Over one hundred taxis encircled San Francisco City Hall today in a long chain through the Civic Center. I made my way back to the office through cabbies wailing on their horns and protesters angrily displaying obscure signs. They blocked intersections, bus lines and pedestrians from passing, damning the whole area to gridlock while locals and tourists grew evermore upset.
But why? I had just walked through the park square only 30 minutes ago and it was warm and tranquil. The masses on the steps of City Hall now seemed to be wielding unrelated banners, including bright yellow signs for "Ross Mirkarimi for Sheriff", "Miller 4 San Francisco Mayor", "Unions bite back", the generic "Si se puede" posters in various colors, the more obscure " نعم نستطيع " and dozens of 8.5x11 papers with illegible black and white block text covering the entire sheet. Whatever the initial catalyst, the arrival of Sal Castaneda and his posse of reporters appeared to draw people out of the woodwork with something to say to the cameras.
But the taxis, why so many taxis?! Since San Francisco has maybe a dozen to begin with, the looping mass of yellow, white and green cabs seemed improbable. No one could explain what the fuss was about, until one woman in the security line at City Hall said simply "MTA. It's MTA, and me. They're basically here for me." She walked away toward the elevators, leaving behind her a cloud of ominous-ness.
I later learned that the Cabs were protesting a Board of Supervisors meeting, in which the BoS was debating the new MTA regulations that would waive a rule prohibiting cab companies to recover the 5% surcharge per credit card payment from drivers, thus transferring the cost. A 5% fee may not sound like much on its face, but it comes with responsibilities to maintain digital screens and hardware - and on top of that, there are no taxis for hire in San Francisco today. So it is, de facto, a big deal.
For a Full story and explanation of the issue, this San Francisco Sentinel article gives a good summary.