How to Get a Cab in San Francisco and 4 Other Tips From Taxi Drivers

By Ian Hill, KQED News Fix

As the Bay Citizen reported last week, 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 fiscal year, and it's 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."

These are serious complaints, to be sure. But San Francisco cabdrivers and others in the taxi industry say the number of grievances reflects a small percentage of the total fares carried by the city's taxis. Jim Gillespie, the general manager of the Yellow Cab Cooperative in San Francisco, wrote in a recent e-mail that his company alone gives an estimated 20,000 rides daily. Athan Rebelos, the general manager of DeSoto cab, said his company provided a total of 1.46 million rides in 2012. And DeSoto and Yellow are just two of the 29 taxi companies licensed to operate in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency.

Rebelos put it this way: “Most cab rides are a nonevent.” Of course, not every bad experience in a San Francisco cab generates a call to 311. And there's no doubt we've all had memorable rides in which the cab driver has mistaken Lombard Street for the Autobahn or interpreted our one-word response to "How's it going?" as an invitation to expound at length on his views on municipal government or fly fishing.

But it's a two-way street, as they say in the biz. Just as passengers have to deal with cabdrivers, drivers have to deal with passengers -- and there are a lot more of us than there are of them.

So we decided to get the other side of the story, speaking with drivers and other in the industry insiders about what passengers might do to ensure they have a better experience while riding in a San Francisco cab. Based on those interviews, we’ve put together five tips for the conscientious cab customer.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.