Taxi policy may change

Glendale News Press

CITY HALL — City Council members Tuesday said they would consider changing the city's taxi permitting process, which traffic commissioners have said inhibits competition.

Under a unanimous council motion, city officials will propose revisions to the current process, which commissioners say favors incumbent cab operators in the city. Four of the five current taxi companies in Glendale — Bell Cab, Checker Cab, City Cab Co. and Yellow Cab — are under related ownership.

Regulations allow any taxi to drop off customers in Glendale, but only those with one of 81 city-issued permits can make pick-ups.

"Let's get into this, and let's look at this policy and see if this is something that we need to alter," said Councilwoman Laura Friedman.

The move came as the City Council considered an appeal from City Cab, whose representatives objected to a January decision by the Transportation and Parking Commission.

When a routine five-year permit renewal for City Cab's 15 taxis came up, the commission voted to instead set it to expire in December 2013, when the last permits citywide are 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.

"With five different operators with staggered dates, we can never come to a single date to try to impose things like service improvements," said Christopher Welch, chairman of the commission, which is given taxi-permit approval under city codes.

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

In its appeal, the company also 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.

"They have set on course a new policy that really requires the City Council to do that," said John Gantus, an attorney representing G&S; Transit.

On Tuesday, council members agreed, voting unanimously to hold a full public hearing on the appeal.

Friedman said she was concerned how the two items could be handled separately, as the proposed changes are linked to the shortened permit renewal. She noted the issue would have to be considered when the hearing returned to the dais.

"How do we have this hearing without getting into the broader policy implications?" she said.

Still, the appeal hearing will likely have to come to the dais before the council considers any potential revisions to the city process, which City Atty. Scott Howard said would likely take months to craft.

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