The headline should read, “Mayor signs taxi gate fee increase, lowering pay for City workers.”

San Francisco Supervisor Alioto-Pier with a sign reading ‘taxi gates’ pointed upward - thumbnail

Mayor Newsom signed a bill last week that increases gate fees for most cab drivers by $5 (effectively a $.50/hr paycut) and increases the gate fee for Compressed Natural Gas and hybrid cab drivers by $13.50 (effectively a $1.35/hr paycut).

I first learned of the gate fee increase when I showed up for work this weekend. All around the cab yard there were signs posted alerting drivers of the gate fee increase which clearly identified the Mayor and Board of Supervisors as the culprit, not the cab company itself.

The Mayor’s office issued a press release that would, in theory, summarize this news. It does not. In fact, it paints a rosy picture that this legislation makes the City’s cab fleet more green and that cab drivers will jump for joy like leprechauns at the end of the rainbow to the news that we’ll all be driving Prius cabs.

What follows is the actual press release and a bit of cynical discussion, as usual.

Mayor Newsom Signs Alternative-Fuel Taxi Legislation

3/6/08 – Today, Mayor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that will enable the purchase of more alternative-fuel taxi cabs for use on San Francisco streets. The legislation will help the City meet its commitment to reducing green house gas emissions with a higher gate fee, which will allow taxi cab companies to purchase new alternative fuel vehicles and supply them to drivers. Taxi drivers also benefit with lower gas costs associated with more efficient vehicles that get better gas mileage, or use less expensive alternative fuels.

“Transportation accounts for over half of San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions, and it is imperative that we look to this sector for commensurate emissions reductions,” said Mayor Newsom. “The legislation I am signing today complements the pledge I made in 2006 for an all-green taxi fleet and provides a mandate for cab companies to convert their vehicles.”

Mayor Newsom’s 2006 State of the City Address challenged the Taxi Commission to create a 100% “green” taxi fleet. Approximately 15% of today’s fleet is either Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) or hybrid vehicles. This legislation is expected to increase that percentage to 100% by 2011.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation codifying the Taxi Commission’s policy and added a gate increase of $7.50 per vehicle. Specifically, the legislation amends the San Francisco Police code by raising the taxicab gate cap to $96.50 and ratifies gate fees previously charged up to $91.50 per shift for the period of January 1, 2003 to October 27 2006; to authorize a $7.50 surcharge on the gate cap for low emission vehicles; and to require taxi companies to reduce average per vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2012.

“This legislation came about because the status quo gate cap cannot continue,” said Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier. “I’m pleased we found a way to green the taxi cab industry without bankrupting the companies and without doing so on the backs of cab drivers.”

The 2007 Taxi Emissions Resolution required that the San Francisco taxi industry reduce its total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 50% from current levels and 20% from 1990 levels by 2011. Under the resolution, the San Francisco Taxi Commission committed to work to achieve zero net carbon emissions by offsetting the total amount of GHG produced by the San Francisco taxi fleet with an equal amount of renewable energy or energy efficiency by 2015, and by 2020 will work to achieve zero gross GHG emissions by permitting only zero emission vehicles. Additionally, the Resolution urged the Board of Supervisors to enact legislation to raise the per-shift gate fee to subsidize the purchase of high-efficiency vehicles.

The magic of PR spin never fails to amaze me. Is it so hard for our elected officials to be honest? Do they actually believe the things they spin? They must not. They must understand the reality. Do we live in Disneyland? Are we on Mars?

The headline should read, “Mayor signs taxi gate fee increase, lowering pay for City workers.”

As the SF Taxi Live blog points out, the choice quote of this press release has to be Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier’s statement, “I’m pleased we found a way to green the taxi cab industry without bankrupting the companies and without doing so on the backs of cab drivers.”

“…without doing so on the backs of cab drivers?” Ms. Alioto-Pier, have you read the legislation you just passed?

Look, Mayor Newsom and Ms. Alioto-Pier, YES we need to match gate fees with inflation and increase gates slowly.

But, don’t pull bullshit like this and pass off a gate fee increase as green legislation. Your press release is dishonest and sidesteps discussion of an important issue: City taxi drivers will pay more for their cabs at a time when gas prices are already taking more money than ever out of their pockets. We should be discussing how drivers can ensure their take-home pay increases with inflation, just as cab companies’ gate fees do.

Mr. Newsom and Ms. Alioto-Pier, please be cognizant of the effects of legislation you pass. You may live in Disneyland, but your citizens do not.

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One Response to The headline should read, “Mayor signs taxi gate fee increase, lowering pay for City workers.”

  1. Pingback: Cab earnings update: Seasonal rise in aggregate demand for taxis offsets increased fuel and gate costs. « kfarr

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