On March 6, Supervisor Eric Mar held a special hearing of the Neighborhood Services & Safety Committee, to look into the growing problems that have arisen since the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) allowed our streets to be flooded with thousands of personal vehicles providing unregulated taxi service. The committee members are Supervisors Eric Mar, Norman Yee and David Campos. Also in attendance were Supervisors Jane Kim and John Avalos.
Deputy Director of Taxis and Accessible Services, Christiane Hayashi gave a detailed presentation of the current situation. She pointed out many problems that have resulted from the CPUC’s decision to unleash this unlimited number of vehicles onto San Francisco’s limited 49 square miles, and why more local control is necessary. She gave statistics such as that because of this unfair competition, 25% of ramp taxis, which service wheelchair customers, are not in service because drivers are leaving the industry or prefer the unregulated TNC model taxi service. Yet these TNCs have no ramp vehicles at all and do not serve the disabled community.
Marzia Zafar, Director of the Planning and Policy Division for the CPUC, gave her version of the situation and the process that was used to arrive at the CPUC’s decision. She became defiant when Supervisor Campos asked why the CPUC never held evidentiary hearings during its 10 month rulemaking proceeding (R.12-12-011). Marzia, who was lead moderator for the proceeding’s two day workshop, responded that “It’s either or… We don’t hold evidentiary hearings on every single case that we do. We hold workshops and they’re practically similar” (See SFCDA’s “Post Workshop Comments”). Supervisor Campos did not agree with the similarity, and continued to grill her on their plans to service the disabled community.
Attorney Christopher Dolan, who is representing the Liu family against Uber, which denies responsibility for its driver running into them and killing 6 year old Sofia Liu last New Year’s Eve, spoke on the need for safety and how these companies push their costs onto their drivers and the community. He reiterated that these TNCs are only providing coverage while the drivers are on a call, therefore the city will end up paying the costs of these uninsured motorists between the calls (See Advisory from California Department of Insurance) and TNC drivers can end up bankrupt.* Dolan also felt California law allowed the city to step in and fill the voids that the CPUC has left in its insurance and other regulations. He said if they don’t, and the taxi industry disappears, they’ll just end up having to regulate these new providers in an old, not “new”, industry.
The first public speaker was a blind man who complained of Uber drivers’ refusal to service him and his service dog, and then about the rude one who finally did. More than 50 cabdrivers and company reps spoke, most of them quite eloquently. TNC lobbyists were there, but chose not to speak. No TNC drivers spoke or were seen at the hearing.
This was a big blow to the misinformation and slick PR campaign that has enabled these outlaw companies to exist and flourish. The hearing was an eye opener for many of the supervisors and those from the media who attended. Let’s hope this sanity continues, the truth prevails and that law and order is restored!
The hearing can be viewed here: 3/6/14 Neighborhood Services & Safety Committee Hearing
*Since there is no part-time personal insurance policy that exists, even the new policies recently announced by Uber and Lyft leave most TNC drivers fraudulently relying on their personal insurance coverage the rest of the time. If a vehicle is used for commercial purposes, it must have commercial insurance 100% of the time.