I worked taxi dispatch phones Friday night, answering hundreds of calls from people looking for a cab all across the City during the busiest time of the week.
A woman had called around 10pm for a cab from the Richmond district, let’s say 20th Avenue and Clement. She sounded like she had finished a long day at work and just wanted to get home, or so I invented in my head.
She patiently called back every 15 minutes or so until around 10:50pm when she called back in tears. Just before her call, a cab in our fleet finally responded to her order and, as luck would have it, arrived near the same time as a Yellow cab. She had called Yellow about 20 minutes earlier, understandably frustrated from waiting so long and wanting to try another option.
Also understandably, both cabbies are pissed off. It’s a busy night. Drivers can make a lot of money during this time period. Chasing orders for no gain is a waste of everyone’s time.
What do cabbies do when both arrive at an order? Some cabbies see it as part of the “taxi code” to both leave the order to punish the customer for calling two companies. I’ll usually defer to the other driver as I’m non-confrontational. Some cabbies choose to engage in verbal or physical altercations.
In this case both cabbies took off, leaving our poor protagonist in tears and still without a way to get home nearly an hour after her initial call.
Please note this is not meant to be a criticism of any cab company, drivers, customers, or even traditional radio dispatch, simply an example of service failure due to extremely excessive demand for a City administered transportation service.
The staff of the SFMTA Division of Taxi and Accessible Services is fully aware of these issues and we can hope that they are working to act in the near future on peak medallion permitting and layered dispatch.