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September 03, 2008

Burlington Begins Taxi-Reform Process

Ftaxitales At 6 p.m. on September 2, Burlington City Councilor Clarence Davis (P-Ward 3) convened a meeting on taxi reform at City Hall. Attended by Deputy Police Chief Walt Decker, Burlington Airport Manager Brian Searles and about 20 others, the meeting was a result of a City Council resolution passed on June 9 asking the city to review how it regulates Burlington's cab industry.

(For background on the taxi industry and the controversy surrounding it, see our June 25 story, "Fare Warning," and subsequent reader responses.)

During the public comment period, a few of the dozen local drivers in attendance offered testimonials (some spoke for less than a minute). While most drivers conceded that the city needs to regulate the industry, some of them, like Yellow Cab owner Larry Bushey, stressed that cab companies can't afford to pay current city rates on account of rising fuel costs (Bushey's company and Benways Transportation are the largest in town). As another driver put it: "Just as quick as we get an increase, the gasoline prices pretty much eat it up."

"I just think we need consistency," said one of two citizens who testified. "Largely speaking, [drivers] do as they please, and we have not been able to get consistent enforcement."

After thanking the drivers for their input, Davis, who chairs the council's license committee, acknowledged the challenges posed by recent increases in fuel prices. However, he said, Burlington has "kept pace" with fuel increases.

"I think the time is right for some changes to be made to the ordinances," he added.

First up? Davis plans to address illegal fuel surcharges and ensure that taxi drivers provide information in their cabs explaining how passengers can file complaints.

Photo by Jordan Silverman.

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