busy times could severely impact our ability to serve paratransit and other traditional riders. And because Uber surge prices at busy times, taxi drivers will have an incentive to serve Uber passengers at the expense of our regular customer base.
But our most serious concern is this: What will stop Uber from dominating the taxi industry and setting its charges at any rate it wants? Uber is a multi-billion-dollar company with a long history of tinkering with fares and raising its commission. And it has shown over and over that it is not to be trusted. Taxi drivers must be fairly compensated for the work they perform.

Two weeks ago, a similar deal between Uber and taxi apps Curb and Arro was announced in New York City, but there is a major difference between New York and San Francisco. The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission regulates both taxis and TNCs. San Francisco has no regulatory authority over Uber, and yet is inviting it to play an important role in our industry. If it is to play such a role, it must be subject to regulation, as all taxi drivers, medallion holders, companies and dispatch services are.

Taxis are integral to public transportation. Unlike Uber, our rates don’t vary from time to time, place to place, trip to trip. We take multiple forms of payment, including cash, credit cards, Paratransit debit cards and various forms of vouchers. Anything that might detract from our ability to serve the public at large must be carefully scrutinized, and steps must be taken to prevent that from happening.

Unless and until taxi drivers’ concerns are satisfactorily addressed, the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance calls on the SFMTA Board to vote NO on this ill-defined Transportation Code change. We demand much more transparency about how this arrangement will work and adequate safeguards for both taxi drivers and our traditional taxi passengers, especially those in the Paratransit program.
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