Cab Companies Looking For Changes from City Hall

Published 07/31 2014 09:07PM

Updated 07/31 2014 11:30PM

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Those in the taxi industry in Burlington say frustration is growing because of a lack of leadership from the city on issues like enforcement and licensing.

“Everybody's looking to somebody to take control,” Green Cab owner Chris Herrick said.

Herrick says that ordinances are not being enforced downtown, and he’s not the only one. Herrick and others are worried about unlicensed and unregulated drivers in Burlington taking customers away from the legitimate businesses.

“It's an unfair playing field to compete against because their overhead is going to be different and lower,” Herrick said

Other enforcement issues are perturbing drivers as well. Dunwright Taxi owner Tim Ruarks says that delivery trucks and other cars are often blocking waiting areas designated for taxis and nothing is done about it.

“Then if we’re in a spot we’re not supposed to be in Burlington police are all over you,” Ruarks said.

Even the people in charge of overseeing taxi ordinances, Taxi Licensing Board chairmen Bill Keogh and Jeff Munger, say the problem needs to be addressed.

“Bottom line is there's no enforcement,” Keogh said.

“The public is at risk when we get people who are operating a taxi without a license.”

Six months ago Keogh and Munger sent a letter to officials at city hall asking for an assessment of city taxi services. In it they suggested that Burlington hire a full time taxi administrator. Currently that position is handled by Isaac Trombly, an airport ambassador who only works on taxi issues part time.

In an email to FOX 44, Burlington City Attorney Eileen Blackwood said they had anticipated having the report ready earlier this summer “but it has taken some additional time to sort out the costs and revenues involved with the current taxi administration system and how the changes being contemplated will be funded.”

Blackwood says the report will be presented to the Airport Commission in August and to the City Council in September.

But while everyone is waiting others could be moving to Burlington. FOX 44 has found online ads for UberX and Lyft looking for drivers in the Burlington area. The two companies are extremely popular with customers but they don't always follow the same rules as other cab companies.

When Aviation Director Gene Richards was asked if Uber has contacted the city he said “That’s not really their M-O.”

“If they come in and act as taxis in Burlington without the licensing and the regulations and the insurance then the taxi industry will fold,” Herrick said.

Richards did say ZabCab a company that links taxi drivers and customers through an app has contacted him. Even though Richards described the conversation as "just a cold call" there is a lot of flux in Burlington in the taxi industry.

It’s why Herrick and others are looking for leadership from someone at the Taxi Administrator position. They’re looking for a response to questions they’ve been asking for months.

“It's time. It's time for something to happen,” Bill Keogh said.

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