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Due to numerous passenger complaints and safety concerns. The San Francisco International Airport has decided to end the current "short" system, which allows drivers who get "short" rides from the airport and return in 30 minutes or less, to wait in the "short" line.  Cabs are dispatched from the staging area to the terminal at a ratio of two cabs from the "short" line to every one from the "long" line.  This system was originally devised to be more fair to those who wait an average of an hour and half, sometimes 2 hours or more and then get short rides.  If the wait is too risky financially, there won't be enough cabs on hand to service air travelers during busy times.  The current time based system however, encourages drivers to speed and it has become a public safety and liability issue.

In order to raise more revenue, SFO has also decided to charge drivers the full $4 each time through the airport, rather than only charging $2 for every other "short" ride and nothing for the first.  Drivers have suggested passing $3 along to the passenger instead of $2.  Airport officials are considering this option.

At the request of Airport Commissioner Larry Mazzola, top airport officials and ground transportation management have been holding ongoing meetings with a small group of veteran cab drivers and representatives to discuss alternative solutions.  Commissioner Mazzola also held an open meeting for cabdrivers on May 13th in the SFO Airport Museum.  Over hundred drivers attended and those who wished were given 3 minutes to give their comments or suggestions.

As of this writing (6/24/10) airport officials have held several meetings with these driver vets and reps.  We've been given incomplete options to vote on so far, proposals that might work if combined with other elements such as a decent minimum fare, or more designated "local" cities.

Many drivers think a single line would be the best solution, but feel there needs to be a minimum fare to prevent extreme angst and possible rudeness when a driver's been waiting over an hour and passengers wish to go close to the airport.  Some drivers think a New Jersey or New York style short system, where passengers are issued tickets by the starters from a booth or far from the curb would work well.  The airport had a very limited number of cities that they wanted to include as local however, and the means of distributing the tickets has never been established.

At the June 23, 2010 meeting, Deputy Airport Director Tryg McCoy explained that they don't feel the ticket system would work because it would require hiring too many more employees, would be difficult to manage during busy times, and would be hard to prevent corruption.  Therefore, they are favoring a single line system with a $3 pass through of the airport fee to the passenger.  The question now is how much will they allow the minimum to be.  All the drivers agreed the minimum needs to be at least $15 for it to have its intended effect of dampening the blow of a short ride.  Airport officials proposed "a $15 minimum", but it included the $3 pass through.  So that would make it a $12 minimum, with a $3 airport charge to the passenger.

UPDATE as of 8/1/10:  Airport officials seem to be open to a $15 minimum with a $3 pass through, but are considering a $4 pass through and no minimum.  They're also considering other possible options which are unknown at this point but will be meeting again with the driver reps and vets group in the coming weeks.

UPDATE as of 10/26/10:  We have not heard from airport officials.  Things continue as before.  We expect word of any changes, perhaps after the holidays.

UPDATE as of 12/13/10:  Airport officials called a meeting with the group of vets and reps Dec. 1 to present what they had decided to propose to the Airport Commission the following Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Their proposal was to have a single line, except for the CNG cabs, which would continue getting "front of the line privileges" for the life of the vehicle.  After that, there would be no special CNG line either.  This procedure was originally put in place to encourage alternative fuel vehicles.  Soon, all taxis in SF will be required to be alternative fuel, so there is no need to continue this practice.

They also proposed a $14 minimum with a $3 pass through of the airport fee to the passengers.  They called this a $17 minimum, although this was a bit deceiving, as it would lead one to believe at quick glance that that meant $17 minimum PLUS the $3 pass through.

About 40 to 50 drivers showed up at the December 1st Airport Commission meeting.  After the proposal was presented to the Commission, the first 17 drivers to speak at Public Comment spoke unanimously against the proposal, explaining why it would be disastrous for cabdrivers, and some threatening to strike.  Commission President Larry Mazzolla decided rather than waste everyone's time listening to the rest of the drivers, that SFO officials need to come back with a plan that has support from drivers.

A distance based GPS short system seems to be gaining popular support, though more research is needed.  Talks will continue.

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