Taxi caravan calls on city authorities to provide more aid

A small group of taxi drivers gathered outside the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency headquarters on Wednesday afternoon, calling on officials to providing additional support to taxi operators as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage.

They started at 1 South Van Ness before moving in their vehicles to City Hall, then to the San Francisco Federal Credit Union on Elm Street, the main funder of the expensive permits – called medallions – that allow someone to operate a taxi in San Francois.

While many small business owners and tenants received some relief or benefited from temporary moratoriums related to their larger assets during the pandemic, the Credit Union refused to extend a two-month loan forbearance for medallion holders. taxi despite exhortations from the SFMTA and the supervisory board to do so.

In June, when forbearance expired, there were 433 medallion holders who owed the Credit Union money. Between July and October, there were at least 49 seizures of medallions.

Barry Taranto, of the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance, said many drivers fear risking their health while working, especially now that alfresco dining is closed and a strict stay-at-home ordinance has been renewed. which makes it possible to earn enough money by driving up to repay their loans almost impossible.

He said some people in his organization have even taken a second job just to foot the bill.

The SFMTA began selling these permits – known as medallions – for $ 250,000 in 2010, with the understanding that they would be valid for life. Hundreds of drivers eager to invest in themselves have taken out a loan from the San Francisco Credit Union to cover the high cost.

But since limousine services such as Uber and Lyft took San Francisco by storm, the right to operate a cab has steadily plummeted in value, causing drivers to lose customers and struggling to make their monthly payments before. even the pandemic.

Demand was so low that people stopped buying the permits altogether in 2016.

While the city has raked in around $ 64 million from the sale of these medallions that have helped it survive a recession, the drivers themselves haven’t had the same kind of windfall.

“We would like to see the Credit Union continue withholding for at least a few months, or find something else,” Taranto said.

In the meantime, SFMTA’s efforts to ease the burden on holders of medallions purchased through grants for senior and mobility-impaired riders, changes to airport access and the elimination of many fees associated with l taxi operations, among others, are popular, but not yet. sufficient, said Taranto.

“The City has done everything possible to provide personal protective equipment, provide subsidies and try to promote taxis within city agencies. The only problem is that it is not enough, ”he said.

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