Van, cab drivers reach long-awaited truce

Posted: Friday, May 05, 2000

Not so long ago, courtesy-van operators and cab drivers were at one another's throats over who got to do what. But, after sitting down together and talking their problems through, they've come to an informal, friendly agreement.

Courtesy vans are operated by hotels, motels and tour companies such as flightseeing firms and charter boats to take customers to and from their operations.

The initial rancor was pronounced and didn't bode well for either group, said Greg O'Claray. He is business agent for the Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association, of which the city's cab drivers are a trade association affiliate, he said.

``The cabbies wanted the courtesy operators in the code because they were acting like cabs, taking people, in some cases, to wherever they wanted to go,'' O'Claray said. ``The courtesy operations have agreed not to act as a taxi company, not to sell tours, or take people, for example, to the (Mendenhall) glacier.''

At a recent meeting of the Juneau Assembly's Planning and Policy Committee, convened to rewrite the passenger vehicle code, Breakwater Inn Manager Michael Allen warned that if courtesy vans were included in the code and subjected to the mandated fees, the hotel and motel operators might as well become cab companies themselves.

``It seemed the logical step,'' Allen said this morning.

With the introduction of hotel accommodations in the Mendenhall Valley, the hotels began providing such services as transportation to the Capitol during the legislative session, Allen said. They also offered rides to large stores, such as Costco and Kmart. In addition, hotels promoted Juneau to smaller communities in Southeast as a regional shopping center, and offered customers the corresponding rides.

``What I kept driving home during these negotiations was that providing courtesy service is incredibly expensive,'' Allen said. ``I don't think any of the hotel operators wanted to provide tours. What we wanted was to provide service to our customers.''

The agreement is an accurate reflection of the spirit of cooperation and the willingness to solve problems, Allen said. ``And we didn't have to rely on the city assembly for regulations and laws.''

The courtesy/taxi agreement comes on the heels of passage of an amendment tweaking the city's Commercial Passenger Vehicle Code at the assembly's last meeting. The ordinance is a culmination of a years-long effort to rewrite the law governing the only industry the city regulates, said assembly member and Planning and Policy Committee Chairman Tom Garrett.

``It's been really complicated,'' Garrett said. ``Those who would have us regulate flightseeing companies need only look at regulating passenger vehicles to see what problems there are.''

Asked what he thought of the amicable agreement reached by the city's cabdrivers and courtesy-van operators, Garrett said, ``It is refreshing.''

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