Major taxicab reforms passed
Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Updated: Sunday, June 10, 2012 15:06
The New Orleans taxicab industry is in for a big facelift.
At the April 19 City Council meeting, the council passed the controversial set of ordinances that is meant to reform and improve the taxicab industry.
Mayor Landrieu proposed the reform in March in a report entitled, “Transforming the Taxicab Experience in New Orleans, A Roadmap for Reform.” In a letter to the council,” said Landrieu. “For more than a generation, our taxicabs have been substandard.”
He continued to say, “In order to enhance our position as an international travel and business destination, we must improve taxicab service in New Orleans.”
The main goal of the reform is to achieve a complete transformation of taxicab service and the Taxicab and For Hire Vehicle Bureau as a whole by Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, which will be hosted in New Orleans.
The taxicab industry has a few qualms about the reform, though. They feel that the city is trying to take away their livelihoods by forcing them to make expensive upgrades to their cabs and by trying to take away the rights to their Certificates of Public Necessity and Convenience, or CPNCs.
Landrieu said in the letter that he wanted taxicab passengers to be able to have a clean and noise-free ride, handicap-accessible cabs, cabs with “common-sense” vehicle age limits, the ability to pay fares with a credit or debit card, cabs equipped with GPS technology, courteous, knowledgeable and English speaking drivers and a corruption- free professional Taxicab and For Hire Vehicle Bureau.
Communications freshman Chae Jiles said she will definitely feel safer now that the cabs are getting these improvements.
At the April 19 city council meeting, 24 of the original 32 ordinances were passed. Among the new rules that the taxicab industry will now be required to adhere to and implement are: adding in credit card machines, on-board surveillance cameras, fare meters and GPS devices.
“Not being from New Orleans, when I get in a cab, I don’t know exactly where I’m going, so I will feel a lot better knowing that there will be a GPS and that they (cab drivers) are being watched and monitored,” Jiles said.
The taxicab industry will also be required to make all taxicabs handicap accessible, and the vehicles will have age requirements. Starting in 2012, vehicles can be no older than 11 years, and by 2014, vehicles can be no older than 7 years.
These requirements are estimated to cost $2,000 per cab, and cab owners are required to foot the bill themselves in order to get the improvements.
Sheree Kerner, President of United Cab Inc., the city’s largest cab company, spoke for the company on her official blog, called “Don’t take away my 401K.” She said that she recognizes that some of the reforms are necessary. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to pay for it because many cab drivers don’t have the money, she said.
But her main issue isn’t with the improvements to the cabs; instead, it is with the idea that the city will take away cab drivers’ CPNCs,
Cab owners buy CPNCs, which are permits giving them the rights to their taxicabs, for thousands of dollars, and they keep the permits until they eventually sell them or leave them to an heir when they are ready to retire.
Kerner’s mission is to educate the public and city hall about what CPNCs mean to the cab industry, emotionally and financially.
“As we earn a living, raise our families and risk our lives driving thugs here and there, we hope that as we age, we can depend on our investment upon which to retire,” Kerner said on her blog.
Kerner’s family has been a part of the United Cab Inc. for generations, and she herself owns 6 CPNCs,.
“They need to know that they are dealing with the livelihoods of families and futures. They also need to embrace that this is one of the last models in the country where the profit made in the industry is spread out amongst individual owners instead of concentrated at a corporate level so that only one person gets rich,” Kerner said on her blog.
Jiles said that with all the stories about women getting sexually harassed in cabs, these improvements will make her mom feel better about her taking cabs in New Orleans.
Kristen Himmelberg can be reached at email@example.com