Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Driving on Bald Tires, 85% of Taxi Cabs Out-of-Compliance

If you're already weary of the taxi cabbies that speed around the streets of San Diego, it probably won't comfort you to know that many of the cabbies were doing so on bald tires.

According to the original article published on the front page of the San Diego Union-Tribune earlier today, MTS inspectors uncovered 144 safety violations and other violations during field checks from January 2008 through February 2009. Of those, the most common violations were bald tires and faulty lights.

(A MTS inspector writes a citation during a taxi cab inspection in San Diego, yesterday. Photo by KC Alfred of The San Diego Union-Tribune).

Tony Hueso, general manager of USA Cab, blames a sharp drop in business fueled by the economic recession as the reason why many cabbies are delaying necessary safety repairs.

The SDUT quotes Hueso in the full article (found here) as saying, “If the driver has less money, the driver is going to take more chances."

Well, we're sorry that the economy is negatively impacting your business, but don't 'take more chances' with the lives of pedestrians and cyclists who have to share roadways with cabbies who-- generally speaking--are speeding around our neighborhoods trying to make a buck. If a taxi cab driver wants to save money, cut back on other things that won't jeopardize the safety of innocent road users. In an emergency taxi-on-pedestrian/taxi-on-cyclist situation, a bald tire versus a safe tire could be the difference between a deadly collision and a close one.

We wonder how significantly, if at all, the economy really affected the local taxi cab industry and their inability to meet MTS' safety regulations. The best way to determine that, would be to compare the number of taxi cab violations from 2006-07 (before the recession) to the 2008-09 (during the recession); in addition to taking into account the total number of operating cabs, that is.

Either way, it looks like the streets of San Diego may be a little safer--MTS recently ordered 85% of taxi cabs off the street, due to safety violations and other violations.

Hopefully, those cabbies can get their repairs done promptly enough to at least give drunk people a ride home when they need it!...But then again, we wonder how many taxi cab passengers are actually drunk...


  1. Maybe you should stop wondering and do some unbiased research. Over 80% of cabbies lease their taxis. This $2000 a month fee is for a fully insured and up to code vehicle. It is the owners responsibility to pay for repairs. They receive the same amount reguardless of our income. We work 84 plus hrs. a week. After lease and gas, we average $5 an hr. During my 12hr. night shift, %90 of my customers are drunk and on drugs.

  2. socalnativesdcabbie,

    The main thesis of our piece is that taxis in San Diego operate too dangerously. To support that claim, we cite a recent MTS inspection which found that 85% of taxis in SD were operating out of compliance--most of those out of compliant violations have to do with safety, or lack thereof.

    Your comment does not prove otherwise.

    It's true that we did not conduct a formal investigation into what % of taxi customers are drunk. That's because the thesis of our piece is not about drunk taxi customers. It's about the many out of compliant taxi drivers driving dangerously through our neighbhorhoods on bald tires.

    We do not shy away from our livable streets philosophy. We believe the streets of San Diego are not safe enough for bicyclists, pedestrians, public transit users, children, elderly, or disabled people. Taxi cabbies speeding around our neighbhorhoods on bald tires and w/ faulty lights is not in the interest of livable streets or safety.

    On the other hand, taxi cabbies on safe tires and with functioning lights while driving the speed limit (or slower when around the above mentioned road users) are great.

    In fact, in the last paragraph of our original piece we even credit taxi cabbies for offering an alternative for drunk drivers. It's great that you offer that service to people out-and-about enjoying nitelife. We wish that more taxi cabbies drove the speed limit, utilized safe tires/lights, and had more affordable rates. W/ more affordable rates, more people would (obviously) take advantage of the convenience that cabbies can offer.

    Can you explain why cab rides are priced the way they are?

    We like the concept of cabbies--i.e. only use a car when it is absolutely necessary and share it when not in use.

    The amount of land in San Diego solely dedicated to automobile parking is astonishing. We wonder which is more environmentally sustainable--i.e. a shared cab driving around giving people rides (thus eliminating the need for people to drive themselves) or a privately-owned car which, when not in use, is using land when parked on public property? A number of factors including the amount of passengers in the car and MPG of the cars would effect the results of that study. The point here is to show that just because we don't know the exact answer to something doesn't mean we should stop wondering or stop asking questions about it.

  3. My point is that the driver of the taxi is not at fault for the vehicle not passing inspection. Many taxi owners use shotty mechanics and buy retread tires. This puts the drivers safety at risk as well. I personally think MTDB should require that taxis be repaired by certified mechanics only.

    Cab rates are set to make a profit after expenses. In the past 5 years I have been driving, the rates have increased by approximately 40 cents a mile. Every time prices go up, so do lease costs. This article may be interesting to you.

    San Diego has drivers that come from all over the world where traffic laws and styles are very different. I think a driver training class should be required before a cab license is issued.

    This is a very frustrating industry. Recently I have been writing a lot of letters and asking questions. It's just like everything else in government. it all comes down to money.

  4. socalnativecabbie,

    Thank you for your constructive comments and for sharing the informative link.

    We read the Voice of San Diego article you linked, including the results of the UCLA study which found that the average hourly income for a taxi cab driver in LA during 2006 was about $8 an hour in a 72-hour workweek--not even a living wage. It sounds like a very tough industry.

    Your ideas for increasing the safety of cabbies seem like good ones. Your claim that taxi owners buy retread tires and use un-certified mechanics to service vehicles is very concerning.

    If what you're saying--in regards to taxi owners, rather than drivers, being held accountable for bald tires and faulty lights--is true, then it sounds like USA Cab Manager Tony Hueso's comments in the UT are misleading.

    A section of the UT article (linked above) appears as follows:

    " “We have sufficient regulations, more than sufficient,” said Tony Hueso, general manager of USA Cab, which holds 43 vehicle operating permits in San Diego.

    Still, Hueso and others agree that some in the business need to clean up their act.

    They said a sharp drop in business, fueled by the deep recession, is causing some cabbies to delay needed repairs and maintenance to save money.

    “If the driver has less money, the driver is going to take more chances,” Hueso said."

    If what you're saying is true, socalnativesdcabbie, then it's not just the drivers who are "taking more chances," it's also the taxi owners who are "taking more chances", since the taxi owners are the ones who ultimately control the frequency in which bald tires and faulty lights get replaced.

    We like your idea of requiring a driver training class BEFORE the cab license is issued. We think required traffic skills tests should be annual, as well.

    Many MTS employees do not know basic California Vehicle Code laws. Once when a couple of us were riding in the Balboa Park area, an MTS bus driver honked at us because the driver, bewildered, apparently thought we were riding too far out into the lane. At the next stop we informed the driver that under the CVC, cyclists are allowed use of the full lane. The professional bus driver's response was "What?! That doesn't make any sense!" We then handed the driver a small sheet of paper which had the pertinent Vehicle Code (CVC 21200) printed on it, verbatim, which we used to carry around with us at the time (seriously!) to hand out to motorists who harassed us for riding in the lane. The bus driver couldn't believe it!

    Clearly, a serious amount of education about road use is needed to clear up misconceptions.

    socalnativecabbie, you seem like a conscientious road-user who thinks hard about your actions. We appreciate that. Thanks for the comments.

    Please, drive safely and do us a favor; please, inform your taxi-driving colleagues that cyclists are allowed use of full lane, just in case they don't know that yet. :)

    Thanks again,