San Diego's more than 1,000 taxi and jitney drivers would have to demonstrate their ability to communicate with passengers in English and would be subject to new grooming and dress codes under changes to the city's "paratransit code" that will be considered Monday by the City Council.
If the rules are approved, drivers of cabs, jitneys and non-emergency medical vehicles would have to take an oral language exam, administered by San Diego City College, to qualify for a driver identification card.
The proposal was approved Monday by the council's Transportation and Land-Use Committee.
"This is a simple requirement of taxi and jitney drivers," said Councilwoman Celia Ballesteros. "Sometimes that's the only contact people have with the city.. . . It's just a common-sense request by the city that taxi drivers be able to communicate with their passengers."
Port District Has Own Rules for Airport Drivers
The change would complement a plan by the San Diego Unified Port District, which controls Lindbergh Field, to begin giving English communication tests Jan. 1 to drivers who want to work the airport. Currently, cabdrivers, who account for more than 900 of the drivers affected, take a written examination administered by the cab companies.
Anthony Palmieri, vice president of Yellow Cab, the city's largest taxi company, said he agrees with the English requirement but prefers that the company be allowed to offer the test. The measure will go before the City Council on Monday, along with regulations governing the appearance of drivers and cabs. Male drivers would be required to wear shirts with collars, trousers and shoes. T-shirts, tank tops, swim wear, shorts and sandals would not be allowed.
Cabs would be required to have clean trunks and hubcaps or wheel covers on all four wheels.
The council also will consider regulations raising yearly city fees from $110 to $170 per taxi, and a measure allowing fines for violations of the paratransit code.