Taxi affair still unsettled

Glendale News Press

CITY HALL — One of the city's main taxi operators tonight will ask the City Council to overturn a commission-level ruling aimed at breaking a near-monopoly on city-issued operating permits.

In the past year, members of the Transportation and Parking Commission have expressed concern that four of the five taxi operators in Glendale — Bell Cab, Checker Cab, City Cab Co. and Yellow Cab — are under related ownership. And competing companies have alleged that the fifth operator, People's Taxi, is also linked to the company.

So when a routine five-year permit for City Cab came up for renewal, the commission voted to instead set it to expire in 2013, when the last operator permit is set to expire. Commissioners said other permits up for renewal in the interim would also be set to the same date, at which point all taxi companies could compete on a clean slate.

Regulations allow any taxi to drop off customers in Glendale, but only those with city-issued permits can pick up.

In January, commission Chairman Christopher Welch said the process would prevent "automatic approval to those who are locked into the position of current operator."

But G&S Transit Management Inc., which runs City Cab Co., appealed the decision, countering that it represented a shift in policy that required City Council approval.

"They created a policy, and our position is, if there is going to be a policy, that should come from the City Council," said John Gantus, an attorney representing G&S Transit.

He also serves on the city's Civil Service Commission.

In its appeal, the company argued that the four-year term would also hurt its ability to make planned upgrades to its fleet, including the purchase of environmentally friendly taxicabs.

Gantus on Monday called concern about a lack of competition in the city a "straw man" argument.

"There is no reason for what they did other than an amorphous theory of competition," he said. "Why? What will competition get you? Will it get you better service? I don't think so. Because the service is already top notch."

He said competition already exists among the various cab drivers and noted that all fares and required services are dictated by city taxi regulations.

When considering the appeal, the City Council can vote to uphold the commission's original ruling, send it back to the commission for a rehearing or set a full public hearing on the issue.

City officials have also asked the council to discuss whether they would like to see revisions to the current permitting process.

Mayor Ara Najarian said the taxi company had raised "legitimate issues" that he hoped to see addressed.

"I'm not likely to dismiss the appeal," he said. "I would like to at least see what those issues are, and see if they can be addressed whether by the [commission] or the council."

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