Proposed ordinance revision cracking down on taxi cab operations

SALEM – A proposed revision to the ordinance governing taxi cab operations will add new requirements for the companies and their drivers and include transit vehicles, specifically vehicles for hire used to transport people to a facility.

The Rules & Ordinances Committee of city council agreed 3-0 Wednesday night to recommend that council make the changes.

The new rules move some of the oversight of taxi cabs to the police department, which was requested by Chief J.T. Panezott. Committee Chairman Rick Drummond, who’s looking to introduce the ordinance to city council on Tuesday, said he spoke with the chief and he had no problem with the way the ordinance was outlined.

The Planning and Zoning Officer will continue handling the administrative side, dealing with applications and renewals for licenses, while the police chief will oversee safety inspections of vehicles and make random inspections of taxicabs and transit vehicles for compliance with the rules.

City Planning and Zoning Officer Patrick Morrissey said the rewrite tightens up the language and gives the city standards for inspection, besides adding requirements for drivers and a more defined appeals process.

“This is better than what we had,” he said.

He explained that the current ordinance does not include transit vehicles and there’s at least one 18-passenger van in the city which takes people out to the Fresh Mark meat processing plant. The new ordinance defines a transit vehicle as a motor vehicle engaged to carry one to 15 or more people for hire on a per person or hourly basis to a prearranged contract or agreement for transporting passengers.

Morrissey said it does not cover limousines or vans used by nursing home facilities or the hospital. He also said CARTS would not be covered by the ordinance.

Another new aspect is a requirement for drivers, who are considered to be subcontractors, to complete a subcontractor registration form and pay a $50 fee. The new ordinance also allows for denial of a license based on a background check.

Councilman Clyde Brown expressed a concern on whether a taxi business should have to operate out of a commercial zone, saying he had seen people dropped off or picked up at a location in a residential area, with cabs parked in residential areas.

Morrissey said that’s no different than home occupations or contractors who work out of their homes and have their vehicles at home. Drummond also said most people if they call a taxi, they’re picked up at home or dropped off at their home.