Cab drivers blasted their cab horns while driving around San Francisco City Hall on Thursday to bring attention to a policy that will prevent some drivers from picking up passengers at San Francisco International Airport starting on Feb. 1.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors last October approved a policy to allow SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin to decide on which types of taxi medallion drivers would be allowed to pick up passengers at the airport.

Reiskin released a memo at the end of the year outlining that only cab drivers who purchased, earned or have a ramp taxi medallion can pick up passengers at the airport.

Drivers who purchased their medallions will have expedited access to the curb at airport while earned and ramp taxi medallion holders will have regular access to the curb.

Ramp taxi drivers can earn expedited access at the airport if they fulfil a specific amount of paratransit wheelchair trips per month.

Cab drivers with Pre-K, Corporate and 8000 Series medallions will not have access to pick up passengers at the airport.

Transit officials said this would help bring some value back to the medallions that drivers purchased by giving them exclusive priority at the airport.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said in an email statement:

“These reforms are meant to be one part of the process to bring value back to purchased medallions and help improve service across the city.”

Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Ahsha Safai and Matt Haney, joined dozens of cab drivers in support of the SFMTA to delay the start of the new policy.

Last year, Fewer was the only supervisor to vote against the SFMTA’s two-year budget because the budget did not include enough resources to help struggling cab drivers. Fewer pointed out that the SFMTA’s budget is $1.1 billion.

Safai said he plans to introduce a resolution at next week’s Board of Supervisors meeting to urge the SFMTA  not to start the new policy for at least 90 days:

“The idea that we would be putting the nail in the coffin of the taxi industry and dividing the taxi industry is the absolute wrong way to go.”

Chris Sweis, CEO of Yellow Cab, said the SFMTA is putting polices in place that are hurting drivers who have been competing now with transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft:

“Rather than making us become more competitive with TNCs, they’re hampering us. They’re tying our hands behind our back and making things worse for us.”

Cab driver Barry Korengold, who earned his medallion by being on a waitlist, said income for drivers have taken hit because of Uber and Lyft:

“We’re making about a fifth of what we made two years ago because of Uber and Lyft. Now they are putting the final nail in the coffin with this proposal.”

After the rally, a number of drivers went inside City Hall to deliver a letter to Mayor London Breed in hopes of her intervening before the policy takes effect.

Breed was not in her office as she was in Washington, D.C. attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

A memo sent out on Wednesday by the SFMTA to the taxi industry said the new airport policy will go as planned beginning next month.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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