A new taxi franchise system has taken effect in Santa Monica, authorizing just five companies to pick up customers within city limits.

The taxi franchise system, which was adopted by the City Council in 2009 and granted franchises to the companies Nov. 9, was implemented March 1.

The system was recommended as a means to ensure a consistently high level of taxi service in Santa Monica, to meet environmental and other goals, and to reduce the overall number of taxis, which previously numbered over 500, to serve Santa Monica’s 8.3 square miles.

City officials believe that under the franchise system, the city has a greater ability to regulate the quality of taxi services within the city.

The franchised companies operating in Santa Monica include: Bell Cab Company, Independent Taxi Owners Association, Metro Cab Company, Taxi! Taxi! and Yellow Cab Company.

These firms that successfully competed for a franchise were committed to complying with the city’s new rules and regulations, which will help ensure a consistently high level of service, regardless of which company a customer chooses, city officials said.

To ensure that the taxi companies are complying with the terms of the franchise, the city has a new taxi hotline at (310) 458-CAB4 (2224).