Taxicab ordinance passes last hurdle
By Michael Tews | Thu, 10/25/2012 - 7:05am
Following several weeks of waiting, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved on Wednesday, Oct. 24 the city ordinance to allow taxi drivers to cruise and service passengers on State Street between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. The new ordinance becomes effective on Wednesday, Nov. 7.
Madison City Attorney Michael P. May reported that the FTA ruled the proposed changes agreed with the use of State Street as a “fixed guideway." The FTA defines a fixed guideway as a thoroughfare that allows exclusive or controlled rights of passage to transit services like Metro buses and taxis. The FTA provides Madison a $844,000 annual federal fixed-guideway grant that will not be affected by the new taxicab policy.
The crucial ruling was a big win for devoted supporters of the ordinance. Taxi drivers, who want to increase business, can capitalize on large droves of people gathered at different venues late at night and potentially earn ten times their typical pay.
David Lee, operations manager for Green Cab of Madison, explained how on a weekly night a taxi driver might earn just $10 but during special events or when a visiting sports team is playing UW-Madison, some drivers are able to generate $250 due to the demand for transportation.
Aside from the business aspect, Lee and several council members feel it provides a much safer environment for individuals who are drunk and could potentially hurt themselves or others
“Often people do not use their best judgment after they have had some drinks, and seeing a taxicab available is often the cue they need to not drive and to take an alternative form of transportation to their home or hotel,” Lee said.
UW-Madison ended their Safe-Ride program for students so “having cabs there gives easy access and quick response to students who may feel they need safe transportation,” said Lee.
Alderman Mark Clear explained how visitors are likely to be less familiar with the city layout and the challenges they face by past restrictions on taxis.
“You don't have to know anything to hail a cab,” Clear said. “Restricting taxis to responding to calls and serving taxi stands requires knowledge of phone numbers and way finding to the stands. This kind of complexity and inconvenience provides a poor visitor experience.”
The ordinance was initially adopted by the Common Council on September 18 but met staunch resistance from Mayor Paul Soglin, who considered vetoing a plan to allow cabs on State Street. However, the mayor decided not to veto the council’s action within the five day limit.
Metro Transit general manager Chuck Kamp submitted a written request to the regional FTA on Sept. 27 for the required concurrence of the adopted ordinance.
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