Cabbies give Council an earful


The Alexandria City Council voted unanimously to increase taxi cab fares in the city by 24 cents a mile but that wasnt what drivers wanted to discuss and the decision was anticlimactic when it came on Saturday during the public hearing at City Hall.

Mayor Bill Euille made it clear that Council was prepared to discuss only increasing taxicab fares today and nothing related to the revocation of company certificates. Anyone who is going to speak today should confine their remarks to the issue of increasing fares, he said.

All 10 of the drivers ignored him. We have been here all morning and we are going to speak about the matter that concerns us, said Randy Stevens. Whether you raise fares by 24 cents a mile isnt important because you are going to force drivers to spend thousands of dollars to change their meters and repaint their cabs and they are going to have to pay higher stand dues.

We did very well in this city without dispatch for many years and it is wrong for you to force good companies out of business just because they arent receiving a certain number of calls. You need to reconsider your arbitrary and capricious actions, Stevens said.

In September, the city revoked the charters of three companies: Columbus, VIP and King. Last week, the 176 drivers who are affiliated with those companies were given permission to affiliate with one of the four remaining companies in Alexandria.

This is not sudden, Euille said. We adopted this ordinance in June, 2005, and have given the companies two years to comply with the law. We even warned four of the companies last year and one of those companies managed to come into compliance with the law. That tells me it isnt impossible.

When the drivers came to us and asked for more authority over their business, we gave it to them. When you asked for more discipline, we gave that to you as well. But, I told you to be careful what you wished for because with those rights comes responsibility and that is what you are facing now, Euille said.

Councilman Rob Krupicka, who worked with drivers and owners to craft an ordinance that satisfied most, agreed. Not once since this ordinance was passed have I received a piece of mail at my house asking me to try one of these cab companies, he said. It is the companys responsibility to market itself and attract new customers. People keep talking about the big companies having a monopoly but from what I am hearing on the streets, people would like another option but dont know whats out there.

If drivers are upset, you should be upset with these companies that have failed you. They havent done their job and you are being caught in the middle. You have the right to form your own company if thats what you want to do, and market your services. Dont blame us for enforcing what you wanted, Krupicka said.

King Cab Company has already filed suit against the city, claiming that the ordinance is arbitrary and capricious. While neither Columbus nor VIP have joined King, they are discussing their options.

Cab fares have now gone from a base drop-off fare of $2.75 and $1.80 a mile to the same drop-off fare and $2.04 a mile. The 74-cent fuel surcharge that was administratively imposed by City Manager Jim Hartmann is gone. The new fares will take effect on Jan. 1, 2008.