San Francisco looks to improve taxi service

San Francisco city officials are working on ways to ease the pain of hailing a cab and finding inventive ways to improve taxi service.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is focusing on ways to address concerns to make more cabs available, especially in areas where Muni is not as accessible. The goal is to increase the number of taxis on city streets during peak hours in the evening and on weekends.

Paul Rose, a spokesman for the SFMTA, said 1,500 taxis are on the street every day. The SFMTA is working with the taxi industry and operators to determine the adequate number of cabs needed to provide the best service.

“We are finding ways to be more innovative, to provide better service in hailing cabs,” Rose said.

A hackathon took place in February, where those in the technology community were asked to come up with ideas to help improve taxi services. Some solutions were proposed and the agency is working to see how they can be implemented. Rose said providing data on cabs will also make it easier for vendors who are developing taxi applications to facilitate finding cabs.

The mobile app Cabulous shows where San Francisco cabs are available and lets the user hail a cab through their smart phone by giving a birds eye view of taxis in the area. Taxi Magic is another app that lets users type in the address and time they would like a taxi to arrive, but like Cabulous, this app is not available for all cabs. The SFMTA hopes that a more centralized app can be developed.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said San Francisco has a goal of being a transit-first city where people do not need to own a car because public transportation is available and reliable. He said improvement in taxi service is necessary for this to happen.

“People need to know that they can get a cab when they need it and that the cab is going to get them where they are going in an efficient and safe manner,” Wiener said.

Wiener said at times people need to get to a place quickly and cabs are the best way of doing so, but that San Francisco lacks a critical component for having a transit-first city.

“We do not have enough cabs, in my view, in this city to adequately service our residents, our visitors, our businesses,” Wiener said.

Illegal taxis are an ongoing issue the SFMTA is constantly working on, Rose said. City taxi drivers undergo background checks and extensive training. Taxis are inspected for safety, which may not be the case for illegal cabs. The agency has an enforcement team that identifies and reports cabs that operate without the proper permits or insurance.

“We want to make sure we are always on them,” Rose said.

Students use taxis to get them to school when they don’t have time to wait for Muni, or for commuters, to wait for the shuttle. Cabs can be found at the Daly City BART station, but some students simply can’t afford afford them.

Kinesiology major Chloe Janfaza, 21, said she had taken a cab from the BART station. She said cabs were available but taking a cab was very expensive.

“(Taxis are) not as bad as Muni is, but no one has money for a cab,” Janfaza said.

Jonathan Tejada, political science major, said he and his roommate have had bad experiences with rude drivers. Tejada also said cabs are too expensive.

“I haven’t taken a cab in a while, I try not to mostly because they charge so much,” Tejada, 22, said. “They purposely drive slow to charge more.”

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