San Francisco's Man-Made Taxi Medallion Crisis

14 min
Taxi driver Ali Alikhani at San Francisco International Airport on Thursday, Feb. 6. As of 11:45am on Thursday, he had 1 passenger since starting work at 7:00 am that day. He said that being a taxi driver is not a healthy work situation. They rarely work just 8 hours a day, often working over 12 hours and still not making enough money. He said, "workers in factories have protections for work conditions. Taxi drivers don't have that." "What kind of life is that? Is this America?" (Beth LaBerge/KQED News)

In 2010, San Francisco needed money. So it started charging $250,000 for taxi medallions, which allow drivers to operate their own cabs. The city also promised lenders that the taxi medallion market would stay afloat.

That same year a company called UberCab was founded. And, before long, Uber and Lyft crushed the taxicab industry. Some of the 700 taxi medallion holders in the city are now hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. In some extreme cases, drivers have died from stress. And some drivers want San Francisco to step in with a big fix: buy back the medallions and pay off their debt.

Guest: Sam Harnett, KQED Silicon Valley reporter

You can read more of Sam's reporting on San Francisco's taxi medallion crisis here.