After restricting almost half of the operating taxis in Santa Monica, new restrictions and possible allowances will be debated before the City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at City Hall. The Council will have the option of allowing more companies to pick-up customers in the city or to finalize the proposed five companies. Pressure from additional businesses could cause the council to eliminate restrictions entirely.
Cab drivers have kept a close eye on the hot topic, protesting outside City Hall at previous meetings and packing the council chambers each time it is even mentioned on the agenda. When setting the Nov. 9 meeting, multiple speakers came to beseech the Council for franchise rights and allowing more cabs in the city. Tuesday’s meeting is sure to bring many of the same incited masses that protested in front of city hall in June.
The Council will debate trimming the number of companies down to five with a total of 250 taxicabs (50 each). This would ban 39 companies from picking up customers in the city. Tuesday’s meeting will evaluate the five chosen companies, as well as regulations on meter rates and franchise fees.
Bell Cab Company, Independent Taxi Owners Association, Metro Cab Company, Taxi Taxi, and Yellow Cab Company are being recommended for franchises in the city. Thirteen qualified proposals were received and evaluated based on the criteria specified in the ordinance.
City staff, including a Santa Monica Police Department rep. and a Los Angles Transportation Taxicab Regulation rep., evaluated the companies’ service, safety, compliance, and emissions standards. Local companies received preference, as well as those with skilled management plans.
In July 2009, the council adopted an ordinance replacing the open-entry permitting system regulating taxicab services in Santa Monica with the franchise system. This limits the number of taxicab companies to no more than eight with the total number cabs to 250. Before the restrictions, 44 taxicab services operated in Santa Monica making a total of 463 cabs.
City officials had received complaints regarding taxicabs, such as cruising for business, poor customer service from drivers, confusing and high fees, lack of discounted services for senior and disabled residents, and taxicabs with Santa Monica permits operating illegally as “bandit” taxis in Los Angeles and other cities, according to a staff report. A resident report also listed traffic management as a main concern.
Staff recommends maximum meter rates, which would minimize confusion for the public that often travels between jurisdictions in order to ensure a consistent rate. The first flat rates will start at $2.65 (for 1/9 mile) then charging $2.70 per mile. Flat meter rates to Los Angeles International airport will be set for North of I-10 at $45 or South of I-10 at $35.
Franchisees will be subject to suspension of their taxicab operations or revocation of their franchise if found in violation of city regulations, a new amendment to proposed regulation. Taxi drivers will also subject to suspension or revocation of their driver’s permit for violations of the terms and conditions of the franchise ordinance. Numerous violations can be cited as misdemeanors in L.A. Superior Court.
The decision to restrict companies was postponed until the fall for both procedural and scheduling reasons based on a last-minute recommendation from City staff, said City Manager Rod Gould in June.
“We think the public will be well served by the delay,” Gould said. “It will give people plenty of time to be adequately noticed and will allow for plenty of public dialogue on the matter.”