Slow driving

A San Francisco taximeter with the words ‘VACANT’ lit by a red LED

Today was a tough, tough day to drive a cab.

I left the garage at 5 am. Nobody was out in the morning. I had about one fare per hour until around noon when the fare faucet started to drip drip drop. A few fares turned to a steady stream by the time I had to turn my cab back in at 3:30 pm.

I can’t imagine how days like this will be when they add 119 new cabs on the streets next year. The obvious need for a variable supply of cabs in the City hits me like a ton of bricks when I drive the taxi around empty for whole hours at a time.

  • I earned about $70 today spread over less than 15 fares.
  • I didn’t wait in any taxi stands, but I considered doing so more than I usually would. I even toyed with the idea of ‘deadheading’ to the airport. (Deadheading is when a cabbie goes to SFO without a fare to wait in the taxi queue.)
  • I did have a couple of cool fares, though.
  • I took a group of Kiwis from downtown to the Fisherman’s Wharf. They were a fun group to chat with. I talked with them about the one year working visa available from Bunac. I have been thinking about New Zealand as a working holiday destination and always like to quiz Kiwis on which city to live in. They strongly suggested Wellington.
  • I took a young City couple and their visiting parents from the Wharf to Haight/Ashbury. It reminded me a lot of the fun I had showing my parents around the City when they visited earlier this year. It’s fun to show friends and family around the hidden treasures of the City, outside of the Wharf and the downtown touristy areas.
  • I took a lady from the Haight to her home in the Richmond. She was tired of waiting for the 33-Stanyan which was stuck in the tourist-snarled Haight traffic. When I picked her up I was in a foul, foul mood. It was 2:30 pm and I had only made $40 after nearly 10 hours of work. I angrily turned onto Stanyan from Haight and came to an abrupt stop at the Fell/Oak light. I looked back in the mirror and realized she didn’t have any idea how shitty my day was. She was happy to get a ride to the Richmond in the midst of the Haight chaos. Something clicked in my brain and I smiled and asked, “How are you today?” I spent all of my attention on her (and driving safely, of course) and we had a great, great chat. Turns out she is from Columbia and some family friends at home drive taxi too. Wow, what a change in mood she brought me. It’s amazing how much each person has in common with each other. We’re all human after all. (I know it’s f***ing cheesy but it’s true, so deal.)
  • I had to be back to the garage by 3:30. The cab company charges roughly $1/minute in 12 minute increments if you’re late and didn’t get permission in advance. You gotta be back on time. So, I wound my way back to the garage around 2:50. Sometimes I’ll get a fare and I’ll be happy to take it if they’re heading in the same direction as the garage. This time I came across a desperate looking guy hailing at Fell and Divisadero. Of course I was desperate as well since it was a slow day from hell. He was heading out to the Sunset near 40th Avenue. Ouch. But, I needed the money and was willing to risk it. I got him to 40th/Lincoln by 3:05 with 25 minutes to get back to the garage on the other end of the City. I got back to the garage at 3:25. Nice.

After my frustrating day I wondered if December was my worst month so far. Instead of measuring absolute earnings, which is skewed by the irregular number of days I work each month, I chose to compute the average take-home pay from each shift over each time period of a month. It turns out December wasn’t the worst month — November takes home that prize. Here is the chart:

Mean shift take-home earnings July - December 2007
Blue blobs mark mean shift take-home pay during a month period. The pink line is a polynomial trend line. (Don’t put too much faith in the trend line, it’s bound to head up soon.)

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