The sound of hundreds of honking horns rang through Civic Center at noon today as taxi cabs circled San Francisco City Hall for a couple of hours.
They were protesting the rise of ridesharing services, according to the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association website.
The SFCDA site announcing the protests states, "As we all know, our industry is under attack by illegally operating taxis like Lyft, Sidecar and UberX, who are undercutting our industry by avoiding regulations and insurance requirements. Let’s make our voices heard and show our strength in numbers. We will have speakers and news media present. There will be a rally on the steps of City Hall. Bring your cabs, come on foot to SHOW OUR NUMBERS. Picket signs will be provided to SHOW OUR STRENGTH AND UNITY. THESE CRIMINALS NEED TO BE STOPPED!"
Though the protestors' Mayor Lee signage with pink Lyft moustaches was amusing, it was difficult to feel much sympathy for San Francisco's cab industry. For decades, they have focused all their energies on a war between owners and drivers, and who could be squeezed the most. Meanwhile, any discussion of passenger customer service has been conspicuously absent, as fares became more expensive and service disintegrated.
In a Tech Chronicles post today at SFGate about the war on ridesharing services at the San Francisco Airport, a commenter named auntjenny left a familiar complaint:
"the taxi service in this town is abysmal. on a regular basis when hailing a cab, i will see four or five empty cabs go by me with their rooftop "taxi" light on (which signals they are available). and the driver looking at me tells me they see me. the drivers are more often than not discourteous and unsafe and are usually on their phones (although they all seem to use headsets). a good part of the time they do not even know how to get to the location i ask to be driven to. and then they expect a huge tip. i am 100% for the other companies picking up the ample slack in this service. they are more safe than the taxis, and are usually quicker and way more courteous."
I took my last San Francisco taxi about 15 years ago, after one trip too many with a discourteous, dangerously bad driver who didn't know where they were going. It actually seemed safer to take Muni than a cab, even on the bus lines' sketchiest routes. The personal boycott was also an excuse to embark on long walks instead, making sure to be be extra watchful for cabs making impatient turns in crosswalks, pedestrians be damned.