San Francisco’s public transit system is best known for three things: rarely being on time, frequently breaking down and giving out those long, colorful, paper transfers that crafty commuters can fold up to make it look as if they have more time left to ride. One of those things is about to change.

San Francisco’s Municipal Transit System announced Aug. 24 that it plans to stop using the driver-distributed paper transfers in favor of implementing a fare machine that will eject plastic cards with 90 minutes on them. By more diligently requiring its patrons to pay the standard fare of $2.25 every 90 minutes with these cards, SFMTA is contributing to the increasingly high cost of living in an already expensive city.

Currently, even when a passenger obeys the rules and doesn’t fold up the transfer, paper transfers are good for a varying amount of time, depending on when a passenger begins their commute. This morning, for example, I got on the bus at 8:45 a.m. and the transfer the driver ripped off for me was good until 11:30 a.m. Sometimes when I board the bus at 6 p.m., the transfer will remain valid for the rest of the night.

The new plastic cards will ensure that riders can only use a transfer for an hour and a half. If riders take a bus or train any later than that, they will have to pay an additional $2.25. This may not seem like a lot, but for riders who rely on Muni for their every day transportation needs, cost mount quickly…

As a student without a car, I rely entirely on the bus to take me to and from school and work. Previously, I could travel to and from both places in one day on five dollars. With the new transfers, it will cost me $9 to get to school and work and back every day… (more)

SF is a City for the rich, regardless of how you cut it. But, I guess we have a chance to change that by voting against the densification plans that City Hall has in store for us. Most neighborhood groups agree that the best change is less. If you feel that way, support Prop I and J, and K. Vote for a pause in construction and a new plan. It’s not too late to sign the petition to STOP SFMTA and be sure to let them know how you feel about those pass restrictions:

Google’s Driverless Cars Run Into Problem: Cars With Drivers

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google, a leader in efforts to create driverless cars, has run into an odd safety conundrum: humans.

Last month, as one of Google’s self-driving cars approached a crosswalk, it did what it was supposed to do when it slowed to allow a pedestrian to cross, prompting its “safety driver” to apply the brakes. The pedestrian was fine, but not so much Google’s car, which was hit from behind by a human-driven sedan.

Google’s fleet of autonomous test cars is programmed to follow the letter of the law. But it can be tough to get around if you are a stickler for the rules. One Google car, in a test in 2009, couldn’t get through a four-way stop because its sensors kept waiting for other (human) drivers to stop completely and let it go. The human drivers kept inching forward, looking for the advantage — paralyzing Google’s robot.

It is not just a Google issue. Researchers in the fledgling field of autonomous vehicles say that one of the biggest challenges facing automated cars is blending them into a world in which humans don’t behave by the book. “The real problem is that the car is too safe,” said Donald Norman, director of the Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego, who studies autonomous vehicles… (more)

Humans who don’t follow the rules. That includes cyclists and pedestrians. If the self-driving cars every hit the road they will need new laws to protect them from lawsuits. Could that be the answer to restoring order on the streets?

Fixie Bikes Confuse Google’s Self-Driving Cars: Could This Become The Most SF Problem Ever?

Uber Drivers’ Labor Lawsuit Granted Class Action Status In California

By Dan Levine : huffingtonpost -excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 1 (Reuters) – Uber drivers are entitled to class action status in litigation over whether they are independent contractors or employees, a key development in a case threatening Uber’s business model and that of other hot startups dependent on similar service workers.

Three drivers sued Uber in a federal court in San Francisco, contending they are employees and entitled to reimbursement for expenses, including gas and vehicle maintenance. The drivers currently pay those costs themselves.

The results of Uber’s legal battle could reshape the sharing economy, which is built around Internet companies that serve as marketplaces matching people who provide a service with others looking to pay for it.

In the ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco said California drivers could sue as a group on the question of whether they are employees or contractors, and over their demand for payment of tips that were not passed on to them. Drivers’ attorneys must submit more evidence to sue as a group for reimbursement of other expenses... (more)

Class-action lawsuit means long, ugly battle for Uber
Uber previously said that it will appeal class-action certification, but the worker-misclassification trial can proceed regardless of continuing disputes on the class issue. In the ruling, Chen certified some claims but not all, excluding for now more recent drivers who signed an arbitration clause.
Still, attorney Shannon Liss-Riordanwho represents the drivers in the case, said Chen’s decision is “a major victory for Uber drivers. It will allow thousands of Uber drivers to participate in this case, as well as to attempt to recover the tips that Uber advertised to customers are included in the fare, but are not in fact distributed to the drivers.”

The SFMTA should lower the taxicab medallion transfer price

By  : sfexaminer – excerpt

Career taxicab drivers are now being forced to buy taxicab medallions, rather than earning and receiving them for a one-time nominal fee. In recent years, the value of a medallion has dropped like a stone while the medallion price set by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has remained the same. Medallion transfers (purchases) have slowed to a trickle. For these reasons, the SFMTA should be responsive to market conditions and lower the medallion transfer price.

When I put my name on the taxicab medallion waiting list in 1998, I agreed to a deal whereby when my name got to the top of the list, I would be granted a taxicab medallion for a one-time fee of maybe a couple of thousand dollars. Once granted, I would take that medallion to the taxicab company of my choice and from there on out receive checks in the amount of about $2,300 per month for as long as I held the medallion. This was to be on top of whatever I made driving the cab. When I retired from the industry, the medallion was to go back to The City. That was a profit-sharing program, which provides for a middle class. That lets working-class people buy houses, raise kids and put them through college. It was a situation that provided working-class people with a secure financial future.

Then came the SFMTA’s medallion sales programs. Without being given an opt-out, the SFMTA changed the terms of my agreement without my consent. No longer could I earn a medallion for a one-time fee. Now I am forced to buy a medallion for $250,000 with a minimum down payment of $12,500 and about a 5 percent interest rate to pay off the rest over 30 years. Sure, I get to sell it when I’m done with it, but I need money now and, under the former deal, I could save for my future. As it stands now, I can forget about raising kids properly or buying a house.

Not only that, but in the meantime The City has allowed Uber and the other Transportation Network Companies to suck most of the profits out of the taxicab industry. Now that it’s time for me to get my medallion, there are hardly any profits to share.

Taxicab companies have had to drastically lower the amount of monthly medallion holder payments. In many cases, the monthly checks made out to medallion holders have fallen below the monthly amounts those medallion holders must pay to pay off their medallion.

What was once something that provided a present and a future for working-class people is now an albatross around the neck. As long as the TNCs are allowed to operate, they will continue to devalue taxicab medallions. Although the SFMTA does not report any medallion loan defaults yet, these are sure to happen as long as Uber is allowed to operate and continue sucking the profits out of our industry. One can see how this might give potential medallion purchasers pause.

While the value of a medallion has fallen precipitously, the price has remained at $250,000 since the medallion sales programs started in 2010. The number of taxicab medallion transfers have slowed almost to a standstill. Market conditions demand the SFMTA go about lowering the medallion transfer price. It would be a good turn for taxicab drivers and the SFMTA.
On Tuesday, I will address the SFMTA board at its regular meeting and ask Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin to initiate the process of lowering the medallion transfer price. I will be suggesting a price between $125,000 and $150,000. If you agree, please show up and voice your support. Thank you… (more)

Peter A. Kirby is a cab driver in San Francisco.