Taxi drivers and disability-rights advocates oppose new Market St. site visitors plan

The city transport agency meets Tuesday / 19 to discuss a new plan for Market Street that would restrict traffic to buses, bicycles and paratransit vehicles – and the beleaguered proponents of the taxi industry and the rights of people with disabilities are strongly opposed.

The idea, of course, is to take traffic off the market, make it safer for pedestrians and bicycles, and (perhaps) work towards a future vision of a car-free boulevard.

Today there are 40 percent fewer taxis on the street.

But right now, taxi drivers are getting hammered – because the city isn’t protecting them from Uber and Lyft, from COVID, and from the economic downturn. Not so long ago there were around 2,500 taxis on the streets of this city, most of which were driven by immigrants and colored people. Now there are only 1,000 left. And the drivers can barely make a living.

From the start of the Market Street discussion, taxis have been viewed as a form of public transport – and they still are, especially for people with disabilities.

The plan is that all taxis must turn right every block in the downtown market – making it costly and time consuming to drag residents or tourists around the area.

The idea is that taxi drivers can pick up passengers, then head to Mission Street or the Tenderloin, drive around the market, and get back on the street for a block of their destination.

Mission Street in this part of the city is already clogged with buses and cars. Adding taxis – constant left turns – would make matters worse.

From the alliance of taxi drivers in San Francisco:

We are also shocked to discover that in the employee report for MTAB item 11, someone changed the wording of item 4 of the voter-approved Transit First policy, conveniently removing the words “including taxis”. This is a new low. However, a misrepresentation of the Transit First Directive does nothing to change this. The directive calls for improvements in transit, such as B. Transit lanes to speed up public transport, including taxis. It calls for travel by public transport, including taxis, by bike and on foot to be an attractive alternative to traveling by private car. Forcing right turns off Market Street makes taxi travel less efficient and less attractive. This means a loss of income for taxi drivers and a loss of public service. A reduced availability of taxis goes hand in hand with a reduced taxi service. They are two sides of the same coin

Here’s the problem:

We know that someone marking a taxi on the north side of the market west of Geary sees an approaching taxi turn right and drive away. Yes, at some point another taxi might come to Third Street and turn left into Market, but how long will it take? When you’re cold, tired, loaded with parcels, elderly, or disabled, it will feel like forever. Not only is this a missed business opportunity for an individual taxi driver, it is also not a good taxi service.

If someone calls a taxi or calls a taxi via an app, he or she also waits longer for the service, since the journeys are sent via the GPS location to the nearest taxi, i.e. to the nearest taxi as the crow flies, not according to SFMTA traffic rules. A cab only two blocks away may not be ready or able to handle the call if it is forced to turn right and struggle through blocks of secured traffic to pick up the passenger. The call will likely be routed to a taxi in sequence until it lands on one who is currently in a position from which it can easily reach the specific address.

We believe that these scenarios will occur with some frequency. The long waiting times for taxis will astound tourists and leave those most dependent on taxi services, the elderly and the disabled, in the cold. And the cumulative impact of poor taxi service will see an increasing turn to Uber and Lyft for those who can use it.

The effects of reduced taxi availability are not being fairly shared by everyone on Market Street: the elderly and the disabled who cannot walk to the corner to call Uber or Lyft, as well as the low-income busboys, security guards, are the hardest hit , Housekeepers, and others – the essential workers who make up a significant portion of our customer base – who lack credit cards or smartphones to use Uber or Lyft.

Bob Planthold, a longtime attorney for people with disabilities, notes:

NOBODY on the MTA board of directors or BMS employees have heard from MTA’s formal disability advisory groups that OUR concerns about the safety of stopping, getting on and off a taxi along Market St. Cabs are currently banned from the middle / transit lane and may have to turn off the market on 4 streets. This means that a person with a disability who is somewhere in between these mandatory shutdowns has no way of audibly or manually stopping a taxi.

That can leave us stranded.

I understand that taxis are cars and, ultimately, cars don’t belong in the market – but right now taxis are a part of the city’s transportation system and unlike Uber and Lyft, they have to pick up every passenger in a part of the city. There are hundreds of people – mostly immigrants – who borrowed up to $ 250,000 to buy taxi medallions from the city, understanding that the medallions would have value and would allow owners to drive a taxi and make a living – then under former Mayor Ed Lee, Uber and Lyft were allowed to break the law, operate illegal taxi services without permission or medallions, and drive many of those permit holders into financial ruin.

So that’s not an easy question about cars. It is also about justice for taxi drivers and rights for people with mobility problems. Not everyone can walk or ride a bike, and paratransit shuttles are limited at best.

The meeting starts at 1 p.m. and can be viewed or commented on here.

The UC Board of Regents meets this week and On the agenda of the three-day meeting is the approval of the development plans and environmental impact report for the massive Parnassus Heights project. Neighborhood advocates and some board members want the vote to be delayed – not only because of their size and the weakness of the city’s letter of intent, but also because there is nothing binding in the legal documents that would protect a number of historic murals on campus .

The WPA murals by Bernard Zackheim, a contemporary of Diego Rivera, whose work is also on display in the Coit Tower, cover walls in a building that UCSF is planning to tear down.

The university now says in dealing with the city it will protect the murals and find a way to move them – but none of those promises are legally binding.

The EIR is legally binding and states:

The university is currently exploring the best way to install the large 10-panel murals, The History of Medicine in California, which adorn the walls of the Toland Hall auditorium in the centuries-old UC Hall. UC Hall is seismically deficient and functionally out of date. It is proposed to replace it with a new facility that complies with California seismic codes.

UCSF has determined that it may not be possible to remove and misplace the murals as there is no guarantee that efforts to remove them will be successful.

This, of course, is the problem with the deal the city made with UC: the MoU is all based on “good faith”.

Sup. Aaron Peskin told me that while UC promised to save the murals, “they have no enforceable mitigation measure.”

During a hearing on the deal, the UCSF Chancellor insisted that the school, as a government agency, could not sign a legally binding agreement with any city. This is clearly wrong: after the city of Berkeley sued UC more than 15 years ago over its expansion plans, the two parties reached a legally binding settlement under which the city’s school would have to pay mitigations. It’s not much – then Mayor Tom Bates didn’t pressurize UC enough – but it sets a clear precedent for a city to hold UC accountable with a legal document that can be enforced in court.

The Mayor’s Office of London Breed made no effort to do so, statements made at the board hearing showed.

The Regents Finance and Capital Strategies Committee will hear the issue on Wednesday 20th and it is expected to go to the full board on Thursday 21st if approved.

You can view and comment here.

The Board of Supes Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee will hold a special hearing on the city’s plans for large-scale COVID vaccinations on Wednesday 20th. Sup. Matt Haney has asked not only the Department of Health but also UCSF and Kaiser to attend and explain what they have planned for the next few months.

The private health insurance plans have been a mess so far – I know people over 65 who have waited more than four hours on the phone to get an appointment with Kaiser.

I hope someone from the vast health system shows up to explain. The meeting starts at 11:30 a.m.

Conclusion: Isn’t it interesting to have news of the death of Willie Brown’s Chronicle? The column was not in this newspaper, but in Politico. To date, Chron hasn’t said anything about what happened – but as Joe Eskenazi reports on Mission Local, it’s pretty clear that Chron staff were fed up with the constant ethics violations and made this clear to the new publisher.

Also interesting: Eskenazi writes:

I haven’t spoken to the new Chron EIC Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, but I’d like to believe he wondered how the hell this situation was allowed to start, let alone fester for a dozen years.

I haven’t spoken to the new Chron Editor either. And that’s been a bit strange since I’ve tried, and his predecessor Audrey Cooper (who I’ve fought with many times) has set a goal of reaching out and responding to all of the other local news outlets.

In the old days when I was at the Bay Guardian, Chron and Ex fought with us for ad dollars as part of a dubious legal monopoly and were part of the local power structure, and I often felt we were at war with the US found mainstream local news media. I’m glad that Chron and Ex still exist today and that Mission Local, El Tecolote, Berkeleyside and so many other outlets are finding a way to survive and offer some form of local news.

I don’t have to speak to Garcia-Ruiz. But I wonder why the new Chron Editor doesn’t appeal to all of us.

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