san-francisco-taxi_2It seemed like only a matter of time.

After all, there hasn’t been a cab fare increase in San Francisco since 2003, while the cost of living, gas and credit card charges have all gone up – fairly drastically.

And so – by no fault of the cab drivers (hey, they gotta get paid, too) – San Franciscans and those visiting our fair city will soon be paying $.50 more per mile, $.10 more while sitting in traffic and quite likely an extra $.40 just to open a taxi’s door and sit down.

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More rate hikes coming?

That’s because the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency last week approved a proposal for raising cab rates. But it could have been much more severe had the Board of Directors approved other pieces of the proposal including a blanket $5.00 charge for a home pickup during peak hours and a fuel surcharge.

The fare increases that were passed are slated to take effect August 1. The hearing on raising the “flag drop” fee – the price you pay just to get in the taxi – will take place in June.

Paying more for same bad service

While passing these increases is good news for the hardworking drivers who have gone 8 years without a raise, it doesn’t solve the overarching cab problem in San Francisco – namely that it’s pretty damn difficult to get a cab in San Francisco. Furthermore, an increase in the price to utilize a cab could potentially drive ridership down as more San Franciscans could opt to walk, bike or take Muni (indeed, a drastic step).

MTA board member Malcolm Heinicke as well as Supervisor Scott Wiener seem to recognize this. Heinicke suggested that an increase in cab fares should be coupled with an increase in available taxis on weekends and other peak times. Wiener issued a statement opposing the fare increases until more cabs are put into service. He added, “Anyone who has tried to flag a taxi during rush hour (or at any time in many parts of the City) or phoned for a cab on a Friday or Saturday night knows that this city is underserved by its current taxi fleet.” We tend to agree, Supervisor.

But, beyond simply throwing more cabs on the street – which dilutes the market for drivers and causes more traffic congestion – SFMTA should instead focus on utilizing the existing fleet of cabs more efficiently, something we’ve touched on previously.

We also told you recently about SFMTA’s pilot program to use an app called Cabulous to put hailing a cab right at the fingertips of San Franciscans with smartphones. A smart move, but not quite the city-wide dispatch system we’ve been pushing.

SFMTA again chose to do what it does best – throw other people’s money at their problem.

Sure, we may all be a bit miffed at having to fork over an extra couple of dollars per ride. But you’d probably be hard pressed to find someone opposed to giving drivers their due, which these fare increases accomplish. Although – we do wonder if the MTA might raise rates so high that the goal will backfire – actually costing drivers money by forcing more and more people out of the broken taxi system. (Our ResetSanFrancisco poll is looking at that right now – we’ll report on our findings next week).

But it’s just so typically MTA to jack up the prices before focusing on fixing the often-horrible service they provide.