OK, so you couldn’t figure out the Muni schedule and you were tired of the incessant delays – time to throw in the towel (environmentalism be damned) and hail a taxi! San Francisco sure looks like a city, and there seem to be taxis driving about, how hard could it be to flag one down?
How hard indeed.
There are about a dozen independent taxi companies in San Francisco. They are all sorts of colors, but typically all have the little light thingy on the top of the cab. The little light thingy that typically (i.e. in a normal city) indicates if the taxi is available.
In San Francisco, the light is sort of an adornment that may or may not be lit depending on the mood of the driver and the latest maintenance on the cab. It certainly has no bearing on whether or not the taxi may be available.
In select neighborhoods, at specific times of the day (i.e. not morning or lunch or mid-afternoon) and during particular slivers of the evening (i.e. not dinner time, post-dinner, pre-drinks or anytime you actually need one) you may actually be able to flag down a rare random taxi on the street. But most often you’re going to need to call a taxi.
So you grab your cell phone and dial a number and wait…and wait…and wait… Through my informal research (i.e. hours of my lost life), I have determined that about 50% of the time the dispatchers will not pick up the phone. If they DO pick up the phone, you have a 40% chance of needing to wait over thrity-minutes for a cab to arrive.
Hardly convenient. But the good news is that San Francisco is a pretty small “city”, so you can always walk. Or, do what everybody else does here…drive.