Lexington considers changing regulations governing taxis

A new taxi ordinance being proposed by the Urban County Council's Public Safety Committee would reduce the number of cabs needed to start a company.
A new taxi ordinance being proposed by the Urban County Council's Public Safety Committee would reduce the number of cabs needed to start a company. Herald-Leader

The minimum number of taxis needed to start a cab company in Lexington would be reduced from 25 to 10 under a proposed ordinance that came before the Urban County Council's Public Safety Committee earlier this week.

Also, a company could operate on a part-time basis, eliminating the restriction that a cab company must offer service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Loosening both restrictions would "encourage the small business owner," said Rick Curtis, administrative officer in the department of public safety.

In Louisville, a cab company may start with one vehicle. And many cities do not require that "to get a license you have to operate 24/7," Curtis said.

Another proposed change would require that cabs be inspected twice a year by a certified, independent mechanic. A host of lesser provisions would require that each cab display a rate card, the company name and vehicle number prominently.

Diane Lawless, committee chairwoman, said the proposed changes were fair and would increase competition that would bring better, more timely service and better prices.

Lawless said she pays $25 to $30 for a ride from the airport to her house downtown, which she considers high.

Reducing the number of cabs needed to start a company brought the most discussion.

Greg Kujawski, an owner of Mr. Taxi, asked that the minimum of 25 be retained. "We, obviously, are opposed to reducing the number of cabs from 25 to 10. Part of it is for self-preservation," he said. Too many cabs will take business away from existing companies, he said, "and make everyone suffer."

His company has 45 to 50 cabs; a 30-cab minimum is necessary to break even, he said.

Committee member Peggy Henson questioned why the city should dictate the number of cabs needed to start a business when it does not regulate the number of establishments a dry cleaner or bank must have.

"Don't you think that is a business decision and not necessarily (something) that should be legislated?" she said.

"No ma'am, I don't. I think it is going to have a economic impact on all existing companies and drivers in the company. It could be fatal," said Raymond Sjogren, another owner of Mr. Taxi.

Lawless said, "This is a free market. I'm baffled to hear people say it is not fair for us to ... let somebody have a smaller cab company. In Louisville, you can start a company with one cab."

Bob Babbage, a lobbyist whose company represents Yellow Cab, asked the committee to include a provision that all drivers be drug-tested and that employees' names be checked against the list of registered sex offenders.

The committee did not act on the taxi cab ordinance, but asked for additional information to be presented at its meeting in two months.

"It goes against my grain a little bit that we're in the middle, patrolling the number of cabs (to benefit) only the top dogs," committee member Julian Beard said after the meeting. Of the city's two largest cab companies that spoke against the proposed ordinance, "Their depth of concern tells me they are concerned about competition," he said.

Beard said he wanted more information from cities of similar size to Lexington.