SF eliminates renewal fees for taxi medallion holders

By Jerold Chinn : sfbay -excerpt


Taxis in North Beach photo by Zrants

Transferable taxi medallion holders will no longer have to pay an annual renewal fee starting July 1 as a way to help medallion holders during the current hard economic times of the taxi industry.

Congratulations to all the taxi drivers who have put in a lot of energy to get his done. A well-deserved break.

Uber’s Auto-Loan Program Is Basically Indentured Servitude

by Paris Marx : thebolditalic – excerpt

The troubled gig-economy company breaks new ground in exploitation.

Until recently, Uber drivers had to own their own vehicles (10 years old or newer) and pay all their vehicle-related expenses out of their earnings. Yet as Uber has grown, the vehicle requirement has proven to be a major barrier to growing the number of drivers on the platform — at least partly because drivers have an incredibly high turnover rate, a testament to the fact that driving for Uber is generally not very stable or lucrative work. Recently, the company has found a solution: facilitating car loans directly for drivers so they can rent a car from Uber in order to drive for Uber — in effect, paying back the company as it pays them.

Uber’s Subprime Auto Loans

The largest US ride-sharing platform, Uber has been infused with billions of dollars in investment and, as a result, is in rapid growth mode, relentlessly hiring drivers around the country. Getting a driver’s license is a relatively easily learned skill in the United States — hence, finding drivers is not necessarily a problem for Uber; rather, finding drivers who own cars that meet Uber’s vehicle requirement is. Thus, over the past few years, Uber has made a number of deals to experiment with offering vehicle leases to drivers before finally launching its own auto-loan company, Xchange Leasing, in 2015 to offer subprime loans to drivers. “Subprime,” in finance speak, refers to the credit status of the lessee: “prime” borrowers are desirable ones with a high probability of paying back loans on time, whereas “subprime” borrowers are less than optimal for banks — and hence usually suffer higher premiums, interest rates and more predatory contracts to make up for their undesirability as clients… (more)

This looks like the perfect Ponzi scheme. Use investor’s money to multiply your investments. In this case, invest in cars, mark them up and lease them to your “contractors” at a profit. How long before the ‘contractors” pull out or go on strike and leave Uber holding the debt?

RELATED:
Naked Capitalism has published a five-part series on the economics of Uber… t sheds light on the lack of profitability in the current business model, and how fares are subsidized with billions in losses and VC money to try to achieve a monopoly position.

San Francisco Needs a Break from Stressful Disruptions on our Streets

Op-ed by Zrants

There is a capacity problem no matter how you try to move because the development policies are not in sync. The theory that housing fees will cover the expense of producing capacity has not panned out. The plans are flawed. The developer fees do not cover the costs and they come too late.

There are too many forces driving the increase in traffic on all the modes.
People moving here are pushing people who live and work here out to the suburbs forcing more people to commute in to work, while many new residents are commuting out.

Add all the contractors and others who have to drive in to work whose businesses were pushed out, by those moving in, and you have a lot more regional traffic than we had a few years ago. All it took was a shuffle or two of the housing deck to rack up the rents and property values to create this mess.

The public wants relief now SFMTA has its head in the future, planning ways to disrupt and rearrange traffic and buses instead of buying buses and hiring drivers to add capacity now. They are racking up tax dollars in studies and experiments while blaming everyone but themselves for the traffic they created. Have you tried to suggest anything to them?

SFMTA coud care less about shuttles, Ubers, Lyfts, Charriots, taxis, carshares, bikeshares, and other distractions unless they can figure out a way to profit off them. That is why the public is taking the shuttles on.

Taxis launch Uber-like dashboard app ‘TaxiOS’

By  : sfexaminer – excerpt

Soon taxi drivers will throw out old-style taxi meters, and usher in new tools of the trade — if tech company Flywheel has anything to say about it.

Taxi technology company Flywheel announced it recently secured regulatory approval for its newest innovation: smartphone taxi meters.

“This is big for us,” said Percy Rajani, chief technology officer at Flywheel. “We can start really cranking up. … Now you’ve got the device in there so it’ll be a platform for all the other services.”

Flywheel’s software, TaxiOS, will run on dashboard-mounted smartphones. Rajani said with TaxiOS, Flywheel cabbies may soon be able to offer many of the services competitors like Uber and Lyft do, like dynamic pricing during slow-periods, carpool services, price splitting with other passengers and delivery services.

The announcement from Flywheel specifically details approval from California’s Division of Measurement Standards, which had to evaluate the app’s ability to charge fares based on GPS readings, which the San Francisco Examiner reported previously in our “sneak peek” of TaxiOS in October.

Though Flywheel already exists as an app for passengers, Flywheel’s new app and accompanying credit card reader can replace taxi dispatcher radios, mechanical meters, credit card readers and other traditional taxi functions — all in an Android-based smartphone… (more)

Taxis may have been down, but they are not out, and anyone can buy an app to compete in the “sharing” economy if they want to play that game.

Report: More than 750 jobs could be eliminated if Uber expands in central New York

auburnpub – excerpt

Hundreds of jobs will be cut if Uber expands to central New York and the Syracuse area, according to a new report released Monday by a group representing the taxi industry.

The report unveiled by the Committee for Taxi Safety says Uber’s expansion would lead to the elimination of 751 limousine and taxi industry jobs in central New York. The cuts would affect non-driver positions, such as dispatchers and mechanics.

Uber, a ride-sharing service which already operates in New York City, is looking to expand to Long Island and cities in upstate. The company says expanding to areas outside of New York City would create 13,000 jobs.

But the Committee for Taxi Safety claims many of those jobs would be part-time positions.

“This report makes it clear that Uber’s expansion outside of New York City will be a job killer for central New York,” Committee for Taxi Safety President David Beier said in a statement. “Before lawmakers create a statewide license for Uber, they should consider the destructive impact of losing these full-time jobs.”

Uber released an economic impact report in October that showed the company’s drivers would earn an estimated $80 million in net fares during the first year of operations if expansion to Long Island and upstate New York is permitted… (more)

There is something fishy about these numbers. How can you shift 750 taxi jobs into 13,000 Uber jobs?

Taxi Drivers Say SFO Lets Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar Break Airport Rules

By Jeremy Lybarger : sfweekly – excerpt
At a press conference on the steps of City Hall yesterday, The San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance (SFTWA), SF Yellow Cab, and Luxor Cab came out swinging against ride-hail apps at SFO.

“Cab companies are not against innovation. We love innovation. What [ride-hail companies] brought to the table is great. What they’re trying to attempt to do is good. We’ve learned from it, too. We have apps,” said Jim Gillespie, President and General Manager of Yellow Cab.

The issue, Gillespie said, is public safety.

Taxis in San Francisco undergo annual vehicle inspections by licensed mechanics, and cab drivers must pass Live Scan background checks and complete taxi and sensitivity training courses.

Ride-hail companies, by contrast, inspect their own vehicles, and the background checks their drivers receive are reportedly so perfunctory that last week San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon filed an amended complaint against Uber, alleging, “We learned of systemic failures in Uber’s background checks. They have drivers who are convicted sex offenders, identity thieves, burglars, kidnappers and a convicted murderer.”

Also at issue, according to taxi drivers, are rampant violations on the part of ride-hail drivers at SFO.

Ride-hail drivers are supposed to wait in the airport’s cell phone lot until a passenger pings them for pick-up, but according to taxi drivers, Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hail companies “troll” the terminal loops and idle curbside, waiting to be hailed. And although SFO claims to have issued $200,000 in citations against ride-hail violators, taxi drivers say the rules are loosely enforced.

To support their point, taxi drivers filmed ride-hail violators at SFO in June. Their video shows apparently empty Uber and Lyft drivers circling the terminals and parking curbside. (The video suggests that while Uber has since updated its app to default to drivers legally parked in the cell phone lot, Lyft and Sidecar have not.)

Stanley Roberts also got in on exposing Uber “cheats” during a “People Behaving Badly” segment last month… (more)

“There just doesn’t seem to be balance in enforcement,” said an independent consultant who works with Yellow Cab… (more)

The Teamsters Take on Tech Shuttle Unions

By Julia Carrie Wong : sfweekly – excerpt

When the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s controversial pilot program to allow Google buses (and Yahoo buses and Apple buses and Facebook buses) to use Muni stops for a small fee went before the SFMTA board in January 2014, neither Google, Yahoo, Apple, nor Facebook showed up to speak in defense of their commuter programs. The titans of Silicon Valley rarely stoop to conquer local regulatory bodies. Instead, the strongest voice in favor of tech shuttles that day came from Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation, the luxury bus and limousine company founded by Novato-born Gary Bauer in 1989. Over the course of the contentious hearing, representatives from Bauer’s touted their company as an important job provider to working class San Franciscans.

Bauer’s enjoys a cozy relationship with San Francisco’s political establishment. A Bauer’s VP stood behind Mayor Ed Lee when Lee announced the shuttle program in 2014, emails later revealed that Bauer’s believed it had a “handshake agreement” with the SFMTA to use Muni stops free of charge for the 10 years prior to the Google bus backlash, and Bauer’s buses ferried attendees at this year’s US Conference of Mayors from the Hilton to a tour of Uber’s headquarters. (Bauer’s did not respond to inquiries for this story.)

But that relationship is about to be tested by the Teamsters union, which is determined to ensure that the jobs created by tech shuttle companies are union jobs…

It’s a major vindication for the Teamster’s that on Aug. 21, the NLRB filed a petition for a 10(j) against Bauer’s, alleging that the company was guilty of the “unlawful foisting upon its employees of a textbook, sham ‘company union.'” The NLRB’s petition accuses Bauer’s of “making a mockery” of workers’ rights, describes the PCDU as a “charade,” and criticizes Bauer’s “carefully orchestrated scheme to prevent unionization.”

According to the petition, Bauer’s acted on the advice of its legal counsel, which explained to Bauer’s how to go about forming a company union. A Bauer’s supervisor, Clarence Murdock, persuaded employees to sign a blank piece of paper, “not disclosing that their signatures would be used to furnish a veneer of legitimacy to Bauer’s recognition” of the faux-union. Bauer’s then recognized the union and imposed a collective bargaining agreement — without any input from the workers supposedly being represented.

These charges come, not from the union, but from a federal agency, which states that “the facts overwhelmingly demonstrate” violations of the law by Bauer’s.

“Bauer knew a union campaign was inevitable, and sought an alternative he could control,” the petition states.

That may sound like John D. Rockefeller, but Gary Bauer is no John D. Rockefeller.

As for the Teamsters, at the SFMTA meeting, Doug Bloch warned the board members: “This fight is coming to Muni stops. It doesn’t look like it’s going away, and we’re not going away.”… (more)

Uber and the lawlessness of ‘sharing economy’ corporates

By Frank Pasquale and Siva Vaidhyanathan : guardian – excerpt

Companies including Airbnb and Google compare themselves to civil rights heroes, while using their popularity among consumers to nullify federal law.

Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO. ‘Nullifying companies like Uber claim they are striking a blow against regulations they consider “out-of-date” or “anti-innovation” – their major innovation, however, is to undermine local needs and effective governance.’

In February, Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky compared his firm’s defiance of local housing ordinances with that of Gandhi’s passive resistance to British rule. Meanwhile, a tweeter compared Uber to Rosa Parks, defying unjust laws. Chesky quickly backed down after widespread mockery. Companies acting out of self-interest comparing themselves with the noble heroes of civil rights movements is as absurd as it is insulting.

But there is a better analogy from the US civil rights era for law-flouting firms of the on-demand economy. It’s just not the one corporate leaders claim. They are engaged in what we call “corporate nullification”, following in the footsteps of Southern governors and legislatures in the United States who declared themselves free to “nullify” federal law on the basis of strained and opportunistic constitutional interpretation… (more)

Uber vs. the world: App-based car service declares victory in NYC, but faces global roadblocks

By  : foxnews – excerpt (video)

Uber, the app-based mode of transport favored by millennials worldwide, is battling politics, bad press and claims its disruption of the car-for-hire business presents a danger on the streets, but a partial victory in New York shows the company is more than willing to fight for its future.

Founded just six years ago in San Francisco and  now valued at more than $40 billion, Uber ended — or at least pumped the brakes on — a feud with the Big Apple, where lawmakers and Mayor Bill de Blasio were threatening to cap the number of drivers allowed on city streets. But in a surprise deal announced late Wednesday, the city agreed to table the limits until completion of a four-month study on whether Uber cars are in fact increasing traffic and harming the environment. The partial cave came after Uber put out an ad showing drivers from a broad racial and ethnic spectrum and pushed back aggressively at the political undertones of the plan.

“There is nothing progressive about protecting millionaire taxi donors who mistreat drivers and discriminate against riders and no amount of name calling by Mayor de Blasio will change that.” – Uber spokesman Matt McKenna(more)

RELATED:
Why Democrats are against the modern economy?

More proof that San Francisco politicians are out of sync with the national platform on Uber and other disruptive businesses. The Republicans, including Jeb Bush see these industries as the future and the Democrats, such as Hillary Clinton are questioning the social and economic impact of these tech behemoths. The huge wealth that is built of air, sometimes called the cloud, is probably not sustainable. Hence the rush to turn that air into property.

Safety Course Not Required For Uber, Lyft, Others

hoodline – excerpt

In the wake of an Uber driver arrested after allegedly hitting and injuring a cyclist in Fisherman’s Wharf on Sunday, more questions are being raised about driver safety requirements.

Specifically, taxis are regulated by SFMTA and are required to take 28 hours of classes through one of four approved private driving schools, and another day of training through the SFMTA. An hour of the SFMTA training includes instruction on sharing the road with bicyclists and pedestrians, is taught by a member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. At least two hours of testing is required. And as part of the city’s Vision Zero plan, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024, SFMTA is instituting a large vehicle urban driving safety program for all large vehicle drivers who work for the city.

All told, as Central City Extra covered in their latest issue (PDF), there are 71 pages of dense regulations for cab drivers to follow.

Not so for drivers working for Uber, Lyft, Sidecar or limo companies, which are not regulated by the SFMTA – they only have 28 simple regulations to follow.

And the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, among others, is concerned about this gap in safety mandates. “We need to ensure everyone knows how to share the road safely,” said Tyler Frisbee, policy director at the organization. Many of the drivers, she said, aren’t used to driving in a city as busy as San Francisco.

“Whether cab, Uber, Lyft—they’re pulling over to the side frequently, they’re loading and unloading, they’re driving through crowded areas” such as Market Street, SoMa and the FiDi, Frisbee said. “The reason SFMTA hires us is they want to protect peoples’ lives,” she added. “There’s no similar training for Uber. Their drivers take a couple of very short safety classes that are taught online.”… (More)