City sends message to cab owners

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In 2005, the Alexandria City Council enacted legislation reforming the citys taxicab industry. For the first time since then, the city has taken disciplinary action under that legislation and decertified three cab companies. One of those companies has filed a lawsuit, but a court decision may come too late to save those companies.

The 2005 legislation gave taxicab drivers more rights to own their own cabs and to move from one company to another more easily. It also allowed for the creation of additional taxicab companies.

Companies had to comply with certain rules, though, or face disciplinary action, said Tom Culpepper, deputy director of the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services. The legislation was intended to help provide better services to taxi users in the city, so council required at least two dispatched calls for service per day for each cab affiliated with any company.

Last November, at the annual review of the industry, we found that four of the seven companies were not meeting these requirements. We put them on probation for nine months to give them time to come into compliance. One of the companies remedied the situation, and three others failed to do so. In September, we notified those three companies that they were being decertified and must cease operations by Feb. 1, 2008, Culpepper said.

Diamond Cab Co. came into compliance. The three companies that have been decertified are King Cab Co., Columbus Cab Co. and VIP. The companies have 176 drivers currently affiliated with them, and on Monday night the citys Traffic and Parking Board met and voted to allow those drivers to seek affiliation with one of the remaining four companies in the city.

Some of those companies have asked to be allowed to increase the number of cabs they have, and the Traffic and Parking Board did not agree to do that, Culpepper said. However, there are now 176 drivers who can choose to join one of these companies. It is up to each company to determine whether their market share will support additional cabs or whether it will simply land them in the same situation as the three who have been decertified.

King Cab Co. filed a lawsuit against the city on Dec. 6, claiming that the 2005 legislation is arbitrary and capricious and should be set aside. The drivers may affiliate with one of the four remaining companies at any time. Unless court action prevents that from happening and postpones the Feb. 1 decertification, future court action could come too late to be of any assistance. Columbus and VIP have not filed suit but are considering their options.

Including the 176 drivers who currently work for the three decertified companies, there are 710 cabs operating in Alexandria. On Jan. 1, 2008, 20 more cabs will be permitted to operate here.

Representatives from the cab companies did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

 

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