After years of neglectfully allowing taxi owners to keep outdated vehicles in their fleets, the city council on Tuesday further extended the compliance deadline for a new 10-year age restriction on vehicles it passed last year.
Last year’s resolution changed taxi age from six to ten years; in other words, a 2003 model vehicle would be obsolete and unusable by a taxi company. On Tuesday the council extended that compliance deadline by one year, according to Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman.
The “phase-in” will allow fleet owners more time to comply with the new ordinance.
“A 2000 Crown Victoria literally looks just like a 2011 Crown Victoria,” said Rigo Rodriguez, councilman at-large. “My thing is, if the car looks, if the car is well maintained, if the car is well kept, why take away a 2000 Crown Victoria away from them?”
In 2010, a model that came out in 2000 would have been allowed for use — that being the last year that vehicle would have been allowed for utilization. Rodriguez said if the vehicles are well maintained he sees no point in phasing them out just based on model year.
“We already recently discussed this,” said Kenneth McDaniel, councilman at-large, “Today, what we’re doing is grandfathering these taxis in.” Indeed, the council passed a resolution in December approving the new age restriction.
Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman, asked whether any council member has lately used the city’s taxis for transportation. Only Anthony Davis, 1st Ward councilman, and Cotton, indicated they had, in the last six months, called one of the taxi companies for transportation.
“You got council members saying ‘Hey, leave the old cars,’” said Tavarez, “because it’s better for the owners, but what about the constituents that take these old cars?”
Tavarez said he takes taxis, and many of them are uncomfortable. Indeed, the city’s taxis are known for having torn seats, unpleasant odor, and graffiti plastered all over the backseat. “If it’s cold, there’s no heat. If it’s hot, there’s no air conditioning. It stinks, it’s dirty,” Tavarez said.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, agreed with Rodriguez’s observation that there is little difference between an antiquated model of Ford Crown Victoria compared to a newer model. “I wasn’t suggesting that old cars that are unsafe be on the street. I was suggesting we may want to consider affording the owners an opportunity to demonstrate their cars meet the standards that we’re looking for, and not simply use age as a dis-qualifier,” said Morris.
Morris suggested a waver system that would allow well maintained older model vehicles that meet safety and comfort standards to remain on the road.
“You’re complicating this,” said Tavarez, stating that 10 model years is a good enough benchmark to use rather than complicating the process.
Last year’s ordinance extended the life of a taxi from a lower to a higher number, a move that should have automatically meant compliance, but due to a general breakdown in law and order throughout the city, the ordinance remained unenforced.
Tavarez said the council is only seeing one side of the story, that of the taxi owners while being blinded to the interest of the consumers; he urged council members to take different taxies every week to experience the level of service residents receive from these companies.
“Ride a cab, do it every weekend, choose a different company, and see the service you receive from each company,” said Tavarez.
“We’re giving you another year,” Cotton said to the taxi company owners in the audience.