DRIVEN TO DESPAIR: A Survey of San Diego Taxi Drivers

May 2013, San Diego State University and the Center on Policy Initiatives
This report presents results of a survey of San Diego taxi drivers conducted in March and April of 2013. We surveyed 331 taxi drivers, asking about earnings, expenses, hours, health care, vehicle safety and industry practices.

The findings reveal problems with the taxi regulatory system and working conditions that have serious impacts on public health and safety, as well as the lives of the drivers and their families.


1) Almost 90% of licensed taxi drivers in San Diego are “lease drivers,” who rent the cars from individual or business owners, usually by the week.Making Ends Meet

2) San Diego taxi drivers earn a median of less than $5 an hour. They must drive for more than 70 hours a week to earn what a minimum-wage worker makes in 40 hours.

Drivers make only 30¢ of each $1 collected, including tips.

3) Virtually no drivers have job-related health coverage or workers’ compensation insurance, and few are covered for injuries in case of accidents. While they lack employee benefits, drivers also are denied the business practices standard for independent contractors.

4) The current system encourages taxi drivers to drive when tired or sick, and allows lax vehicle maintenance, putting public health and safety at risk.

5) City permits are re-sold on the open market without regulation, for tens of thousands of dollars more than their purchase price. As a result, drivers pay high lease prices and are blocked from becoming owner-operators.

For further details, methodology and policy recommendations, download the full 12-page report by clicking on Download Report to the right.

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