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The Sacramento City Council will look to further regulate the city’s taxi fleet, allowing police officers to cite taxis that park in metered spots and require cabs to have the city’s 3-1-1 number on them to moderate complaints against the service.
City Councilman Jay Schenirer said Tuesday before the council meeting that the ordinance amendment – which will likely be passed by the council in the next few weeks – is just to iron out the kinks and clarify the existing taxi ordinance.
“If everybody knows the rules, it makes it easier for everyone to play by them, and the overall service will improve,” Schenirer said.
The issue was on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting as a routine step to publish the ordinance before it comes to the council for final approval.
According to the staff report for Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the change is in response to residents’ complaints about some aspects of the city’s taxi fleet.
If passed, residents can call the city’s 3-1-1 information line in the future for all complaints about the taxis.
An ordinance passed in October 2010 made it illegal for taxis to park in metered spots, according to the staff report, but there was no mechanism for enforcement. The change that will come to the council for review allows officers to cite taxi drivers parking in metered spots.
Fred Pleines, president of Yellow Cab Company of Sacramento, said Tuesday that there used to be a significant problem with some taxis using metered spots to turn a two-cab taxi queue into as many as 15 cabs in a queue.
“They were parking in the metered spots, and some of those cabs would be two or three blocks away,” he said. “Consequently, you didn’t have parking for those businesses. Also, the drivers wouldn’t pay for parking unless they saw the meter maid coming, so the city was losing revenue.”
Pleines said his concern with having the ordinance prohibiting parking in metered spaces is lack of enforcement, but he isn’t sure if the current change will be enough.
“It’s not quite the way I would address it,” he said. “I would require cab companies to have radio dispatching – actual offices where people are answering phones and taking requests and dispatching cabs – the meter queueing would disappear.”
That requirement has previously been discussed by the City Council Law and Legislation Committee, but it has not been put into effect, and it was met with criticism from cab drivers who say the expense of setting up such a center would cripple their business.
When it comes to the current ordinance amendment’s requirement to include the city’s 3-1-1 informational number on all cabs, Pleines said he isn’t happy about it, but he understands it.
“I like taking complaints, because I handle each complaint. If a driver cheats you and charges you $20 for a $5 fare, that’s taken care of because your call comes to my dispatch center,” he said.
For some companies, he added, the calls would simply go to the driver who cheated the passenger, which doesn’t help resolve the issue.
“That’s why it’s being taken to the extreme,” he said. “It wasn’t always being handled in a businesslike manner.”
Gina Knepp, manager of the city’s 3-1-1 service, said Tuesday that there have sometimes been complaints about taxis coming in to 3-1-1, but she doesn’t expect the call volume to increase markedly.
“In the past, there have been complaints about taxis from business owners about cabs competing for certain corners, and some people have complained that they charge too much,” she said. “I could be wrong, but I don’t think the number of calls will go up very much.
She added that there were some complaints about that on the corner of 10th and J streets, where The Citizen Hotel faces Cesar Chavez Plaza.
Knepp said residents don’t need to call 3-1-1, but can email firstname.lastname@example.org, and all emails are attended to in 24 hours.
Schenirer said he does not expect any opposition to the ordinance change from City Council members.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.