The Juneau Assembly on Monday voiced no objections to a rewrite of the city regulations that govern taxi cabs and other commercial passenger vehicles.
Cab companies asked the city for changes in March. Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce said the companies are seeking lower fees and asking the city to stop enforcing classifications that separate taxis, shuttles, tours, limousines and charters. The fees originally were intended to support enforcement of rules differentiating taxis, shuttles and other for-hire vehicles, she said.
"It's been difficult and cumbersome to administer," Pierce said.
Under the changes, the cost of a chauffeur's license, required of all paid drivers, would drop from $150 to $75. Vehicle inspection fees would be $150 instead of $250. The changes will go into effect a week after they're finalized, Pierce said. Additional discussion about the issue likely will take place in the Assembly's Human Resources Committee, she said.
The changes will cost the city about $13,000, according to city officials. City Manager Dave Palmer said he would come back to the Assembly for a budget request to cover the shortfall. An administrator in the Juneau Police Department who oversees the regulations will have increased duties enforcing traffic and loading-zone requirements downtown and on the waterfront this summer, Pierce said.
The city's main interest in regulating the industry is to make sure cabs are safe and drivers are licensed, she added.
Assembly Member Ken Koelsch said the city's taxi regulations have been a topic of discussion for two or three years. The city should not stop proactive enforcement, he said, suggesting the city "enforce (the regulations) to the best of its ability on any given day."
Roland Harris of Juneau Taxi and Tours said high fees have made it difficult for cab companies to hire new employees. He described the fees as detrimental.
"These (proposed new) rates should have been the rates from the beginning," he said.
The fees have resulted in higher dispatch rates, which can hurt drivers in the winter when business is slower, Harris said.
Metro Taxi co-owner Russ Windom said lower inspection fees will help.
"The chauffeur's permit is ridiculous price-wise. We can't hire any new drivers. It keeps people from coming in the summertime and by wintertime they're gone. The people we have are full-time, year-round and that's what we want," he said.
Joanna Markell can be reached at email@example.com.