Sign up FAST! Login

For San Francisco Cab Drivers, Once-Treasured Medallions Now a Burden

For San Francisco Cab Drivers Once Treasured Medallions Now a Burden News Fix KQED News


In 2012, more than 10 years after he signed on, Batth’s name came up. He finally had the chance to buy a medallion. Batth borrowed money from friends and family and gathered up his savings to make a down payment. It was a moment he had been looking forward to for years. That moment has since become one of his greatest regrets.

As Batth was buying his medallion, the whole taxi world was getting turned upside down — “disrupted” to use tech lingo, or “Ubered” as taxi drivers say. Lyfts and Ubers poured into the streets, all of them operating without medallions. Suddenly there was an explosion of competition that wasn’t playing by the same rules.

Batth couldn’t believe it. He’d waited for years to buy a medallion. He was on the hook for a $250,000 loan, but he was competing with drivers who had paid nothing to get into the business. Why wasn’t the city regulating the new companies the same way it did the taxi business?


Batth wants to sell his medallion, but says the city has told him he might have to wait four years or more. The MTA says that, so far, about 600 people are on the list to sell their medallions. Batth is near the bottom of the list.

“We put all our lives into this career,” Batth says, “and no one seems to give a damn about it — the MTA or the city. They’re just ignoring us.”

Stashed in: San Francisco!, economics, Uber

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

I didn't realize what being "Ubered" meant until I read this article.

Poor guy on the hook for a $250k loan for a medallion. I feel for him. 

The value of the medallions is completely fictional and set by the government, not by the market.  If San Francisco was smart, they'd completely embrace these ride sharing programs and provide a medallion buyback/forgiveness program.   In NY though, most of the medallions are controlled by the cab companies and the poor drivers have to pay the majority of their earnings just for the right to be able to temporarily drive under the authority of one.  I took a cross Manhattan cab drive last year and had enough time to talk in depth to the driver who was kind enough to explain to me all the economics of how he works, how he gets fined, what licensing he needs, what he thinks of Uber, etc. 

You're right that we need a medallion buyback or forgiveness program because the current situation is doubly unfair: it punishes the taxi drivers and rewards to ride share drivers.

And no wonder governments fight Uber. They want their cut. 

You May Also Like: