Taxi policy won't change yet

CITY HALL — The City Council this week voted to temporarily maintain the status quo for taxis in Glendale, overturning a ruling that traffic commissioners said would have opened up more competition.

Members of the Transportation and Parking Commission have in the past year expressed concern that the current permit process favors incumbent operators. Four of the five companies — Bell Cab, Checker Cab, City Cab Co. and Yellow Cab — are under related ownership.

Any taxi can drop a passenger off in Glendale, but to pick up, they must have one of 81 available city permits.

So when City Cab's routine five-year permits came up for renewal, the commission voted to instead set them to expire in 2013, when the last operator permits 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.

"The competitive process is really what we are trying to get to," said commission Chairman Christopher Welch.

Several community members on Tuesday spoke in favor of revising the current permit process to allow more competition, as did a representative from United Taxi, a rival company that unsuccessfully tried to secure the one available open permit last year.

"Competition is a good thing," said Vic Kakosian, of United Taxi. "There are so many companies out there."

But City Council members sided with G&S Transit Management Inc., which runs City Cab, that a shorter permit could hurt their ability to convert their fleet to more environmentally friendly vehicles.

"The effect of a shorter period of time is potentially going to disrupt the business plan," said Sheldon Baker, an attorney representing G&S Transit and a former Glendale mayor.

Council members also noted few complaints with the company's service.

"They are a very reputable company," said Mayor Ara Najarian.

Council members did acknowledge the permit process could use tweaks, pointing to their unanimous decision last month to consider more comprehensive changes in coming months.

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