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With San Francisco taxi cab drivers set to strike on Tuesday, San Franciscans who already have a hard time finding a cab could find it impossible.

Though it’s not entirely certain how many of the City’s cabbies will partake in the strike or for how long it will last, a prolonged strike could have wide-ranging effects, including overwhelming an already inefficient Muni, producing gridlocked traffic throughout the City and increasing carbon emissions.

The cabbies are upset – and, we believe, rightfully so – about the fact that they are now being forced to pay 5% on every credit card transaction, despite that most credit card companies only charge 2-3%. While this seems to be an unfair, punitive charge to the cabbies, they also just received their first pay increase since 2003 when SFMTA approved a $.50 more per mile, $.10 more while sitting in traffic. The SFMTA is also almost certain to approve another a $.40 rate increase to get in the cab this month.

The cabbies are also, less rationally, wary of the “waybill system.” It tracks drivers’ routes and fare amounts, which are recorded by a computer, and TVs are put in the headrests to deliver advertisements to passengers.

The strike – which some cabbies say will only involve a couple hundred cabs circling City Hall for a few hours – is merely one more byproduct of the meltdown of San Francisco’s public transit system.

San Francisco, and major cities throughout the country, absolutely depend on an efficient public transit system and car sharing services – and that includes the original car sharing service, the taxi industry. Data shows that each car-sharing vehicle takes about 15 cars off the road. The reasons are clear – if you know a car will be available in those rare instances when you need one, it makes it possible to rely on public transportation, walking and biking for the bulk of your transit trips.

As a city agency representing the citizens of San Francisco, the SFMTA has the responsibility to work with the cab drivers to come to a sensible agreement. The truth is that drivers have the right to be upset about unreasonable fees. Their unreasonable aversion to a waybill system that will create accountability and efficiency is another mater.

But regardless the underlying issues, the continuing failure to find common ground is ultimately the responsibility of the SFMTA – and it is an ongoing pattern.

This week the Muni operators were forced to accept a new contract by an arbitrator, after the drivers overwhelmingly rejected the contract negotiated between their union leadership and the SFMTA.

One of the SFMTA commissioners was quoted, incredibly, as saying he had no idea the relationship with the workers was so bad. Since that was knowledge available to anyone who has boarded a bus in the last year, it speaks to just how out of touch the SFMTA leadership has become.

We’re not saying the drivers are right on every issue. While they certainly deserve a raise and respect, they have plenty of responsibility for this mess, too. But when it comes to the impeding taxi strike the whole city will pay the price for the SFMTA’s inability to manage it’s own workforce.