EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Politics | Baghdad By The Bay

Ban On Flavored Tobacco Products

This is a bit of an odd subject to talk about, but I feel it should be said because even though it is well known and no one is going to say that tobacco is good for you there are some problems with the new law that was passed in San Francisco banning all flavored tobacco products.

Supervisor Malia Cohen pushed through legislation in 60 days with very little fanfare to ban flavored tobacco products. Not tobacco, only flavored tobacco products specifically pointing out menthol cigarettes. While flavored cigarettes other than menthol were banned in 2009, menthol was given a stay of execution for some reason. I suppose because to a lot of people at the time menthol was seen as normal for cigarettes. It could also have been that because 80% of the people who smoke menthol cigarettes are African-American. This was a big part of her target in the passing of this law — to specifically target African-Americans.

For tobacco this means that menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars and cigarillos [like the grape and cherry Swishers], shisha hookah tobacco and flavored smokeless tobacco. The problem I see with this is that it was aimed at only African-Americans in it’s passage [she may not be aware of this, but Asians typically in San Francisco tend towards menthol as well]. Shisha is used by mostly a Middle-Eastern minority of people though you might occasionally see a person of non-Middle-Eastern decent partake at a restaurant that has hookah nights [there are a few in the city]. Tobacco causes lung cancer and other health problems for all people so I’m just thinking she should have passed a law banning all tobacco sales in San Francisco. The worst part of this is that it doesn’t ban the ownership or use of said products, only the sale so the law is a bit of feel good sophistry to help politicians look good, but won’t really cure the problem only make people who want the product to work a little bit harder. Now I’m sure there were be cigarette stores popping up in Daly City with signs saying Menthol Cigarettes Sold Here! The idea that if you stop selling menthol cigarettes in San Francisco people will stop smoking them is a fallacious argument [See Sophistry].

While this is bad in that it looks like they’re trying to bring about change, but not there is another product covered under this ruling that has the potential to actually cause more smoking related diseases for people and that is the ban on flavored e-juice used in vaporizers. 

The State of California classified  e-juice as a tobacco product so that they could receive tax money from it since many people were using vaporizers to move away from cigarettes. While long term affects of vaporizers are not fully known yet, doctors agree that vaporizing is much better than smoking cigarettes. No one is saying it’s healthy, but it has much lower risks than smoking cigarettes. The State government was able to classify e-juice as a tobacco product due to the fact that currently nicotine [the addictive component] is chemically extracted from tobacco leaves. There is no tobacco present in the nicotine as it is all lab grade and pure, but it was an easy enough loophole to use to classify the product as tobacco so they could tax it.

The law that Malia Cohen presented and had passed was filled with the standard think of the children angle that is frequently used saying that because the e-juice has candy flavorings that it is being marketed towards children. She missed the paper from Center For Disease Control that stated since 2015 the number of minors smoking or using vaporizers has dropped significantly. There was also mention of a string of harmful chemicals found in e-juice which upon further research showed that they were found in shipments coming in from outside the US and mostly from China. She also missed the abstract from the FDA that showed minimal effect on the body from the use of e-cigarettes, yet that they were a good aid in getting people off the far more dangerous tobacco. Currently, the majority of e-juice that is available in the US is made in the US from vegetable glycerin [a thickener used in foods], propylene glycol [another sweetener used in foods], food grade flavorings and nicotine in that order. Four items three of which are food grade vs. the 4000+ noxious chemicals in a cigarette. UCSF is even running a smoking cessation program using vaporizers because they feel that they are better alternative to smoking cessation.

While not a scientific study I have seen a rise in people using vaporizers around the City when I’m out and about. I haven’t seen anyone I could tell was a minor, but I rarely have seen many people who look that young using vaporizers. Many people who use e-cigarettes and vaporizers to stop smoking want to get away from tobacco to the point that they even want to get away from the taste of tobacco. That is why there are flavored e-liquids out there. The smell from e-liquids doesn’t linger as long as cigarettes and it is far more difficult to offend someone with the smell of blueberry cheesecake than tobacco [my opinion of course].

Again though, like with menthol cigarettes the ownership and use isn’t illegal, only the sale. While there are a handful of vape shops in San Francisco most of them started as head shops that also sell bongs, water pipes and other drug related supplies. It is very easy to purchase e-liquids from online suppliers. Actually after you’ve created an account and proved you’re over 21 it’s actually much easier to purchase online because the selection is usually higher than what your local shop will carry, so again, the law has no teeth.

There are a handful of vape shops in San Francisco, maybe no more than 1o and I believe this is way. Most are head shops that have added vaping products, but there’s only a couple that sell only vaping products and they have said they will have to close up when the law goes into effect next year. Some of the other stores have said they will have to close as well especially in the Sunset District saying that the menthol cigarettes is what gets people into the store, given the higher Asian population, and that their sales will plummet when the law goes into effect. We’ll see if that’s true. 

To sum it all up, yes, I whole heartedly agree that tobacco is bad for you, but I think this law is rather flawed as it really doesn’t cause much of an effect on the public using tobacco or tobacco related products. It will definitely make menthol smokers work a little harder, but I’m doubting that it will make them quit. Likewise, the ban on vaping e-juice will leave only the disposal e-cigarettes that are produced and marketed by big tobacco companies as the only choice for those wanting to start to quit smoking, and most of those disposable e-cigarettes are made in China, unlike the safer US made e-juice.

BTW: If you want to see a video that people should have been saying, but think of the children! You might want to watch this one.

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Sunset District vs. Medical Marijuana

San Francisco is a haven for cannabis dispensaries. There’s at least one sometimes more in every neighborhood of San Francisco, except of course for the Sunset District. The Sunset District is the largest, most suburban district in the City, so big that it actually needs two supervisors. Katy Tang does the heavy work for the majority of the district, but the Inner Sunset is covered by Norman Yee who also handles the Lake Merced area which while technically isn’t a part of the Sunset District most of the people still sort of add it on as a part of the Sunset. Yet there isn’t as I mentioned a single cannabis dispensary in this area.

That was until recently. The people who run The Apothecarium in the Castro District have teamed up with Dr. Floyd Huen, husband of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan to open up a dispensary in the Sunset District at 32nd and Noriega. This hasn’t been sitting well with a few of the neighbors who have been egged on by the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative, religious rights defender [as long as of course you’re talking only Christian rights] as well as being anti-LGBTQ [which sort of goes along with their religious freedom which of course trumps sexual freedom in their book] and also has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

The Apothecarium is very well run dispensary that tests all of its products quite rigorously and runs their business very much above board following all the necessary laws and rules. They have won awards from various groups for being the best cannabis dispensary in the United States so they’re a pretty top notch business. Dr. Huen is a well respected doctor of internal medicine who teamed up with the people from the Apothecarium with an eye towards additionally serving the Chinese community [as well as anyone else with a proper medical marijuana letter from one of the registered doctors].

Apparently the PJI found out about this and started contacting neighbors and feeding them false information about just want medical marijuana is and does. In the video footage below you’ll see what a good job the PJI did with their fear mongering to rile up a bunch of presumably locals — though that has been called into question — who wouldn’t look much different if they had torches and pitchforks in their hands. The meeting was shut down because Dr. Huen and the people from the Apothecarium never got a chance to speak because they were shouted down immediately as soon as they opened their mouths.

Well, a second chance is coming around. Tomorrow, May 3rd at 6:30pm at the Ortega Branch Library in the Sunset District there will be another general meeting to discuss the proposed location and I urge you to attend whether you’re in favor or against it. Please be respectful and not like the mob louts in the video below.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to say that I do not consume marijuana in any form, yet I think the Sunset District could use a dispensary or two. Sure, there are plenty who deliver, but then again why bother going to the local grocery store when they deliver to? Why even leaving your house when anything you can pretty much hold in your hand could be delivered? I don’t buy that line of thinking. Just like with groceries, people still like to see what they’re going to get before they get it.

The Apothecarium is a very upscale place if you google pictures of it [or see the above picture I posted]. Ace Pharmacy that used to be at the location was a very busy well used pharmacy that I don’t think anything had changed in the store since I can remember. They filled prescriptions and filled a lot of prescriptions. Jerry who was the last of the three original owners retired because he was just too tired to do the job anymore. His partners Sal and Joan [I believe I remembered their names correctly] where smart and got out early. Nothing had changed in the store and it was a bit of a dump to go inside, but it was a clean dump even though there were missing tiles of linoleum on the floor and their copy machine never worked, but they still left it there because they were too busy filling prescriptions to get rid of it.

While some might love the throw gentrification out there because there’s a business going in that will take care of the place instead of letting it rot I think it will help encourage others to do a few upgrades on their storefronts. Carmen Chu encouraged the businesses in that area and even got some funding to have the rotting awning replaced on many of the stores and while it was a small step, it still made a noticeable difference.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are not a place where anyone can walk in and buy drugs as some people have been led to believe. They actually usually look like private clubs in that there’s a doorman who checks to see if you’re on the list and if you’re not you don’t get in. Because of this there won’t be any selling drugs to kids or kids hanging out trying to get adults to buy up for them. The kids will be stuck hanging out near liquor stores to get their fix of Mad Dog 20/20. The risk is too high for them to sell to minors. It’s even worse than selling alcohol to minors.

There is no increase in crime because of the guards out in front which is another line that comes up frequently. Cannabis dispensaries always have very high tech, expensive crime deterrent gear installed because they’re selling a product that’s rather expensive. Pharmacies don’t even have that good equipment and they stock drugs that people could easily overdose on. Although that’s not entirely true since there has been a lot of graffiti spray painted on the place from people who don’t like the idea. I haven’t seen any lately so I guess their can of paint ran out.

I do think the location is a bit odd though. Noriega Street between 30th Avenue and 33rd Avenue has become a very heavy Chinese shopping area. It’s like Chinatown in that area with few exceptions. Heck even the Middle Eastern owner of a cigarette shop up the block speaks to his Chinese customers in Cantonese. If I was going to put in a dispensary I’d probably be looking at the new La Playa micro-hood out by the beach on Judah. Cool waves and a cool buzz, it kind of makes sense in a Jeff Spicolli kind of way, but that being one of the hot new areas of the City the rent is probably going to be much higher.

So at this point my thoughts are to give it a chance. I’ve written to Katy Tang and given her my thoughts as well as forwarding this article to her.




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Candlestick Shopping Center

CandlestickSo it looks like the remains of Candlestick Park are going to be transformed into an African Diaspora themed shopping center with 6000 units of housing. I suppose San Francisco could be called the city that never learns and I’m going to tell you why.

At least this time they aren’t pushing the affordable housing button to get everyone to go along with it. Sure a certain amount of those 6000 living spaces will have to go to those in need, but you’d be surprised at what looks like a person in need sometimes.

Nobody seems to remember what San Francisco was saying when Mission Bay was going to be built. Affordable homes in San Francisco! Finally you’ll be able to get a house! Back then in the 80’s that meant a house for under $100k if you can imagine it. I shook my head and my girlfriend at the time asked me, Don’t you want to be able to afford a house? Now look at Mission Bay. It’s got a high priced ball park surrounded by high priced restaurants with high priced living. It’s one of the most expensive places in SF to live now. I suspect the same thing will happen to Candlestick.

I was over in that area a few months ago and noticed that there’s lots of old houses in bad shape that are being torn down and replaced with condos. For most people who think they know San Francisco this part of town barely looks like San Francisco. The houses still there are no more than two stories and there’s lots of sun all the time. There’s next to no shopping for the people who live there and if you’re lucky to find a convenience store there will be bars all over the windows.

San Francisco is going to change all that now. There’s going to be bistros, and theaters, and pocket parks, and performance venues, and a hotel. There’s nothing like waking up in the morning to the smell of Candlestick [people used to refer to it as Candlestink Park.]

If there was ever a part of San Francisco that will show the biggest change from gentrification it would be this area. It will look nice and safe, but it will take quite a few years for that to really happen. Mid-Market where all the tech companies are trying to bring about some change is still working on that. They’re working so hard they want to build a land bridge so their workers don’t have to use the streets and interact with poor people.

The Hunter’s Point area is sort of a part of San Francisco that no one knows about. Sure, people talk about how hip it’s getting [that’s actually the Dog Patch area of the Bayview, not Hunter’s Point.] There are a few houses around lots of open spaces that either parking or places for houses to be built. The reality is that if they’re putting in affordable housing [right now it’s at a whopping 63 units out of the 12,000 planned over the next 10-12 years] they need to realize that people living in affordable houses don’t shop at Michael Kors or Saks which they’re planning on moving in there. As I said to a friend of mine today, they don’t build housing for poor people.

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Need A Ride To The Airport?

This isn’t getting mentioned in the media or even in any bloggers so I figured I better scoop this story for all my fellow TNC drivers so that the public knows and understands a current problem that we all have now that is especially bad in San Francisco.

In September of 2013 The CPUC decided that ridesharing companies such as Sidecar, Lyft & Uber had every right to operate in California. The CPUC call the companies TNC’s for Transportation Network Companies because they use cell phones to communicate ride requests as well as the processing of payments for rides. One of the little things that was sort of buried in the decision was that all TNC’s much work with local airports to establish an agreement for operating at these locations.

As you know I drive for Sidecar and it was always the general rule of thumb that you could drop off, but not pick up passengers at SFO until further agreements could be reached because at the time that was what the airport had written into it’s laws. Any company doing business on the airport premises or off for the purpose of picking up passengers on airport property had to have an agreement in writing with SFO. Nothing was said about dropping off people so that what we went with.

Well, things have changed. SFO has issued a statement to all TNC’s that until they get a permit from them they cannot drop off or pick up passengers on SFO property. I believe LAX has issued the same statement, but not pretty much every airport in California is like this. From my experience with Sidecar I know that they are actively pursuing the permit, but they have run into a few snags from SFO’s list of items TNC’s need to provide in order to get the permit. This isn’t only a Sidecar problem, but something that all TNC’s have a problem with. Some of the requests are based on old technology that doesn’t apply to new technology. Kind of like if the horse trade organization said that all cars needed to have distemper shots so they were healthy. The two don’t necessarily work together. All the TNC’s are trying to work the bugs out, but currently, no one has a permit.

The biggest problem and this is the most important thing that anyone who uses TNC’s for transportation needs to realize that as of right now the airports are off limits. Let me put that is a bit large type so it stands out:

TNC’s cannot drive you or pick you up from the airport.

Please pass this along to all your friends, neighbors, everyone. This has become more of a problem because the airports and especially SFO are starting to crack down. I see reports daily of drivers for many of these TNC’s getting stopped and ticketed for dropping off or picking up passengers at SFO. I’ve heard that it’s happening at other airports in California as well, but SFO is the worse.

Some of the TNC’s are being a bit passive aggressively defiant in that they are telling drivers they will cover the cost of the ticket [which I have heard runs between $220-$600 depending on what they write you up on], but they aren’t telling drivers not to take people to the airport. This makes some of these TNC’s look bad to the CPUC who has given them the right to operate in California. Sidecar has officially told all of it’s drivers to not accept rides to or from SFO and that is easy because riders have to put in their destination when they request a ride. Sidecar is also working on blocking requests to the airport until they can resolve the problem with SFO. Those other TNC’s aren’t doing this.

Why is this a problem for you the rider? The CPUC has given TNC’s a right to operate in California and it was the first state where this was done. All of these companies have started in San Francisco as well so we are the bullseye that everyone is aiming for. Many of you love TNC’s because they’re more pleasant than taxi’s. TNC drivers are held more accountable than taxi drivers to the point that we’re seeing a lot of taxi drivers changing their attitude and coming over to work for TNC’s because they can make more money with less outlay of cash [you do realize that taxi drivers have to pay upfront before the cab even leaves the lot]. In San Francisco and the Bay Area TNC’s have changed the way people get around. TNC’s you can request and they show up within minutes. They don’t demand a tip [though they appreciate it], you will never hear, machine is broken, cash only and in general the drivers are much more pleasant to ride with. Pricing can even be less expensive than a cab frequently.

If you want to see this all go away then go ahead and book rides to the airport. There will always be drivers who will take the risk that don’t understand that while they might get $35 from that ride to the airport [less than a taxi] in the end they could help bringing TNC’s in San Francisco, California and then spreading out to the rest of the country and world to an end. I happen to like driving for a TNC and I’ve met lots of fun and interesting people and made lots of new friends. I know I’m helping out people who need to get somewhere quickly and it’s giving me a way to make money on a flexible schedule. Please do not ask for trips to the airport because if you do you might find yourself walking home at 2am on a Saturday night or waiting an hour to find a taxi to hail.

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Eric Mar vs. The E-Cig

e_cig_supesI think some of you might believe that I enjoy railing on Supervisor Eric Mar. I don’t think it’s because of what he believes in so much as how he says it. His current project which passed was getting electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes banned everywhere that smoking is banned. I don’t have much of a problem with this because most people don’t have a good understanding of how an e-cigarette works or why people like them.

I have been a smoker for a long time. I’ll even go so far as to admit that it’s been the biggest addiction that’s been hard to break for me. I remember the good old days [I think I was still a teenager] when you could buy cigarettes anywhere even a pharmacy and you could pretty much smoke anywhere. Movie theaters, grocery stores, restaurants, night clubs, hospitals probably had a smoking room right next to the delivery room. Then people became aware that it was bad for you and San Francisco in all it’s draconian-ness banned smoking from well, pretty much everywhere except public streets. I remember hating that at the time, but I came to accept it and it helped me to cut back a little bit.

wpid-halo-triton-iridescence-starterkitOne day, I like many others decided to try an e-cigarette that was a disposable that the shop that sold my cigarettes was also selling. Since I drive for a living it might be nice if my car didn’t smell like smoke and it might get me a few more tips. From that first day I was hooked. That one disposable lasted me two days and I went from smoking a pack of cigarettes a day to one fifth or four cigarettes a day. I went all out and got a non-disposable e-cigarette that was a little bit bigger and joined the small, but growing clan of vapers as they like to refer to themselves. This is where the problems start.

People into e-cigarettes don’t always seem to realize that what they’re doing while healthier [I’ll get into that in a second] than smoking still looks a lot like smoking to anyone else. Even smokers. Some of those people feel like they should be able to vape in church, schools, pretty much anywhere that you currently can’t because, it’s not smoking. Well, while that’s true the rest of world at the moment still thinks it’s smoking. It looks like, but what it is is a vapor created by heating a combination of vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol and food grade flavoring that also usually contains nicotine [you can get liquids for the electronic cigarettes that contain no nicotine]. Vegetable glycerin is just what it sounds like. It comes from vegetables and is used in food as a thickener. Propylene glycol sounds kind of scary, but is a sugar alcohol that was used in hospitals to disinfect the air. Hospitals stopped using it when they started to get bigger and the cost of the PG started to get too high, but many veterinarians still use it. It’s safe unless you’ve got an allergy to it, but then again the same holds true of water. While doctors don’t want to come out and say it’s harmless, or safe they will at least admit that e-cigarettes are much better than smoking a cigarette.

Where does Eric Mar come into this? Well he is the one that got the law passed banning e-cigarettes anywhere other forms of smoking are banned. That’s not too big a deal in my book. His original arguments are what got to me. One of the things with the liquids used by e-cigarettes is that they can be flavored to be pretty much anything you want. I’m vaping some coconut mango right now and have root beer, Jamacian rum, Kentucky Bourbon in addition to my Dominican and Havana tobacco flavors. There are lots of candy flavors available and some of the few shops in San Francisco actually only stock the berry and candy flavored liquids. The problem was that kids also like candy so if they’re making a candy flavored nicotine liquid they must be marketing it to kids. Never mind the fact that adults like candy as well or that people get carded much more frequently than when Eric Mar or I were in High School. While there is a group of vapers who are into the candy flavors only and can’t understand why someone would want a tobacco flavor these are the 20 something crowd, not little kids. Eric was quoted as saying the line he frequently uses of, we have to think of the kids. Well, yes we do, but we also should then ban cars and alcohol and knives and bikes and anything else that might hurt a child because there’s a lot of stuff out there. When I was a kid and it was easier to get cigarettes I think I can count on one hand the number of kids I saw with a cigarette. High School was a bit different, but that was the late 70’s and it was still kind of cool and rebellious back then, but the word kids denotes young children not teenagers. He’s since taken a step back from that since getting people to get behind him on the ban wasn’t really that hard. I honestly don’t think it was a bad idea and I do believe it has at least gotten a few more people to look at the alternative to the dangers of smoking. For many of us it’s been a good way to get tobacco and the thousands of harmful chemicals out of our bodies for a couple of chemicals that don’t cause cancer and help us move away from our addiction.

Oh, if you’re wondering I just passed two months without cigarettes.

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Batkid Vs. The “Supervisor”

Boys Batman WishPow! Zing! Bam! The Batkid managed to bring San Francisco together for the first time in a long time. Little Miles Scott did what no other fair or government sponsored event has done. He battled all the foes face to face except for one who hid behind his Twitter account — Eric Mar.

Oh dear. Maybe Eric was having a bad day or something, but seriously? Why the need to take a dump on a little kids day that moved the entire city? If you missed it and I doubt you did, Eric Mar posted a tweet that quickly turned viral and got everyone talking:

“Waiting for Miles the Batkid and wondering how many 1000s of SF kids living off SNAP/FoodStamps could have been fed from the $$.”

OK, at least he’s admitting to being there to grab a little bit of the spot light. He might even have been standing near Miles smiling as he sent the dastardly tweet out to all of his followers. Not so odd is that the tweet has been removed from his feed as if in these modern days of the internet anything you say won’t be archive and held against you at a later date [oh dear, did I really post that in 1994?] Here is an actually screen grab of said tweet:

Oops!

Uhm, did someone say open mouth and insert foot? Batkid’s day was provided to Miles and the City of San Francisco by a private foundation known as the Make-A-Wish foundation. Miles has leukemia which is remission which is awesome in my book and the fact that Make-A-Wish put something together for Miles that also benefitted the City by helping boost the morale of everyone is a great thing that was much sorely needed.

Last time I checked government didn’t have to power to tell a privately held company what it could and could not do or how to operate. If Eric Mar wants more money to go to SNAP then it would be nice if he would step up to the plate and donate his yearly salary to SNAP instead of telling some other company to do it.

Oh wait, Eric Mar agrees that he can’t tell a private corporation how to operate. I found this little bit about Eric Mar Vs. The Happy Meal from not too long ago:

Is there really enough room in your mouth for both of your feet? While I will agree with Eric Mar that families on food stamps/EBT/SNAP aren’t able to properly feed themselves and their kids, if that’s really such a big deal then you should have found another venue than to bring it up instead of stealing the day from a little kid with leukemia.

Miles is a great kid from what I can see and he’s a fighter to have gotten to where he is today and hopefully when he gets older because of youtube and vimeo he’ll have something to look back on and he can just smile and say, I did a good thing.

Cheers to Miles Scott and the Make-A-Wish foundation for giving the City something to get behind for once.

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Ridesharing Get The Go Ahead!

Side•CarOn Thursday, September 19th the California Public Utilities Commission voted 5-0 in favor of accepting the ridesharing technology as a legitimate business in California. While it has started in San Francisco due to the need of people to get from point A to point B and not have to wait an hour for a taxi it has grown into something more than that.

As a public disclaimer, I do drive for Side•Car so I am a little bit biased in this area I’ll admit, but I also have lots of people around town who also take taxi’s and even friends who are taxi drivers to fill me in on this so keep this in mind.

To make things clear from the beginning for those who have been trying to get a taxi and had trouble here are some of the reasons why.

  1. Taxi Companies are in the business of renting taxis: There is no incentive for a company to get you from point A to point B. The taxi companies make their money from renting the taxis or in short, they don’t make money from you taking a taxi, but from the drivers who rent the taxis.
  2. There is a combined total of roughly 1200 taxis available in San Francisco: This is split between all of the taxi companies. If you call for a cab to say, Yellow Cab which is the largest you have about 400 taxis available. This cuts the availability of taxis to riders significantly.
  3. It’s much easier to hail a taxi on the street than call for a pick up: Cab drivers are not employees of the cab companies, but independent contractors so they are under no obligation to pick up a call that is requested. There is no require of a cab driver to do anything other than pay for the taxi rental and return it with a full tank of gas at the end of the shift. Anything they do in between is up to them.

Do you see a problem here? Granted, ridesharing companies such as Side•Car, Lyft and Uber aren’t under a requirement to get you from point A to point B either, but there is a psychological mind set amongst the drivers that works in their favor. While there are a few who drive solely for income it is still not the same as a job. They can do it whenever they have free time and start and stop when they want so they can work it into their schedule.

Rideshare companies have been called elitist by cab companies saying that they won’t pick up low-income or elderly people who don’t own smartphones. I would disagree with this. I have had numerous people I’ve given rides to from 20-70 and all income levels in my car. I frequently drive through the Tenderloin or low-income areas that are underserved by taxis and notice quite a few people on the streets with smartphones. I frequently have picked up people at the local grocery stores who need a lift home with several bags of groceries and sometimes if I have the time I’ll help them unload and carry their bags in. I also have people call for me that need their parents picked up and dropped off in various locations around town so it is definitely a scalable technology. Smartphones are also being given away at this point in time and who in their right mind in this day and age doesn’t own a smartphone that calls for a ride? Last time I checked the majority of low-income people don’t take cabs, but wait for the bus using a state subsidized clipper card.

The biggest boon to riders is that if you are outside the downtown or Mission District you can now get a ride. The Sunset, Richmond, Ingelside and Oceanview areas are a no man’s land for getting a cab. I can’t even count the number of people in the Sunset or Richmond who’s said how great rideshare services are because they simply can’t get a cab in those areas.

Now regarding the safety of vehicles in participating in ridesharing there have been a few new requirements.

  1. Each company must keep a $1 million dollar insurance policy to cover each driver in excess of each driver’s insurance.
  2. Each company must maintain a strict drug and alcohol policy [as in no drugs or alcohol]
  3. A 19 point vehicle inspection is required of each vehicle someone driving for the companies must undergo.

There are other points, but these are the safety issues some people might be concerned with. All of these except the last have been met previously. Since most of the companies require each car to be from the year 2000 or later the chance of one not passing a 19 point inspection is rare. I know most oil change companies provide a 21 point inspection when you get your oil changed and if you change it regularly like I do then you know exactly what is wrong with your car so you can get it fixed.

The decision affects not just the San Francisco Bay Area, but the entire state of California opening the door to ridesharing in parts of the state that may not be considered large enough to warrant taxi service. Overall the price of rideshare works out cheaper than a taxi because a tip is expected on top of the fare regardless of whether or not the driver gave you a good ride or not [but we won’t talk bad about you if you do tip]. The taxi system and the way it works doesn’t support the needs of the people it was meant to serve. Ridesharing companies offer more drivers at more times in more places around the Bay Area so it is easier to get to the people and to get them where they need to go. I’ve personally used the service several times and found that I never had to wait longer than five minutes. When I’m driving and I take a call that’s ten minutes away I frequently wish I didn’t have to make the person wait as long, but usually the drivers are happy that I’m at their door within the time noted by the GPS locator used by the apps. Probably the biggest reason I like driving for a rideshare company is that it takes me all over the city to see  what’s happening now and not in tomorrow’s newsfeed.

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