San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance

WHY WE OPPOSE PROPOSITION D, THE “UBER AND LYFT TAX”

On November 5, San Franciscans will go to the polls and vote on Proposition D, the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Tax, otherwise known as the Uber and Lyft tax. This measure will impose a 3.25% tax on private Uber and Lyft rides and a 1.5% tax on shared rides. The tax is expected to be passed on to passengers. For example, on a $10 Uber ride, a passenger will pay an additional 33 cents; on a $6 shared ride, he or she will pay an additional 11 cents.

The measure is expected to raise $30 to $35 million annually, with half going to the SFMTA to improve Muni service and half going to the SF County Transportation Authority to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety (although how the SFCTA intends to spend the money is unclear).

The Board of Supervisors took their sweet time in putting a measure like this on the ballot: it’s been ten years since Uber launched and nearly eight years since Lyft appeared. These years have brought unfettered growth in the numbers of Ubers and Lyfts, with ever increasing traffic congestion, mounting environmental degradation, dwindling bus ridership, and ever deepening pain on the part of taxi drivers, especially those who paid $250,000 for a medallion.

No one wants Uber and Lyft to pay their fair share more than taxi drivers, but this is not the way. It is too little, too late. So it is with sadness and disappointment that we, the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance, have decided to oppose Proposition D. Here are our reasons why:

  • Prop D.’s title is misleading; it will not “mitigate” congestion and was never intended to deal with congestion at all. The idea for the tax came from the SF Transportation 2045 Task Force, which was tasked with finding ways to close Muni’s projected $22 billion funding gap through 2045. Funding Muni is a good cause, but trying to win votes with a misleading title is deceptive. The tax is too low to deter any one from using Uber and Lyft. Drivers from Stockton, Fresno, and even Los Angeles will continue to flock to the City. In 2018, the SF County Transportation Authority concluded that Uber and Lyft account for up to half of the increased congestion downtown. Nothing in Prop. D will ease congestion, but it WILL make Muni dependent on Uber and Lyft—and the more rides they provide, the more money Muni gets.

 

  • Uber and Lyft cannot survive without competing with Muni. Uber’s IPO filing makes it clear that the company views public transportation—as well as taxis—as a competitor with whom they intend to compete vigorously. Uber sees everyone who owns a car or uses public transportation as a potential customer. “When we enter a new city or launch a new Ridesharing product in a city,” Uber’s S-I filing states, “we aim to reach efficient scale and liquidity rapidly to attract consumers to use our platform as an alternative to personal vehicle ownership and usage of public transportation.” But you don’t have to pore through Uber’s dense IPO filing. Just read what they say on the App Store: “Uber is a ridesharing app for fast, reliable rides in minutes. There’s no need to park or wait for a taxi or a bus.No matter what they say, Uber and Lyft are not helping public transit.

 

  • The revenue raised with Prop. D is not enough to help Muni, so long as Uber and Lyft continue to lure passengers away from public transportation. While $35 million sounds wonderful, SFMTA’s share of that revenue comes to less than three percent of Muni’s annual budget. Across the nation, Uber and Lyft are devastating public transit. A study by the University of Kentucky shows that for every year after Uber and Lyft enter an urban market, rail ridership can be expected to fall by 1.3 percent and bus ridership by 1.7 percent. It adds up. In San Francisco, where Uber and Lyft have been operating for years, the authors estimate that they have led to a 12.7 percent decline in bus ridership. The study concludes that SFMTA would have to increase transit service by 25 percent just to offset this loss of ridership. Whatever gains in service might be achieved with Prop. D will be wiped out by declining bus ridership.

 

  • Prop. D will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A study by the SF County Transportation Authority concluded that in 2016 Uber and Lyft added 570,000 vehicle miles traveled (VMT) daily to our streets. By 2018, according to a study commissioned by Uber and Lyft themselves, that VMT had more than doubled to 1.2 million miles per day. And the percentage of VMT added by Uber and Lyft is higher in San Francisco than in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, or Washington, DC. Shared UberPool and Lyft Line rides are not the answer. As a 2018 Schaller Consulting study has shown, shared rides add 2.6 miles to city streets for every mile in a personal vehicle that is not driven, a 160 percent increase in VMT over personal car use. This is partly due to deadheading miles, but also because most passengers would have otherwise walked, biked, or taken a bus.

 

  • San Francisco is way behind the rest of the country, and state law makes sure we stay behind. Other major cities have levied taxes or fees on Uber and Lyft for years, and many are now finding that their original taxes and fees are too low to offset the problems Uber and Lyft cause. The mayors of Boston, Chicago, and Seattle are pushing for higher levels. For those who believe we can start with a low tax and raise it later if needed, think again. In September 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed a state law, AB 1184, which is nearly identical to Prop. D, except that AB 1184 authorizes San Francisco to tax Uber and Lyft rides in an amount “not to exceed 3.25% of net rider fares . . . and 1.5% of net rider fares for a shared ride.” We cannot raise the tax without overturning AB 1184, which will go into effect in 2020 until 2045. San Francisco is a charter city with the right to levy local taxes, so was this bill really necessary? Supervisor Peskin says so, but the legislative analyst wasn’t so sure, writing: “It is unclear whether this bill would confer any additional authority to San Francisco beyond what it currently possesses.” AB 1184 is a cap, not a confirmation of the City’s right to tax, and it was a victory for Uber and Lyft.

 

  • And that explains why Uber and Lyft support this tax. Every flier, mailing, and poster advocating Yes on D has been paid for by Uber and Lyft. Every Yes on D argument in the voter pamphlet—all twelve of them—was paid for by Uber and Lyft. Why are they doing this? Because they believe the citizens of San Francisco are willing to tax them even more. The T2045 Task Force originally recommended a gross receipts tax of up to 0.975 percent, and a telephone survey showed that such a tax had 59 percent support. But Uber and Lyft didn’t like it. In exchange for a lower tax that they could pass on to passengers—and the benefit of AB 1184’s cap—Uber and Lyft agreed to support Prop. D. Uber and Lyft helped write this law. The citizens of San Francisco are being asked to help them.

 

We believe Prop. D confers legitimacy on Uber and Lyft, who are bent on destroying public transportation as much as destroying taxis. In an Orwellian twist, it makes them appear to be part of the solution when in truth they are a major cause of the problem, and they will remain so. Uber and Lyft got a cap on the tax, but we want a cap on the number of Ubers and Lyfts. We can do better than this. VOTE NO ON PROP. D.


Uber/Lyft Release Their Own Study on Congestion

Uber and Lyft have finally admitted that they add to congestion. The two companies hired transportation consultancy firm Fehr & Peers to examine how much they contribute to Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). The resulting report, issued on August 6, examines VMT in six cities during one month last year, September 2018, and compares VMT by Ubers and Lyfts to the total VMT in each area. The study finds that Uber and Lyft vehicles are greatly out-numbered by personal and commercial vehicles, but they still produce significant shares of VMT, especially in San Francisco. You can read the report here.

The diagram below, from the study, shows the utilization rate for Ubers and Lyfts, combined. In San Francisco, they are driving without passengers approximately 40% of the time, 30% while waiting for a ride request and an additional 10% while driving to pick up a passenger.

TNC VMT by PhaseSource: Melissa Balding, Teresa Whinery, Eleanor Leshner and Eric Womeldorff, Fehr & Peers, "Estimated TNC Share of VMT in Six US Metropolitan Regions (Revision 1)," https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FIUskVkj9lsAnWJQ6kLhAhNoVLjfFdx3/view, August 6, 2019, accessed August 24, 2019.

 


Rally at City Hall, Thursday, January 24th, 12:30 pm

Press Conference, 1:00 pm

Protest the MTA's unfair SFO taxi pickup plan!

SFTWA is co-sponsoring a rally and press conference at City Hall this Thursday, Jan. 24, at 12:30 p.m., in opposition to the MTA’s unfair SFO taxi pickup plan.

We will be calling upon Mayor London Breed to stop this disastrous plan from going forward.

The plan is intended to help holders of purchased medallions. They should be helped, but not at the expense of other drivers. We call on the City of San Francisco to buy back purchased medallions, allow ALL cabs and drivers to pick up at SFO, AND take back our streets from Uber and Lyft!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 24th at 12:30 pm at CITY HALL

Come on foot or in your cab! Fill the streets!
Fight this plan!
Demand better!


Protest the Medallion Plan: Tuesday, January 15, 1 pm at City Hall

Come to the SFMTA Board Meeting and tell the Directors what you think about their new "compromise" regulations for pickups at SFO, scheduled to go into effect on February 1st. The new plan will:

  • Ban cabs operating under pre-Prop K medallions from picking up at the airport (259 cabs).
  • Ban 8000-numbered cabs and spare cabs from picking up at the airport.
  • Force cabs operating under Prop K medallions to back-of-the-line, second-class status for pickups (569 cabs).
  • Give cabs operating under purchased medallions “quick access” for pickups (558 cabs).
  • Give ramp taxis "quick access" for pickups if they meet wheelchair pickup goals. 

 

Yes, quicker access at SFO for purchased medallions could help those drivers and medallion holders, but the extra money they earn will come out of the pockets of other cab drivers. All cab drivers are hurting. None of us can afford to subsidize other drivers.

The SFMTA created the mess we’re in.  It needs to step up and help drivers who purchased medallions, but this is not the way. Don't let them divide us! Don't ban taxis from SFO! Don't make taxis wait so long that it is effectively a ban! All cabs and cab drivers deserve equal access to SFO!

TUESDAY, JANUARY 15th at 1:00 pm at CITY HALL, ROOM 400.

We will speak during Public Comments, Agenda Item No. 9.

Our Demands.

The San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance calls on the City and County of San Francisco to:

  • Refund the purchase price for sold medallions and let the medallion holders keep them for life.
  • Guarantee that there are no more foreclosures due to hardship.
  • Allow all taxis and taxi drivers to pickup at SFO.
  • Allow individual Pre-K medallion holders to keep their medallions for life.
  • Take back our streets by regulating Uber and Lyft!

 


Labor Supports Us

As a San Francisco Labor Council affiliate, we submitted a resolution for the Council’s consideration in November. On November 26, 2018, the Labor Council unanimously adopted the resolution, calling on the MTA Board of Directors to repeal the so-called “Taxi Medallion Reform” that they approved in October. And even more, calling on the City and County of San Francisco to refund the purchase price of medallions instead.  We are encouraged to have their full support in our efforts to help all medallion holders and cab drivers.

Read the San Francisco Labor Council Resolution here.


Our Statement on the SFMTA’s Medallion Reform Proposal

The taxi system in San Francisco is in crisis. Because of the unrestricted proliferation of Ubers and Lyfts, taxi drivers have suffered devastating declines in their incomes. While all drivers are in financial distress, taxi drivers who purchased medallions are suffering the most. Almost 25 per cent of purchased medallion holders—working taxi drivers, mostly immigrants—have had their loans foreclosed, their credit damaged, and their dreams shattered. Many want to sell their medallions, but there are no buyers.

The Medallion Sales Program experiment has failed.

The City of San Francisco killed it.

In 2010, the SFMTA ended the voter-approved Proposition K medallion system, which mandated that medallions were not to be bought and sold, but granted for a nominal fee to taxi drivers who put their names on a Waiting List and earned medallions through years of sweat equity. In its place, the SFMTA enacted a pilot program selling medallions to taxi drivers for $250,000.

In the spring of 2012, before the Medallion Sales Program became permanent, Sidecar and Lyft began operating in San Francisco, using a smart phone app that connected passengers with drivers using their personal cars—clearly providing taxi services without complying with taxi regulations. The city made no effort to prohibit their operations or to regulate them. Edward D. Reiskin, Director of Transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, explained that the SFMTA took no action because “it. . . was fairly clear that city hall didn’t want us to step in and do so.”[1] Thus, the agency that had been set up to be independent of political influence took its direction from City Hall.

Because of this deliberate inaction, a state agency, the California Public Utilities Commission, declared it had jurisdiction, preempted local control, and adopted lax regulations for what they called a new form of transportation service: Transportation Network Companies, or TNCs.

Backed by millions in venture capital funding, and free from local regulation, Uber and Lyft have priced their rides below cost and flooded the streets of San Francisco with vehicles to ensure quick pick-up times and gain market share over taxis.

The SFMTA sold approximately 720 medallions, raising over $60 million from working taxi drivers to close a budget shortfall caused by the 2009-2010 recession, to the benefit of the City and County and the people of San Francisco.

The SFMTA has not sold a taxi medallion since April 2016, and the San Francisco Federal Credit Union, which financed the medallion loans, has sued the agency for breach of contract.

The SFMTA wants taxi drivers to pay for the mess they made.

Now, the SFMTA has issued another “Taxi Medallion Reform” proposal, shirking their responsibility for the mess they made, and asking taxi drivers to pay for it.

First, the SFMTA proposes to help purchased medallion holders by allowing only taxis licensed with a purchased medallion to pick up at SFO, banning more than half of the taxi fleet from working at the airport and creating classes of taxis with different privileges. This proposal pits driver against driver, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Thousands of taxi drivers will be denied a crucial means of earning a living. Many drivers are likely to quit, reducing the number of taxis serving The City, and harming those who rely on taxi service the most, our senior citizens and disabled community. It will turn The City over to Uber and Lyft!

Second, the SFMTA proposes that medallions purchased before Proposition K was enacted, known as Pre-K medallions, not be renewed, permanently depriving medallion holders who have followed all regulations, and who have done nothing wrong, of their medallions and the income derived from them. The SFMTA’s rationale: Pre-K medallion holders have held their medallions for at least forty years, and over that period, their medallions have earned them money enough. What other city license would be revoked for reasons like these? Taking these cabs off the streets will mean less service at busy times when they’re most needed.

Third, the SFMTA proposes eliminating the requirement that only working taxi drivers are eligible to buy medallions, and allowing corporations and other investors to purchase up to 50 medallions, taking medallions out of the hands of working taxi drivers. This proposal is a desperate ploy to save the failed Medallion Sales Program, and the SFMTA has cynically omitted from their presentation the fact the first medallions sold will be the foreclosed ones—not those currently held by struggling taxi drivers, giving false hope to many. But who will now buy a medallion for $250,000?

Our Demands.

The San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance calls on the City and County of San Francisco to:

  • Refund the purchase price for sold medallions and let the medallion holders keep them for life.
  • Guarantee that there are no more foreclosures due to hardship.
  • Allow all taxis and taxi drivers to pickup at SFO.
  • Allow individual Pre-K medallion holders to keep their medallions for life.
  • Prohibit future medallion sales.
  • And issue medallions only to working taxi drivers—not to corporations and investors.

 

And finally, the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance calls on the City and County of San Francisco to:

  • Take back our streets by regulating Uber and Lyft!

 

Click for a printable PDF version of Our Statement.

[1] Dewey, Onesimo Flores and Lisa Rayle, “Commercial Ride-Sharing: From Rogue to Mainstream in San Francisco,” in Transforming Urban Transport (Oxford University Press, 2018), 109.

 

  • Featured press release

    SFTWA White Paper

    January 06, 2015
    Contact: Sftwa Admin

     

    PRESS RELEASE 1/6/14
    SFTWA Calls on S.F. to Regulate Ride Services like UberX and Lyft

    Who: The San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance (SFTWA)
    What: Press conference
    Where: Front steps of City Hall, 1 Carlton B. GoodLett Place, San Francisco, CA When: Tuesday, January 6 at 12 noon

    The San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance (SFTWA) will hold a press
    conference at City Hall on Jan. 6 at noon to announce the release of a White Paper urging San Francisco to regulate “ride services” like UberX and Lyft and enforce against violations of law by those services and their drivers. DeSoto Cab is also a signatory to the document.

    The White Paper describes the city’s authority under state law to regulate these services (which are also called “TNCs”). Among the reasons why the city should exercise that authority are:

    • To protect public safety

    • To prevent insurance fraud

    • To ensure compliance with disabilities laws

    • To preserve the environment

    • To allow cab drivers to earn a livable income

    • To offset the city’s costs owing to TNC operations and require them to pay their

      fair share toward city revenues

      “The state has not done its job in regulating services like UberX and Lyft,” said SFTWA Executive Board member Barry Korengold. “Unless the city steps in the public will not be properly protected, congestion will continue to increase and the quality of service to taxi riders will suffer.”

      Speakers will include Tim Paulson, Executive Director of the San Francisco Labor Council; attorney Christopher Dolan, who represents the family of Sophia Liu, killed by an Uber driver in San Francisco; and disabled community activist Bob Planthold.

      The SFTWA has over 600 members and is affiliated with the National Taxi Workers Alliance, AFL-CIO.

      END 

    Contacts: Mark Gruberg mark1106@att.net / Barry Korengold barry@sfcda.org

     

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