When I heard the KQED story this morning about the rise in cab complaints in 2012, I can't say I was suprised. According to the reporter's findings, calls to the city's 311 complaint line about SF's taxi drivers rose 13 percent between the summer of 2011 and the summer of 2012. The list of what pissed people off ranged from racially profiling passengers to ripping off their credit card numbers. The common offenses I've experienced were more along the lines of being rudely kicked out of a cab when I either had to use a credit card or when my destination wasn't deemed profitable by the driver. In general, cabbies aren't known for their excellent customer service around SF.
I don't care what defenses the cab companies claim for these complaints, SF's taxi system needs improvement. It's no wonder that Uber and Lyft are hailed as rescuers against an outdated transport system that too often requires cash, doesn't pick you up when you call, and ignores certain neighborhoods completely (hello stranded friends in the Western Addition). We're a tech-savvy city, so how hard would it be for the local taxi companies to offer apps that let you know when a driver will arrive, that allow you to pay by credit card, and that take customer feedback a little more seriously?
I should add that I've had some awesome cab drivers in the years I've lived here, guys who comforted me when I was flying home to visit a sick family member or were just as chatty friendly as any Lyft driver. And some have picked up the Square app that makes paying by credit card super easy. But the attitude that passengers are at the mercy of a cabbie's moody whim has gotta change, and hopefully articles like this one, along with the threat of better customer reports from competing services, forces taxi companies to step up their game.
Illustration by Helen Tseng