If taxis are a public service, who exactly do they serve?
Written by Michael Lewis on December 11, 2013
Do taxicabs exist to serve passengers, or does the public ride merely to serve taxi companies?
The answer is obvious, isn’t it? Everybody knows that taxis are licensed only to serve the needs of the public.
Everyone, that is, but some Miami-Dade County commissioners.
That basic misunderstanding of the role of taxi service (and “service” surely is an oxymoron on Miami’s streets) seems to be the only reason commissioners last week moved for the fourth year in a row to allow creaky taxis to stay on the roads after their mandated retirement age.
That confusion on commissioners’ parts also seems to be the only reason they voted to keep the mayor – who has been pushing for better cab service to protect our number-one business, the visitor industry – from messing with taxicabs.
Well, it’s either misunderstanding or an obligation of some sort to the taxi industry that isn’t visible to the public.
Because as the visitor industry bandwagon builds for better taxi quality and a firm regulatory hand to protect riders, some commissioners are speeding the opposite direction.
For anyone who has had to ride in our taxis, it’s impossible not to question the quality of vehicles and service. Our visitor industry, which competes with destinations around the globe, sees Miami-Dade’s taxis falling farther and farther behind the norm for third-world countries, let alone our principal competitors.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez has been seeking to ban from service to our airport, seaport and Miami Intermodal Center transportation hub any but newer cabs with modern equipment whose drivers have passed service training. The commission is speeding in the opposite direction, apparently feeling that any cab that runs should stay on the road to support owners’ profits.
Legislation introduced last week that heads to the commission’s Transportation & Aviation Committee for a Jan. 15 hearing would expressly keep the mayor out of the equation as commissioners alone would annually review fares and recommend an increase based on the Consumer Price Index – a review that would raise fares annually but would make it very difficult to cut rates for any reason.
That sounds like the county’s service is tilted sharply toward the taxi industry, which can contribute to campaigns, rather than the public, whose campaign contributions are not tied to consumer protection.
The legislation by Jean Monestime to keep older cabs on the road past mandated retirement age offers no rationale for his one-way street on fare increases. The visitor industry should turn out in force at the committee hearing to stick up for the passengers.
Someone from the mayor’s office – like, for example, Mayor Gimenez – also should weigh in to spell out why it’s important to have an office in the county that’s looking out for passengers and the vital visitor industry involved in taxi rules.
In the past, as commissioners extended the lives of cabs too old to decently serve the public, some wondered aloud why the visitor industry wasn’t on hand to protest.
Every industry leader should be present Jan. 15 to explain to the commission that “service” means serving the public first, with cabbies and taxi owners at the end of the line rather than up front.
Public service, even in the taxi business, should mean service to the public, rather than making the public take far inferior quality at inflated pricing to serve the folks who own and drive the cabs. Isn’t it obvious?