Adrienne Kristine has nothing but praise for San Francisco cab drivers.
“Maybe it’s because I’m disabled and have a rather large walker to carry that the dispatchers treat me with kindness,” Kristine wrote in a comment on The Bay Citizen’s website. “When I was traveling back and forth to South SF for radiation treatments Monday through Friday for seven weeks, the drivers I had were spectacular and made the experience much easier to handle.”
Not every local resident, however, would describe cab service in San Francisco as spectacular. As The Bay Citizen recently reported, a total of 1,733 complaints against taxi drivers were registered with San Francisco’s 311 complaint line last fiscal year. That represents a 13 percent increase in gripes over the previous year, nearly double the 900-complaint goal of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates taxis.
Taxis infested with bed bugs, drivers falling asleep at the wheel, rude behavior and difficulty getting a cab also were among the complaints….(T)wo friends were upset when a driver offered them a 10 percent discount if they made out in front of him….
Fifteen people complained that cabs wouldn’t pick them up because they were African American. On Halloween evening in 2011, a black woman called to complain that a Yellow Cab driver pointed to a white woman standing nearby and said, “I want her and not you.” After she complained, the driver used a racial slur, she said.
Coverage of the increase in complaints led to impassioned discussion between cab drivers, passengers and others in the comment forums of websites like KQED News and The Bay Citizen. Some riders said their treatment by drivers has led them to switch to ride-sharing services. Those in the taxi industry responded that some of the criticisms were unfair or represented a miniscule percentage of the total rides they serviced.
“Most cab rids are a nonevent,” DeSoto Cab General Manager Athan Rebelos said in an interview. “It’s one step up from riding a bus.”
Some drivers added they had gripes with the local taxi industry. They’re angry that San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency has closed the waiting list for new taxi medallions. And they’re upset about the growth of ride-sharing services, which the industry considers unfair competition.
“There aren’t too many happy cab drivers in San Francisco given what’s going on,” noted Brad Newsham, who said he’s been driving a cab in San Francisco since 1985.
Drivers also shared some complaints about passengers.
“A lot of people get in and assume you’re an idiot,” noted Barry Korengold, who said he’s been driving a taxi in the Bay Area for more than 30 years. “If they expect to get bad service, they’re probably going to get bad service.”
Earlier this month we posted tips from cab drivers and taxi industry insiders on what passengers might do to ensure they have a better experience while riding in a San Francisco cab. KQED News and The Bay Citizen also asked passengers to share their stories online about riding in local taxis.
Some passengers said they had no complaints.
“I take taxis maybe 10 to 12 times a year in SF,” Teresa Harbin wrote. “I’ve had nothing but positive experiences.”
Others, however, shared stories about arguing over credit cards, speeding dangerously across the city and being refused a ride.
“I long ago lost count of how many times a cab pulled over, asked where I was going, and then refused and took off,” Stephany Filimon Wilkes wrote.
Below is a collection of some of the other stories we heard about local taxi service. These are all anecdotal, of course, and they don’t necessarily indicate San Francisco has a “taxi problem.” They do indicate that some people have had some memorable experiences.
Buckle up, passengers; here are stories from the back seats of San Francisco cabs.