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Council debates facelift for Oakland’s taxis

on October 9, 2008

Read a Twitter feed of the council meeting here


OCT. 8 — It’s hard to know what to expect when taking a cab ride in Oakland.

But in a city that operates more than 60 taxi companies, some problems have become irritatingly predictable: People left stranded in an area because a driver deemed it too dangerous, remote or unprofitable; taxis initially dressed with good tires just to pass inspection, only to have them later swapped out with shoddy ones; drivers who just aren’t familiar with the city streets.

Oakland’s taxicab system has been in need of some changes, and that’s what the City Council attempted Tuesday when it passed 16 amendments to the city’s taxicab ordinance, aiming to plug up some of the holes in the system.

“It was an attempt to look at the entire industry as holistically as possible, and try to correct as many problems as possible,” Barbara Killey, the city’s administrative hearing officer, said Wednesday.

Some of the recommendations the council accepted Tuesday included: security cameras to be installed in taxis, additional driver training, a temporary freeze on leasing rates and a requirement for drivers to treat passengers and regulatory workers courteously.

The city first learned of the issues with its taxicab system last year, Killey said, when taxi drivers began voicing concern about high gas prices and lease rates, their lack of ability to access Oakland International Airport and their safety.

“Our business has dropped more than 60 percent,” a driver for East Bay Taxis said Tuesday. “We can hardly survive.”

Likewise, some taxi companies began to complain about the increasing cost of insurance and their inability to hire enough drivers because of city constraints. This was the case with Yellow Cab Co., which had 10 of its permits previously revoked.

Yellow Cab Co. makes a stop in Oakland

Yellow Cab Co. makes a stop in Oakland

Fueled even more by customer complaints, the council asked city staff for a list of recommendations to fix “serious problems in the industry.”

Two recommendations — requiring all taxis to have global positioning systems and establishing who pays credit card surcharges during transactions — were postponed for further discussion.

Of particular concern during the meeting was the amendment requiring all city taxis to be equipped with either a plastic security barrier shielding the driver from passengers or a camera system that records both the driver and the back seat.

Killey said the camera system would cost $800 per cab to install, while the protective shields would cost about $250.

In response, Michael Broad, an attorney representing the city’s largest taxi company, Veterans Cab Corp., said those measures would be excessive, especially since the company has had only one armed conflict in the last two years. The proposed measures, Broad said, would increase costs without preventing more common problems like passengers who run off without paying.

Council Member Jean Quan (Montclair-Laurel) disagreed, saying the security measures not only would protect drivers but also would ensure that customers throughout the city get service.

“Not providing cameras and other safety measures keeps taxis out of areas like East and West Oakland,” she said.

At the meeting, taxi drivers also urged council members to approve an amendment placing a temporary freeze on “gate” fees, the leases paid by drivers to the companies that own the taxis.

Although taxi companies oppose it, drivers say freezing the lease rates would help because the taxi industry had been hit hard by the financial crisis, especially over the last three months, forcing many of them to work off-the-clock hours just to earn back their expenses.

“We are not Joe Six-pack,” said a driver for Friendly Cab Co. “We are Joe Sixteen Hours.”

In other action, the council appointed three new members to the Oakland Housing Authority: Tanya Pitts, Marlene Hurd and William Curry.

The mayor’s picks created some controversy because none of the nominees have a background in law or business. Pitts, for example, is an apprentice electrician with a strong record of community involvement but with no administrative experience.

The council also agreed to hire the Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai law firm for $213,000 to negotiate with two of the city’s employees’ unions whose contracts expired in June.

This issue has been quite contentious because, since June 2005, the city already has spent more than $1 million on contract negotiations with unions representing city employees.×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg|×200.jpg

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  1. […] Oakland North Council debates facelift for Oakland taxis Posted by root 2 hours 32 minutes ago ( Council debates facelift for oakland taxis submitted by csalerno on october 9 2008 10 19 pmno comment powered by wordpress log in entries rss comments rss arthemia premium theme by michael jubel hutagalung Discuss  |  Bury |  News | Oakland North Council debates facelift for Oakland taxis […]

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