San Jose Taxi Company Beefs Up on Lobbyists to Fight Uber, Lyft

Traditional taxi cabs—remember those?—have taken a beating from ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber. The ground transportation game irrevocably changed once customers said to hell with hailing cabs and began using sleek smartphone apps for cleaner cars and generally more polite drivers. But the war to put butts into back seats is far from over in San Jose, where Mayor Sam Liccardo and the City Council are trying to rewrite the rules on ridesharing services and airport pickups. After several deferrals, the council intends to hammer out a plan at its last meeting of the fiscal year, June 23. In a strategic advance earlier this year, Yellow Checker Cab owner Larry Silva made a calculated decision to hire many of the city’s most well-known lobbyists/consultants before Uber or Lyft made a move. In addition to keeping longtime ear-benders Jerry Strangis and Ed McGovern on retainer, Silva hired Pete Carrillo, the duo Sean Kali-rai and Rich De La Rosa, and Victor Ajlouny, a consigliere to former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. One would have to go back to the controversial Calpine power plant deal in 2000 to find so many lobbyists joining forces to work one side of an issue. Carrillo has since been let go. While he's closest to Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, who cannot vote on taxi matters until next year due to a strange sponsored trip that involved Yellow Cab and the Chamber of Commerce, Fly hears that wasn't the reason Carrillo's contract came to an end. (Side note: Silva tells Fly he's still not sure why the cab company's Chamber sponsorship went specifically to fund Carrasco's trip to New York City last year.) The remaining five consultants each have their own connections at City Hall, and they'll be giving a louder voice to some legitimate gripes from cab companies. Yellow Cab and others have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to work at San Jose's airport, pay permit fees and provide access to people with disabilities—unlike Uber and Lyft. But the council also has to balance the public benefits of ridesharing services. In many ways the pros and cons mirror the current debate between traditional public and charter schools, which has been similarly contentious. But, as previously noted, the council has kicked this can down the road before. The specter of cabbies driving around City Hall while honking their horns—similar to a protest conducted last month—might be enough to push the item until after the July recess.

Send a tip to The Fly

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

36 Comments

  1. I’ve never really understood why the taxi system exists. In NYC you buy a “Taxi Meddalion” for $100,000 that is a perpetual license to operate a taxi in the city. Why does such a high barrier to entry exist? Certainly I could see some issues, like 1000 cars parked in the airport arrivals area waiting for fares, but even that can be mitigated through a “No Parking” sign.

    Rather than let the capitalism run rampant like gladiatorial combat, we give one gladiator a shield, sword, and armor, while we cut the arms off challengers and throw them out in the arena naked.

    I think “Taxi Licenses” should be issued by the state through the DMV, like any other commercial vehicle. Vehicles have to show they have proper maintenance, and drivers have to have clean criminal, and driving records. We’re fast approaching the age of “antonymous taxi’s” with Uber, Lyft, Google, Apple and Tesla all getting involved in creating self driving cars.

    With just the robot cars coming to the industry, it’s not our local laws that need to change, it’s the Taxi companies. Adapt or die.

    • Cousin Cortese: Very few cities have medallions—NY, Chicago, Boston, SF come to mind. They are bought and sold like a liquor license or a home, and due to the fixed number in the cities that have them, the price of a medallion has soared. In most cities taxicabs are highly regulated, and of course taxed. Back in 2010, SF floated a new medallion system, with the price set at $250k each, to help balance the budget. SFMTA collects 1/3 of the initial sales price and takes 20% of the sales price of a transferred medallion. OUCH!!

  2. Hello to fight the illegal ride givers is right thing I believe Larry Silva has the right to defend his company and his drivers because those call Uber-X and left they are stilling fares from legal
    Cab drivers. also they don’t care any rules related
    About ground transportation. Whether safety of costume or dmv rules which related commercial
    License. They give ride with out individual business license and I agree with Larry and San taxi drivers association.all taxi companys.
    There for I respetfully ask to support local taxi industry who doing business legally and reject those illegal big business.

    • Sir,

      A smaller business should have less overhead, and be able to compete on price no? Also, considering the near monopoly the current taxi system gives, the Taxi’s should be able to brush aside the Uber’s of the world with ease.

      This business model is old, stale, and will soon be replaced with autononymous cars from Google, Apple, Lyft, and Uber. Charging me $40 to go 10 miles to the airport is ridiculous. Charging me $3 as soon as I get in your cab at the airport is ridiculous.

      • Everyone has a take in the pie – SFO charges taxi drivers an entry/exit fee. SFO charges mini-buses a fee. SFO charges a take-off/landing free for commercial airlines. Every airport has different commercial fees, but they do have fees. Airlines and taxi-drivers all pay a fee. But if you drop off your relative or friend at the airport, there is no fee for that. What if an unmarked car (Uber, Lyft, etc..) enters airport and provides same service as a taxi? Every commercial entity pays a fee, except YOU? Of course you feel taxi’s are expensive, but is it their fault? Their fees are regulated, but their expenses are not. This is no longer WWII where everyone unites together and gives each other FREE rides to save petroleum for the war effort. WHO PAYS IF THE CUSTOMER IS KIDNAPPED / KILLED? (No criminal record does not mean honest!!!)

        • WHO PAYS IF THE CUSTOMER IS KIDNAPPED / KILLED? (No criminal record does not mean honest!!!)

          Many cab drivers appear to have no record because we can only reliably check their records here in the states. I can’t remember the last time I took a cab without a driver who’s not native to the US.

        • Here’s my two cents… I believe in improving the standard of service to the public while having a competitive industry.

          The Taxi Industry does need to adapt and improve but at the same time, if I were a group of businesses that were told I have to have a city business license, pay a fee to San Jose PD Permits Department for inspections, have commercial vehicle insurance, fees to SJC Airport to pickup fares and then was told that another business competing for the same market share doesn’t have to pay any of those fees and licenses I would be raising hell as well.

          If you’re going to let another business into the pie that has been regulated for so long and not regulate said new business like the other players in said pie, it’s just flat wrong. Either deregulate the group that already there (Taxis) or make the new players (Uber, Lyft, etc) pay the same fees and acquire the licenses required by the former group!

          • What you just said makes complete sense. Either allow the current taxi companies to enjoy the Uber model, or force the taxi model on Uber.

            Is that the main point of the taxicabs protests or do they want to completely eliminate the competition?

          • Another difference is the insurance requirements, which protect the passenger in case of an injury. I believe the CA PUC sets that requirement for all common carriers. The insurance limit of liability required for taxicabs is much higher than the insurance limit of liability that Uber or Lyft drivers have. But I gave up on cabs 20+ years ago. The cabs were often old, dirty inside, and many of the drivers reeked of goat and curry. A clean town car with a driver wearing a suit and tie cost twice as much as a cab to get from home to SJC, or back. It’s worth it to me. For SFO I used the vans, or drove my car up to one of the nearby hotels and stayed the night before my flight. Most let you leave your car at the hotel for up to one week, some for up to two weeks, at no additional charge over the cost of the room. They shuttled you to and from the airport. I haven’t flown in a few years now, so I don’t know if they still have those deals.

          • KC83, I agree with you completely. After all, Uber, Lyft, et al, are basically taxis that are hailed via a smartphone versus making a telephone call or flagging down someone. The same rules should apply to all. Of paramount importance is the safety of the passengers and the safety of the vehicles they are transported in.

  3. > Of course you feel taxi’s are expensive, but is it their fault? Their fees are regulated, but their expenses are not.

    Moral of the story: government greed and regulation killed the taxi business.

    No one should be surprised.

      • You’ll not see autonomous cars hit the streets for at least 10 years. There are so many regulatory guidelines that will need to be set and barriers to jump through. I’m probably a little more educated on the matter, as I work for the main company in the Silicon Valley behind these projects. Don’t allow all the puffery that is given to the media, were not even close.

      • > … then self driving cars will be the nail in the coffin.

        I think Robert knows the story.

        So much of this self-driving car hype is coming from “Trends” editors at newspapers and websites who are just simplistically projecting what they personally know about. What they mostly know about is driving a car to and from work.

        In my humble, but nonetheless highly credible, opinion, the early applications for self-driving cars will focus on dedicated roadways, isolated from the roads and highways used by the public.

        Think of parking lot shuttles or terminal-to-terminal shuttles at airports.

        A really fantastc application for self-driving vehicles is a dedicated high-speed roadway between SF and LA restricted for use by self-driving vehicles: cars, buses, cargo trucks.

        Vehicles could travel bumper to bumper at 120 miles per hour and join or leave the traffic flow at a hundred different controlled access ramps along the route.

        And it wouldn’t have to be “point-to-point”, either. It could connect LA, SF, Sacramento, Tahoe, Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc.

        It makes the California High Speed Rail look stupid. Really stupid. REALLY, REALLY, REALLY STUPID!!!

        • You know I hadn’t thought of that… I mean I understand the whole.

          Vehicles could travel bumper to bumper at 120 miles per hour and join or leave the traffic flow at a hundred different controlled access ramps along the route.

          as it’s been discussed by traffic engineers for years.

          I supposed you’re right though. It would start on roads separated from human error. I just tried finding the article, but I heard they *just* approved such a plan for a separate “Autonomous Truck Road” to the Alaska tar sand fields. The oil companies grew weary of paying “ICE ROAD TRUCKERS” $200k @ year to haul stuff back and forth across the great white north.

          Sort of scary though, as much as I respect Ash Kalra, his plan to derail oil rail tankers was something that just made me shake my head and say, “Oh Ash”.(Rail tankers actually have a better safety record than any other form of oil transport, including pipelines)

        • Let’s see: I could sit in a small autonomous car at 120 mph from SJ to LA, or I could ride on high speed rail at 180 mph, spread my legs in the club car, have a meal and some wine. Gee, which should I take? Trick question. I’ve ridden the Tgv trains from Paris to Burgundy and Paris to the Loire, and back. I’ll take that comfort and style over a cramped ride in an autonomous car any day. But hey, different strokes…

          • Johnmichael:

            You should know better.

            A. The “California High Speed Rail” is NOT going to travel at 180 mph. Apparently, you are the last one to know.

            B. A self-driving vehicle utilizing the autonomous vehicle rodeway can be as spartan or as luxurious as you are willing to pay for.

            If you want opulent, luxurious transport, your checkbook can make it happen.

            Don’t be a cheapskate.

  4. Only lazy people need cabs or ubers.

    There is nothing wrong with walking to your destination from the airport.

    The real problem is finding a shopping cart to hold your stuff at the airport. Maybe they need an app for that.

    Until that app arrives, I’ll be forced to hire a cab, to drive to a Safeway to pick up a shopping cart, to bring back to the airport to load up my stuff.

    I do not have a problem “borrowing” the cart from Safeway, it’s the least I can do considering the chain hires Nazi Lawyers to prevent Jews from establishing a homeland on their sidewalk to petition the world to Let My People Go to Zion.

    Safeway is more than happy to exile Jews to the intersection where Arabs blinded from the perspiration of excessive water rationing, can accidentally aim their cars at the Jewish Petitioners.

    The cart fits very well in a handicapped equipped taxi.

    Anyone who loves Israel, should proudly steal shopping carts from Safeway. No need for a tabernacle when you’ve got a good shopping cart from Safeway. A Torah fits just fine in one.

    • This has to be the most offensive comment I’ve ever read on this site. You’re comparing Jewish people (of which my children and wife are descended from) to homeless shopping cart pushers.

      Vile! Sick! Fiendish! Josh/Dan I demand this comment be removed for racism!

      • Robert apparently is completely unaware, and suprisingly unoffended, by Safeways deliberate attempt to wipeout a landmark ruling that revolved around Free Speech, States Rights, Zionism, and thereby had an international scope in contrast to the usual local bickering of ocean views or trash contracts.

        Any Jew who still shops at Safeway is a sellout and a traitor to Zionism.

        Any action of Cab Companies or Uber to gather signatures in a marketplace setting is relying on this Zionistic Ruling, a ruling which Jews in the pre-concentration camp period completely lacked.

        It could have been Six Million protesting, instead of what really happened; Six Million gassed, shot, or starved.

        Safeway has no qualms about Anti-Zionism legal maneuvers and would have sent Socrates to his death quicker than even his contemporaries.

        Safeway would have worked with Hitler. That should come as no surprise, as many businesses did business with the Third Reich.

        You’re offended by a comment.

        You should be offended by your own action of shopping at Safeway.

        Lose the right to protest trash contracts and with it, will be lost protection from yet another period of concentration camps whether for Japs or Jews.

        Maybe the US will simply, at Safeways behest, put Jews on American Style Reservations, and if they behave themselves, the next US generation will be kind enough to bestow Casino Rights or Prostitution Rights to these Jewish Reservations.

        If your want your kids to have this opportunity, Robert, all you have to do is shut your f-n mouth and keep shopping at Safeway.

        People have a right to be politically disturbed. By all means, exercise that right.

        If you’re not disturbed by the Zionest Jap dressed in American Indian Garments holding Pom Poms, asking you to sign a petition to save your local trash company, then something is wrong.

        Deeply wrong. Because he isn’t there.

        The Melting Pot became the New World Order with every dollar you spent at Safeway.

  5. ROBERT MICHAEL CORTESE Jun 11, 2015 @ 11:57 pm
    What you just said makes complete sense. Either allow the current taxi companies to enjoy the Uber model, or force the taxi model on Uber.
    Is that the main point of the taxicabs protests or do they want to completely eliminate the competition?

    Being close to the situation and personally knowing many involved, the answer is yes to the former; even the playing field.

    • Rover I’m going to take a guess here…

      On another site I hang out on (reddit) there’s a term called, “brigading” which basically means you coordinate people behind the scenes to try and harass, or get someone banned off the site.

      This happened recently, with me as the victim.

      After some discussion and me presenting some evidence to this happening, SJI wisely chose to allow me to continue posting here. They also told the brigaders, “We know what you’re up to, knock it off, Rob can post here”

      Wambo is walking a fine line between being pro-semite and antisemite. He’s purposely doing it because he knows the owner of this site is 1/2 Italian, Half Jewish. My wife is the same (and oddly enough, both families are from Brooklyn)

      Wambo is hoping I trip over a comment at some point so he can say to the owner of this site, “SEE? CORTESE IS ANTI-SEMITE!!! BAN HIM!! HATE SPEECH! HATE SPEECH!”

      Which.. Is really wrong. My kids are part Jewish. (Wambo) You don’t care either way about their plight. You’re leveraging race baiting tactics, it wouldn’t matter what race they were, you’re just trying to be a manipulative to the narrative of the site.

      My last week on this site has been enjoyable, myself and the other regulars here despite all having different viewpoints, have civilly had good, insightful, thoughtful discussion without personal attacks . Isn’t that what political discussion should be? Actual town halls where folks get together, and through discussion might not get exactly what they want, but baby step towards a compromise?

      Anyways Rover, hopefully I brought some understanding to what Wambo is doing. Wambo, knock it off.

  6. If you want to be Anti-Semitic, all you have to do is shop at Safeway. It’s that easy.

    No need to hang pictures of Nazi’s on your bedroom wall. No need to join a youth group of brown shirted toy soldiers. No need to stand facing Adolf ‘s Last Bunker, at attention in solemn salute, five times a day.

    Just drop by your local Safeway and buy an apple or banana. That’s it. So easy. You can almost hear the coins fall in the pockets of the lawyers, they’ll use to wipe the mention of Zionism, in a public setting, off the face of the most wealthy and powerful country in the history of the world.

    Go ahead and sleep well as the ashes of the bodies burned in World War II, still float by the planes you sit in, as you span the stratosphere.

    It’s really no big deal is it?

    No one needs to complain as Safeway’s lawyers use your hunger for a banana or an apple, for funding, to muzzle you into the complacency required to be slaughtered without saying a word. Such a quiet lamb you are.

    Go ahead. Eat the apple. Take your trash to the curb, and wait to die. The bill is in the mail.

    • I’m going to think through this with you.

      You say, if someone gives money to Safeway, and they’re supporting anti-semitism.

      OK am I with you so far?

      If you give money to the US government, what are you supporting?

      Women and Children dying of drone airstrikes?
      Using young, 18-20 year olds as cannon fodder?
      Water Boarding?
      Rectal hydration for food/water strikers?
      All of the above?

      See, when I pay my taxes, I don’t say I’m supporting those things. Taxes are as they say, “Inevitable as death”. Well, so is eating. Eating is as inevitable as death. Shopping at Safeway, sometimes I don’t have a choice. What are my choices? Overpriced at Lunardi’s? The madhouse that is Costco, avoiding tiny women barely able to see over the dash of their Lexus SUV speeding through the parking lot? Walmart? A company they say supports affluenza, and is trying to get rid of Solar and Human rights?

      No.. Not a single one of these thoughts cross my mind. Sometimes I shop at one store, sometimes another. It’s not because I support any political cause, it’s because I’m hungry. It’s because I need toilet paper.

      Anyways, I’m sure you pay taxes. I’m sure you support waterboarding all day long like the rest of us.

    • WAMBO: WTF R U talking about? Please describe exactly how it is that Safeway is trying to wipe out Zionism by setting forth specific actions Safeway has taken to wipe out Zionism; because I must have missed their nefarious anti-Zionist campaign every time I shop there. And while you’re at it, please tell us all how you feel about the millions of practicing Jews all over the world who are not Zionists; who chose to remain in the country in which they currently live. R U a Zionist? Do you live in Israel? Are you trying to get to Israel? If not, why not? Finally, what does anything you rant about have to do with the subject of this thread–the taxi companies lobbying against Uber and Lyft?

  7. You can only pick one battle.

    Try picking one.

    All the things you just said require having an audience.

    Where would you possibly find an audience?

    Same place as Socrates most likely, because if you charge admission somewhere no one will be willing to pay the the fee.

    Do you intend to mumble to yourself on a street corner?

    Or does free speech mean someone can hear you?

    Fighting Safeway Corporate Nazism, has relevance for all of the things you mentioned because corporations like Safeway, and Target, have made the public market place their own private domain. They own the local watering hole for all humankind.

    Are you really only to drink from the water while being barred from a discussion with your thirsty neighbor?

    Either the community owns the community, or Safeway does, and Target does.

    You cannot separate hunger from politics. No such separation exists. Hunger is inherently political.

    • Everything word you said can be found written on the wall of a bathroom stall. The Zigurat chooses to play the accordion when the bell tolls for the 7 maidens at sabbath during the full moon. Spiritual enlightenment can either be a freedom or a prison as we are only bound by ourselves.

      An audience of self is still an audience. We either listen to our own voices with intent or we don’t. That is the choice we make in either accepting who we are, or living to forget it. That Socrates dude was in Bill and Ted’s Excellent adventure, and his philosophy was, “Be Excellent to one another”. Free speech is important to me in all things. Some do not carry that spirit of freedom, and think that freedom of speech should be precluded by saying “Non inflammatory things” towards Mohammed.

      If you *REALLY* want to make a difference towards safeway no longer being the corporate watering hole, then you should start encouraging people to have their own back yard farms. With Chickens! After 2 years the bird is no longer the word and you can eat him. Just as 30 year old birthdays were celebrated with death in Logans Run, so it is for Chickens, just on a much smaller timescale. Stay Soylent, Stay Green, your food is your people when the people are too old to be relevant towards society for anything other than a green cracker.

      So do not fear your death, because the end of your life will nourish the next generation to come.

  8. Sf GATE on it’s article reported on uber assaulted case
    uber back ground check didn’t catch Davies Whitmore past criminal record, which include multiple felony charge he had also done time in prison.
    Is there any clue what do uber Check for back ground ?