Taco Trucks & Taxis

8 Nov

I went to the art murmur last night, which was crowded as usual and full of amazing art that I’ll never be able to afford to purchase. (My girlfriend and I were coveting this incredible four panel painting at Johansson Projects that was going for $40,000.)

Well all this walking around and looking at art made us hungry so we were so excited to find a taco truck parked on 23rd. We waited in line for a long time and ended up missing two buses, but we didn’t care – the burrito and quesadilla were well worth the wait. My coworker ran into us as we were eating, and after quickly realizing what he was missing out on, went to order some tacos.

So we got to talking about how great it would be if there was a taco truck parked regularly somewhere in downtown Oakland, preferably near 14th and Broadway. It seems like there would be such great business there, especially since it’s basically impossible to find a decent burrito downtown (Senor Burrito is just a bit too far to walk to on a lunch break).

But taco trucks are really just a luxury. It would be nice to have them around all the time (especially at night when nothing’s open), but I can live without burritos in downtown.

You know what I can’t live without though? Taxis!

We checked NextBus as we finished eating and rushed over to the 1 bus stop, but for a few minutes it seemed like we had missed it. I kept thinking how absurd it was that I hadn’t seen a taxi drive by the art murmur all night. There were tons of potential customers waiting around, and it just made no sense. Our bus ultimately showed up so I didn’t have to rant to my girlfriend and coworker about the lack of taxis in Oakland. But really, no taxis at the art murmur makes no sense!

Taxis should not be a luxury – they are a necessity for Oakland nightlife.

But aside from at the few taxi stands (13th at Broadway and a few BART stations), you cannot depend on getting a taxi in Oakland, which makes it really difficult to plan a night out. Angela Woodall found this out earlier this week:

OK. Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to get a taxi at night in the rain. I am afraid to even try after yesterday. We waited about 20 minutes for a taxi in the rain during DAYLIGHT. The driver who picked us up on Lakeshore Avenue where we were stranded assured me that few want to work at night (they’re scared, he said). So I am assuming night owls in Oakland need patience and good luck — unless they’re downtown. Taxis are plentiful there, at 13th and Broadway. There were at least six when we approached at noon, looking for a cab TO Lakeshore Avenue.  The only one visible when we were ready to make the RETURN trip was a parked cab and another with an old lady in the back seat that we mistook for our own (luckily I was able to look up a taxi company online on my cell phone. Otherwise, how would anyone know what tel# to call?). We came running out of Peet’s in the pouring rain like two desperate taxi rats and the old woman kind of recoiled as we reached for the door handle. She must have thought we were going to hijack the cab. We had heard from the first driver, an Afghan man in Pashtun attire, that business is bad. Well, maybe it would get better if there were more f’in taxis.

Angela could not be more right about this – business will not improve until we have more f’in taxis! You know why? Most people in Oakland just assume that they won’t be able to take a taxi so they either walk, take the bus (if it’s still running), leave early, or drive (often drunk).

As Oakland nightlife expands, especially in downtown, we need a comprehensive transportation plan. And as much as I love buses, they are not the only essential component to transportation. All night buses are great, but sometimes I don’t want to wait an hour in the middle of the night to catch a bus.

So while 24/7 taco trucks in downtown Oakland would be a great addition to Oakland nightlife, 24/7 taxi service is essential for Oakland nightlife. There have been preliminary city hearings on updating the city’s taxi plan and rules so I hope the city moves on these concerns and proposals quickly. Oakland nightlife can’t wait much longer!

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15 Responses to “Taco Trucks & Taxis”

  1. Eric November 8, 2008 at 10:38 am #

    There is a taqueria that will supposedly open next year at 1912 Telegraph, but it’s from the Dona Tomas folks, so I wonder if it will be expensive.

    Taxis are a bit difficult in the Bay Area. Outside of downtown and adjacent neighborhoods, SF is always complaining about lack of taxis too. Like other forms of public transit, spontaneous taxi service only gets better with a high density of car-free people, and in the Bay Area, there are really only a few places that meet that standard. So it’s easy to go from downtown to a neighborhood on taxi, but not so much the other way around. The main trips that work easily on a taxi in both directions are trips carried out within downtown, or between downtown and an airport.

    In Manhattan, the whole borough is so dense that taxis work much better, although the subway could well be faster for some trips at peak traffic times. But even in Manhattan, most taxi trips are rather short within that dense area — about the equivalent from 14th/Broadway to 40th St, Lakeshore, or San Antonio. If we had the density, Angela’s request for an easy return trip from Lakeshore to Downtown would be pretty reasonable.

  2. Eric November 8, 2008 at 10:39 am #

    Sorry, it looks like the link to the taqueria article went missing. Here it is:

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/ci_10799697

  3. dto510 November 8, 2008 at 11:09 am #

    Eric, I don’t think you can say that poor taxi service is a result of low density. Oakland and San Francisco are very dense, and Portland has decent taxi service despite being less dense than either city. The real problem is that local governments overregulate taxis. In Oakland, the number of taxis has been fixed since the early 1980s (when the population hit a low point), and is effectively a monopoly. The lack of competition drives down people’s expectations for service and leads them to take other forms of transportation. If there were more taxis, and especially another taxi operator with the scale necessary to run and promote its own dispatcher, service would be more reliable.

  4. Eric November 8, 2008 at 11:50 am #

    Dto: I certainly wasn’t saying that current population levels could not support more taxis, nor was I saying that current policies regarding taxis, in either Oakland or SF, is ideal. My main point was that we need to be realistic about what taxis can do for us. Some people think that there should be plentiful taxis roaming every neighborhood. I’ve heard many people say “it happens in New York, why not here?” But an underlying reason why it makes sense there and not as many places here is that there are more car-free customers there in a confined area.

    Even if you had no regulations in place for taxis whatsoever, and a completely free and open “taxi marketplace,” you would still find better taxi service in Manhattan than the Bay Area, because there are more people there who are dependent on such service. Many people who would potentially be taxi drivers here (if all regulation were to be lifted) would eventually choose to do something else because of the limited base of consumers who are dependent on such service. The business makes most sense in dense areas, or when connecting to nodes like airports. But then, again, an airport is a singular point with a high density of car-free people.

    Most neighborhoods in SF and Oakland are, by the way, not “very dense” by Manhattan standards (density of homes, jobs, and activities) — not by a long shot. Manhattan is four or five times denser than SF, and ten times denser than Oakland. The neighborhoods here that are the most comparable to Manhattan have pretty good taxi coverage.

  5. dto510 November 8, 2008 at 12:21 pm #

    OK, well, I don’t know how we got onto the topic of Manhattan. Manhattan-level density isn’t necessary for adequate transportation service. Oakland doesn’t need taxis roaming the streets (thought that would make sense downtown, especially on Friday nights in nightlife areas), but you can’t even call one and expect it show up in a reasonable amount of time (or at all)! There are hardly any taxi stands and they are often empty. And then people get used to not having taxis and stop even trying to use them, further driving down demand and quality of service.

    Berkeley has “open entry” but isn’t big enough to support its own taxi companies. It’s basically an extension of Oakland’s monopoly, Friendly Cab (they also go by different names). But then they can’t pick people up in Oakland when doing cross-border trips. The East Bay’s taxi situation is the result of a regulatory disaster, not limited demand for transportation.

    More reading: http://www.schallerconsult.com/taxi/

  6. Becks November 8, 2008 at 12:28 pm #

    Thanks dto for clarifying that. I certainly don’t think we need taxis roaming the streets at all hours. But when I call one I expect it to show up. On election night it took almost an hour for a cab to show up! Completely unacceptable.

  7. inadvertentgardener November 8, 2008 at 2:26 pm #

    I totally agree — want to be able to call a cab and have it arrive. But honestly, I’m always worried about whether I can catch a cab out here, and therefore just don’t bother planning for it, most of the time. Honestly, it was easier to get a cab when I lived in Iowa City, and that is ridiculous. And it was much easier to get one when I lived in the DC area — even in the Arlington, VA area, which is more suburban (although still pretty urban in spots) and had plentiful cabs, either riding by or that you could call. In fact, I still remember the Red Top Cab number in Arlington (703-522-3333) because it was easy and their service was always excellent. You called and they were there in 15-20. Totally miss that.

  8. artemis November 8, 2008 at 3:02 pm #

    There’s a pretty decent taco truck that parks at 29th and Broadway most weekdays, if you ever want a long walk. That’s the only one I know of near downtown that’s there very regularly, though.

  9. Chuck November 10, 2008 at 11:45 am #

    So you don’t care for Happy Burrito, across from the Federal building on 13th? OK, then maybe you’d like to know that there’s a Senor Burrito II (IIRC) going in on 13th near Broadway, just across from Radio. Don’t stop believing! Some day your taqueria will come! :)

  10. Becks November 10, 2008 at 12:31 pm #

    Yeah, I think Happy Burrito’s pretty bad. I’m looking forward to Senor Burrito II, but at the rate most restaurants open in downtown Oakland, I’m guessing I’ll be waiting a long time.

  11. V Smoothe November 10, 2008 at 12:39 pm #

    There’s also Don Willy’s taqueria on 17th between Webster and Harrison. I’ve never actually been there, so I have no idea if its good or not.

  12. Max Allstadt November 10, 2008 at 1:41 pm #

    Actually Becks, that four panel $40,000 painting was already sold!

  13. Becks November 10, 2008 at 1:43 pm #

    Glad to hear that Max. I can understand why someone paid $40K for it – it’s stunning.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Sin City, Treats and Taxis - The Night Owl - Prowling for Oakland after-hour events with Angela Woodall - November 10, 2008

    [...] My apoligies for those comments that got held up because of the Trib’s system that requires approval by the blogmaster (or master-ess in my case). Last week as busy and we had another round of layoffs. It gets hard to keep up sometimes. So I headed to Las Vegas for the weekend. I couldn’t think of a better place to deal with stress than sin city, although I wonder if the exposure to what probably amounted to billions of watts of neon lights was risky. Needless to say, I was not checking e-mail. (The only thing I regularly checked was if my glass was being faithfully refilled.) Actually, I combined work and leisure with research for stories about pole dancers and old-time Las Vegas (The only bummer: El Cortez was booked. We had to stay at the Sahara, still delightfully rundown). The highlight of the visit was the Liberace museum. I adopted him as the patron saint on my and my boyfriend’s behalf. He could be Oakland’s patron saint, or maybe just the guardian of night owls. Really, this town could use some of his glam – just a touch would do. Anything more would be like trying to get water from Niagara Falls using a teaspoon, as the saying sort of goes.   Anyway, while I was evaluating Las Vegas nightlife, two blog topics seemed to get the attention here: Bakesale Betty’s move closer to downtown and taxis, or the lack of them. [...]

  2. Oakland transit totally screwed, as usual « FutureOakland - November 18, 2008

    [...] limousines, leaving us dependant on a taxi duopoly. With the paucity of taxi service inspiring a public outcry, city staff has reformed the taxi ordinance and will propose issuing new permits. Unfortunately, [...]

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