Santa Monica city officials have noticed that there seem to be too many options for which people can hail a taxi in the city.
The city has seen an increasing number of taxicabs operating within its boundaries, particularly in the downtown area, leading to traffic and parking problems, as well as impacts on air quality and the environment, city staff say.
The influx of taxis driving around the city appears to be the result of a current law in which taxi operations are regulated based on an open-entry system where there is no limit on the number of taxis that can be authorized to operate, city staff note. As many as 50 new taxis have been registered in the last two months, bringing the number of cabs operating in the city to more than 450, which city staff say is too high for its population and size.
“In the interim we’ve had an explosion of taxi licenses issued in the city, and the number keeps growing,” deputy city manager Elaine Polacheck told the City Council of the situation March 3rd.
In response to the situation, the City Council is proposing to establish new regulations for taxicab operations in the city through a franchise-based system in which franchises would only be awarded to taxi companies with fleets that meet specific emission and mileage standards. Various groups in the city have expressed concerns about the overconcentration of taxis, including traffic and parking problems, poor customer service, competition between drivers, as well as air pollution, and the new proposed regulations are intended to address those issues.
While the city looks to establish the new system, officials had recommended that a moratorium be implemented on the approval and issuance of new taxi licenses and permits in the meantime. The proposed moratorium was intended to ensure that the existing problems do not get worse as the city considers amending its taxi regulations.
After several taxi company representatives voiced concerns with the recommended moratorium March 3rd, the City Council declined to institute the emergency ordinance and instead asked staff to move forward with the new proposed regulations. Some cab representatives said halting the issuance of police permits for taxi drivers would impact their businesses.
“I heard of this today and I was overwhelmed, to be honest,” cab company owner Faud Sanch told the council.
Wendy Radwan of the Taxi Taxi company told the council that her company supports a moratorium on issuing business licenses but not having permits issued for drivers would hurt the businesses. Companies would not be able to replace drivers in an industry that has high turnover, she said.
“It would put an enormous financial burden on our company and all the companies that operate in Santa Monica,” Radwan said of the proposed suspension of permits. “We simply can’t operate without drivers. It would cause a chaotic disruption of our service and would essentially halt our operation.”
Aiman Radwan of Taxi Taxi told council members that the company spent a quarter of a million dollars last year to purchase new cabs, including hybrid vehicles, but under the proposed moratorium, the company would not be able to renew, remodel or replace the taxis.
When considering the moratorium, some council members asked staff if the influx of taxi operations is expected to worsen as the city looks to implement the new regulating system. City Councilman Richard Bloom said officials should try to address the situation as quickly as they can.
“The sooner we get to the end game the better off we are,” Bloom said.
City Councilman Kevin McKeown said he has seen firsthand the overconcentration of taxis in the city and something needs to be done before the number continues to expand.
“I think cabs are a good thing; people need to have cabs,Ö but we have become oversaturated with cabs at this moment,” McKeown said.
The City Council directed staff to move expeditiously in the next few weeks to bring forward a proposal for regulating taxicabs in the city.