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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Taxi and Muni Drivers Band Together to Plan Public Transit Strike

Posted By on Wed, Jul 6, 2011 at 3:35 PM

click to enlarge Aug. 2 is tentatively walk to work day
  • Aug. 2 is tentatively walk to work day

Though their City Hall protest last week successfully rustled some feathers (even Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi was riled up), cab drivers are already talking about staging an even bigger strike next month.

This time, they want to join forces with Muni drivers to send a stronger message to their shared boss -- the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

"Both of these groups are being attacked by the SFMTA," said Steve Zeltzer, who encouraged the taxi and Muni drivers to informally meet up in June.

Several of the taxi drivers SF Weekly spoke with said that while it's premature to announce a date, they are considering holding the strike during the SFMTA Board Meeting on Aug. 2.

Tariq Mehmood, the lead organizer of the last taxi protest, said he's waiting to hear SFMTA's interim Chief Debra Johnson's stance on taxi issues before finalizing his plans to protest. Johnson recently took over for Nat Ford, who retired from Muni last week.

However, Zeltzer, a member of United Public Workers for Action, said the bus drivers know exactly what they would be protesting: Proposition G as well as health and safety concerns.

Taxi drivers take issue with the 5 percent credit card processing fee they have to shell out each time a passenger pays by card. They are also against the SFMTA's proposals to add an electronic waybill system and rear seat payment terminals to every car.

The electronic waybill system would collect travel and fare data to better regulate the industry. For example, it would help inform which places are the most popular pick-up spots. But taxi drivers question the system's accuracy and fear that their personal information could be hacked.

The rear seat payment terminals, known elsewhere in the country as Taxi TVS, would bring in advertising revenue, but are already considered one of the most grating features of New York taxis.

At the SFMTA meeting on June 21, the board removed taxi items from the agenda to make way for an environmental review. Taxi drivers in attendance grew suspicious that the agenda item was removed to punish them for the strike.

Despite the fact that the board is prepping to debate those issues, the drivers said they don't think there will be a repeat of last time, where the strike interfered  with the city's Summer Learning Day outside on the steps of City Hall.

But the fact that the Giants are playing the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 2, however, has not escaped their attention.

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Taylor Friedman

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