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Cab Company Owners Fear San Diego Might Stop Underground Market For Taxi Permits

Owners of cab companies are banding together to block transferring regulation of the taxi industry back to the city of San Diego.

Taxi permits are not legally transferable in San Diego. That has not stopped some from using loopholes in the system to make what some consider a more fair wage than they'd earn otherwise.

Aired 6/26/13 on KPBS News.

Owners accuse taxi workers' group of trying to "grab taxi medallions" for free by influencing city officials. Accusations come amid Mayor Bob Filner's push to have oversight of industry transferred back to the city.

A memo circulating among San Diego cab company owners states that the city's taxi industry is facing an adversarial environment. The memo accuses cab workers' group of trying to "grab taxi medallions for free" by influencing city officials. Taxi permits are sold tax-free on the underground market for more than $150,000, even though they're considered public property.

Mayor Bob Filner has blasted the practice. He blames the Metropolitan Transit System for lax oversight and wants the city to take back decision-making power over the taxi business. But San Diego Yellow Cab owner Akbar Majid said private taxi permit sales have lifted families out of poverty.

"You have a first generation immigrant that saved pennies to actually enter into this market and from that one taxi cab business he is supporting his family," Majid said. "He's putting his kids through college."

Majid recalls the 1980s — when the city was in charge of the industry — as chaotic. He said anyone who wanted a permit could get one and the market was saturated with cab drivers. Fights broke out among drivers as they competed for passengers.

Filner has said he's aware of that history.

"Most cities have found a balance," Majid said. "You need access for the public and you need to assure the drivers that they can make a reasonable living. That's not easy to work out but that's what we're going to be talking about in the next six months."

Cab company owners are organizing their own group complete with a board of directors and an attorney to ensure they have a say in any changes to the taxi industry.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | June 26, 2013 at 7:03 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

sounds like a corrupt system no matter what they try.

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Avatar for user 'SDredbirdfan'

SDredbirdfan | June 26, 2013 at 9:17 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Locals and tourists agree: the current system is broken and needs to be fixed. Issuing more medallions is a great first step. Medallions are way too expensive, so let's get more of them in circulation. Chat up your taxi driver on the topic - their plight is pretty rough. Our fares are super high and the overworked cab drivers are getting paid chump change.
KPBS is doing a nice job on covering this issue. Thanks!

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | June 26, 2013 at 9:44 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Everyone could get a taxi permit? Taxis were COMPETING for business?
YES PLEASE!! That is called the free market, and it will weed out the good from the bad! This is exactly what the industry needs!

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Avatar for user 'JCortez'

JCortez | June 26, 2013 at 11:06 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Is it any wonder existing cab owners would want to protect their business? Heaven knows the storyline has been heavily tilted towards the poor taxi drivers who only make $5/hr. and the coordinated movement to raise them to levels they may not be able to maintain, has been moving fast and furiously. The Mayor seems to be working backwards into what he wants and seems to owe this Somalian group something. Same goes for Marti Emerald. matter the outcome, I certainly hope they incorporate some serious customer service training into the requirements. KPBS why don't you investigate the side of the consumer?? There is a story - credit card fraud, long hauling, cheating on vouchers, sexual advances to ladies in the wee hours of the night when they are intoxicated and trying to get home, and over all bad customer service. These guys have to be independent contractors, otherwise no one would hire them or keep them for very long.

If KPBS is working so hard to assist their movement, they should be held responsible for the outcome.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | June 26, 2013 at 11:43 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

If everybody could get a taxi permit, San Diego would look like a third world country. Of course we have to regulate this. Intelligently.

The purpose of government is to protect the weak from the strong. Hopefully, our elected officials can put a licensing system in place that serves the public (mainly us, not tourists) and protects the cabbies from the rapacious license owners (who, intentionally or not, ended up on top of a system where the norm was $4.00 an hour!). We can do it.

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Avatar for user 'DonWood'

DonWood | June 26, 2013 at 1:09 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

So the politically connected individuals who got medallions were able to lift their own families out of poverty by reselling the medallions at huge mark ups to real taxi drivers, thereby driving the taxi drivers families deeper into poverty. This system is ripe for reform. The city should issue medallions directly to taxi drivers, and cut out the cutthroat middlemen who are getting rich off other peoples misery.

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Avatar for user 'Jacob24'

Jacob24 | June 26, 2013 at 2:07 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

As someone who uses taxi's on a regular basis in SD I am all for cleaning up the current system. I find 90% of the taxi drivers I meet to be angry and shady. Try to pay with a credit card (like my employer prefers me to) and see what kind of reaction you get from the driver. Rude at best. Agressively angry often. I have had serveral verbal confrontation with drivers who are rude, drive overly agressive or demand cash payments.
I am led to believe that many of the drivers are being exploited and not recieving fare wages and tips from their employers. Either that or they are lying and trying to take advantage of riders. I have also had several drivers pick me up from the airport and attempt to 'take me for a ride' assuming I didn't know where I was going. Rarely; very rarely, am I one to call for more government oversite of ANYTHING but the taxi industry in SD is broken and that is clear to anyone us uses the system.
I'd like to refer readers to the recent "Voice of San Diego' article on Taxi saftey. Based on that story I am concerned about getting in any of the taxi vehicles on the road in San Diego today.

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Avatar for user 'kaysebekude'

kaysebekude | June 26, 2013 at 9:21 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | June 27, 2013 at 6:50 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago


About time to record some of your "adventures" with taxi drivers.

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Avatar for user 'yosief'

yosief | August 29, 2013 at 1:55 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

One way taxi drivers are fighting back is driving with town cars. It's better for customers their cars are nicer better maintained they love their job, mostly are working for themselves and its better experience for customer. I driver for City Captain and on Yelp we got better reviews from customers that use to ride taxis. For more info and customer testimonies check or 619-800-3515

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