My name is Ben, and I’ve been a San Francisco Taxi Driver with Veterans Cab since 2004. I love driving a cab in San Francisco. You feel the rhythm and pulse of the city, and as a taxi driver, you interact with the City from the level of the street. You deal with just about everything, from people living precariously in the tenderloin who need a ride, to ferrying fancy folks from places like the Opera and the Getty mansion. I love experiencing the full spectrum of humanity, economically, socially and culturally, that the City has to offer on a nightly basis.
Since the rise of Uber, and later Lyft and other app-based, ride-hailing services, times have been tough for me the last four to five years, economically and in other, more subtle ways. One of the hardest things for me is driving around empty for 45 minutes to an hour, or sometimes upward of 90 minutes, with no passenger, while literally watching dozens of Ubers and Lyfts pick people up left and right. Mentally, it’s demoralizing and gets rather exhausting, especially since most of these drivers just stop in the middle of the traffic lanes, adding to the frustration.
As a longtime SF taxi driver, I often think to myself, “Hey, I am a good driver, I know the city and my way around. I am friendly and welcoming. I just want to pick someone up, but nobody wants me.” One thing I have heard literally a thousand times is: “Why don’t you just switch to Uber?” I heard it from friends, from my parents, other members of my family, and from strangers. In fact, I heard it just yesterday from someone.
It seems some people are starting to realize what a soulless and unprincipled company Uber is due to their support and advisory relationship within the Trump regime. While they claim that they have recently disavowed this relationship, this relationship, from my perspective, is only the tip of the iceberg in regards to what is wrong with Uber and Lyft.
One thing that is true about Uber and Lyft is that from the beginning, in both cases, they have acted in such a way that these companies feel like the rules should not apply to them. Any company that thinks it’s above the law is a danger to all people. That is one thing that Uber/Lyft and Trump have in common. The less money you give to people like this, the better for all of us.
A caveat about Lyft — a lot of people are saying, “Let’s switch to Lyft, their politics are better.” It’s great that Lyft has offered to donate a relatively small amount of money to the American Civil Liberties Union; everything helps in the battle. However, they would be a classic example of an entity that “pays lip service to politics.” Lyft entered the market with billions in venture capital from folks like KP and Andreesen and waged a price war on an industry that is almost totally minority, immigrant and working class people of color, many of whom were worker owners, one of the few industries in America with this distinction. Literally, it is the billionaires against the working class, playing itself out in the streets. They are bullies pushing around the weak. Does Lyft offer health insurance to its drivers? Do the drivers maintain full-time commercial insurance policies like legitimate taxis, and do the insurers even know they drive for profit? Are the drivers considered employees or pushed into the legally shady world of contract labor? Does Lyft even maintain minimum protections like workers’ compensation should their drivers be injured?
I will probably be a legit taxi driver until it is no longer viable because I love it but also because I will never switch to a company that flouted the law and bribed politicians and in the process destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of my co-workers, and changed what once was a career where folks were able to buy homes and raise a family into “the ultimate side hustle.” So yeah, delete Uber. And do whatever you need to do to get home safely.
In the Bay Area, I recommend the Flywheel app for legit taxis. Or standing at 18th and Valencia with your arm out, that actually works pretty well for me. ≠
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