Miami doesn’t want third world feeling of 15-year-old taxis
In a community whose number-one industry is visitors, what’s the first impression we give our guests? Often it’s the taxi that takes them from Miami International Airport to wherever they’re staying.
The ultra-low quality of those taxicabs had the community up in arms a decade ago, so the county passed legislation to limit the age of the taxi clunkers that then were on the road. The concept was right – improve the quality of cabs – but the age was too old: they decided that a taxi could be no more than eight years old.
Why was that too old?
Remember, that’s not eight years of taking your family car back and forth to work, dropping the kids at school and going to the store weekends, a car that gets replaced much before the 100,000-mile mark. It’s eight years of 24-7 driving.
In Manhattan, the average taxi is driven 180 miles a shift, three shifts a day, for a total of just under 200,000 miles a year, many of those miles filled with not just passengers but heavy luggage too. By 1996 New York City had limited taxis to five years maximum, and a few years ago the average was 3.3 years.
Figure less taxi mileage in Miami but still about 100,000 miles a year per cab. By the time a visitor gets into a five-year-old Miami-Dade cab, it could well have bumped around for a half-million miles. We regulate taxis but we don’t limit how many miles they can run before they have to go.
Incredibly, even allowing a cab to stay in service eight years with that much road wear and tear isn’t enough for our commissioners. Annually for years they returned with legislation to extend the life of taxis approaching the eight-year mark. First they pushed it to nine years, then nine and a half, then ten. Each time, the legislation stated, presumably tongue firmly in cheek, that “No further extensions shall be granted.”
Finally, in 2019, commissioners decided to set a limit they could live with for the next two years – an incomprehensible 15 years.
At the time a competitive for-hire service operator pointed out to them that some of the cabs could have run a million and a half miles by the time they reached the age limit. And most of the miles they run they carry visitors to Miami, giving them their first impression of what they must believe, based solely on the vehicle, is at best a third-world country.
The commissioners’ rationale for keeping the oldest taxis on the road still longer has usually been that in a recession the cab owners needed a break. Since we haven’t had a recession for a long time, however, they are going to need a new excuse when they again deal with the issue. A county committee was all set to do that last week when they postponed their meeting for lack of a quorum.
This time around the county is again coming back with a 15-year limit for the next two years, because the old one expired Feb. 15. Presumably, taxis of every age have been spared removal from service since February as they await their new version of fountain of youth legislation that by law will make a taxi that is a million and a half miles old suitable to bring investors, vacationers, homebuyers and everyone else into a dynamic Miami on its 125th anniversary.
Maybe this time commissioners will argue that Uber and Lyft are eating the taxi industry’s lunch so the cab companies need a break in not having to put decent cars on the road.
After all, back in 2015 when ridesharing was illegal in Miami-Dade the age limit for taxis was 10, but Uber and Lyft have their own self-imposed 15-year limits. Now that ridesharing is the method of choice for many, why not match them?
But this legislation would assure Uber of even more business when potential passengers compare higher-quality ridesharing vehicles that generally aren’t on the road both night and day with 24-7 taxi clunkers.
Commissioners would do well to say eight years is far more than enough for our creaky visitor welcome wagons.