SAN DIEGO – Monday could mark the day a landmark change goes into effect for San Diego taxi drivers.
In a special meeting inside Golden Hall at 1 p.m., City Council members will have to choose whether to life an artificial cap on the number of tax permits sold.
In 2004, the number of taxi permits was capped at 993 and hasn’t changed since, though many people argue the demand for more cabs is there.
“The city of San Diego owns these taxi permits and they originally go for $3,000 but because of the artificial cap, they’re being traded on the quasi-black market for over $100,000,” United Tax Workers Program Director Sarah Saez said.
She and those in favor of lifting the cap argue it would improve working conditions for drivers and lower costs for consumers.
Saez said if City Council members vote to lift the cap, 89% of drivers will have the option to buy their own permits and begin their own small businesses as taxi drivers, rather than working hard to lease vehicles from those who own the permits.
“We work seven days a week. Even if you are sick, if you are upset, if you get bad news from your family or your kid, you have to work,” driver Osman Osman said.
Osman said he even had to work an entire shift the day his wife had their baby, because he had to make enough money not only to pay for his lease, but to turn any kind of profit.
Monday, at least 500 people are expected to show up in support of United Taxi Workers San Diego and their effort to lift the cap.
To the taxi drivers, Monday’s proposal is about more than new business opportunities, it is also about safety.
The proposal also limits the age of taxicabs to 10 years in an effort to make sure drivers are behind the wheels of safe vehicles.
They’ll wear matching t-shirts to show their strength as a group.
But opponents are set to show up as well.
The large turnout is why the council meeting had to be moved to Golden Hall.
Opponents argue allowing more taxis on the street would lead to less income for taxi companies already hit hard by competition from unregulated social media-based companies, such as Lyft and Uber.
They said drivers would make even less money.
But United Taxi Workers said mounds of their own research and national studies proved the opposite.
“Economists have shown by lifting the cap, prices will go down and service will go up and San Diego has one of the highest meter rates in the country,” Saez said.
She said lifting the cap would be a step in a new direction for taxi drivers.
“The way the current system is set up, there’s no room for innovation. Taxi permit holders collect their leases on a weekly basis and nothing really happens. Customers aren’t happy, the public’s not happy, drivers aren’t happy,” she said.
But Monday’s vote could change that.
Osman said if City Council does approve Monday’s proposal, the first thing he’ll do is take a few days off, because that is something he hasn’t done in a long time.