Mayor to dispatch new taxi standards
Written by Samantha Joseph on August 15, 2013
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is piloting a drive to set higher standards for taxis serving the airport, seaport and Miami Intermodal Center. County attorneys are drafting legislation that’s likely to call for a two-tier taxi plan and raise standards for cabs serving tourist hubs.
The new rules are likely to cover the appearance of cabs and take measures that supporters say will eliminate alarming complaints from visitors.
But even before the ink dries on the plan, proponents are gearing for fierce opposition from drivers and cab owners.
“I think the pushback is going to be huge,” said Aviation Department Director Emilio Gonzalez, one of the driving forces behind the proposal. “Historically, every time you try to reform the cab industry it’s met with massive resistance across the board. Folks are very status-quo and they like the system, notwithstanding the damage it’s doing to our economy.”
Case summaries from the county’s Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources include customer complaints claiming drivers overcharged, dropped them at wrong locations yet demanded payment and physically threatened them.
“This is something that affects the economy and the airport,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “It’s the right thing to do. It puts us on the side of the traveling public and on the side of protecting our industry and our reputation. People who are going to push back on this have very parochial interests. I’m looking at the interest of the county at large.”
Taxi drivers say they welcome change but will oppose legislation that threatens their livelihood.
“Any time the county wants to bring legislation, they always say they have complaints against drivers. They have the right to call in a driver and if they find he doesn’t suit the industry, fine him or take his license away. Why don’t they do that?” said Raymond Francois, administrator of New Vision Taxi Drivers Association of Miami Inc., which represents 1,200 members. “Whatever legislation they have to improve the taxi system, they won’t get anywhere if they don’t consider the drivers’ livelihood. The more taxi companies squeeze drivers, the worse the service they’ll provide.”
Drivers say they typically pay cab companies $100 to $150 per day to lease vehicles. Add the cost of gas, and daily expenses easily reach $200. That’s why drivers cut corners to earn extra money, Mr. Francois concedes. The solution is not more regulations for drivers, he said, but a lease cap that would limit what companies charge.
“It’s very difficult now for a cab driver to make a living. If you want to protect the customer, you have to protect the driver as the customer of the taxi company. But the county never does anything about that,” Mr. Francois said. “They don’t regulate the taxi company. They let them charge the driver whatever they want. But I guarantee if they implemented a lease cap you’d see a 200% difference.”
The proposed changes would come amidst ongoing attempts to revamp taxi services by commissioners Juan Zapata and Audrey Edmonson, who seek to require cabs to accept credit cards and use technology to track vehicles.