San Francisco taxis play an important role in providing transportation for both residents and visitors. Be sure you know how to locate a legitimate, city-licensed cab if you want regulated fares, safe cabs and specially trained drivers.
Regulating Taxi Fares and Service
In 1998, the citizens of San Francisco voted to create the San Francisco Taxi Commission to regulate the city's taxi service. Before the Commission, the Police Commission controlled the regulation.
The San Francisco Taxi Commission is responsible for setting the fares and making sure that the city's taxis and drivers meet certain levels of safety and service. Specifically, the Commission is responsible to:
- Ensure the quality of the taxi service to residents and visitors
- Ensure driver training
- Enact rules for drivers, dispatchers and taxi companies
The Commission has seven commissioners appointed by the Mayor, each for two-year terms. Each commissioner represents one of the seven special interest groups that are relevant to the City's taxi service:
- Seniors and disabled
- Taxi drivers
- Taxi companies
- Hospitality industry
- Labor community
- Neighborhood representatives
- General public
The Taxi Commission must license cab companies that provide service in San Francisco. In order to receive their licensing, each cab must meet stringent restrictions for both the driver and the cab. Specifically, each licensed cab must:
- Have regular safety and meter inspections
- Carry specific types and levels of insurance coverage
- Have security cameras in the cab
- Have drivers who have taken extensive training (including street navigation) and who are subject to background checks
It is easy to see if a cab is licensed by the Taxi Commission. Look for the:
- Lettering on the side and rear of cab that says "San Francisco Taxicab"
- Small metal license plate on the dashboard
- Driver's ID card that must be visible from the backseat
Finding San Francisco Taxis
You can successfully hail a cab from a street corner. Cabs that are available for passengers will illuminate the sign on the top of the cab. Waving aggressively, while standing at a convenient place for the cab to stop, will usually get the attention of the driver and will result in the cab stopping.The easiest places to hail a cab are usually in the tourist areas, the financial district and at downtown hotels. For example, you can often find a concentration of available cabs at:
It can be difficult to find a cab once you leave the downtown area or during rainy weather. You may need to phone one of the cab companies and ask for a cab to be dispatched to your location. The dispatch telephone numbers for the major taxicab companies are:
- Arrow - (415)-648-3181
- Desoto - (415)-970-1300
- Luxor - (415)-282-4141
- Metro - (415)-920-0700
- Veterans - (415)-648-4119
- Yellow - (415)-333-3333
The San Francisco Taxi Commission sets the fares. San Francisco taxis are required to post the fare in clear site of the passenger. Fares are charged by fifth miles with a flat rate charged for waiting. Drivers will provide receipts when requested by the passenger.The current fares are:
- First 1/5th of a mile: $3.10
- Each additional 1/5th of a mile or fraction thereof: $0.45
- Each minute of waiting: $0.45
- Airport surcharge: $2.00
- Luggage surcharge: None
- Bridge tolls: Paid by passenger
- Out of town (distances of 15 or more miles outside the city limits): 150% of the metered rate. A driver may collect the fare in advance for any out of town trip. They will not collect advance fares for trips to either the San Francisco Airport or the Oakland Airport.
If the passenger disputes the fare being charged by the driver, the driver must drive the passenger to the nearest police station at no additional cost.
Tipping the driver is optional, but it is expected. Typically, the tip is calculated as 15 to 20 percent of the total fare.
The Taxi Commission has established detailed licensing requirements for both drivers and cab companies.
To hold a cab license in San Francisco, a driver must:
- Be a resident of United States
- Hold a valid California drivers license for the class for taxi driving
- Read and write English
- Be of good moral character
- Be clean in dress and hygiene
- Be at least 21 years old
- Be healthy including:
- Good eyesight
- No medical diseases
- No addition to alcohol or controlled substance
Cab CompaniesThere are a limited number licenses, called "medallions", available to be issued to cab companies in San Francisco. There is a long waiting list, estimated at 15 to 20 years from the point the application license is received to the issuance of the medallion to the cab company.To become a medallion holder, a cab company must have a recent history of operation in San Francisco. Specifically, for a medallion to be issued, a cab company must:
- Hold a taxi permit for two consecutive years
- Have at least 800 hours of cab driving experience per year or 156 four-hour shifts per year
Lost and Found
Central lost and found telephone numbers have been established at "311" and (415)-701-2311. Both numbers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also call the taxi company.
Complaints and Compliments
The Taxi Commission is always interested in hearing complaints or compliments about the city's taxi services. You can call "311" or (415)-701-2311. Be prepared to provide the details of your complaint or compliment including the date and time. You will also be asked to answer questions about the name of the cab company, the cab number and the driver's name.
The Taxi Commission or the SFPD Taxi Detail reviews all complaints and compliments. Depending on the review, the taxi driver or the cab company may receive the compliment, they may receive a fine, suspension, or their permit may be revoked.