Taxi ordinances unnecessary legislation


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On Tuesday, Iowa City city councilors voted to approve the second consideration for altering the current city ordinances regarding taxis after a unanimous vote to approve the ordinance changes last week. There will be one more vote on the measure.

Included in the changes are provisions requiring that all taxi operators in Iowa City have their dispatch office located in Iowa City or Coralville, that all taxis in one company have a unified color scheme, a change in the licensing date for cab companies, and several other minimal changes.

Of these changes, most are unnecessary, anti-business regulations that will diminish competition and are to the benefit of only the largest companies in the area. The City Council should ensure that it enforces laws in place, but not establish policies that wrongfully restrict the free market.

“Any more rules are just going to be harder on us and make us do more work,” said Charles Clarke, a co-owner of Pinks Taxi. “We’re not really for or against, we are just prepared to deal with the new legislation, but some of these companies are not going to be able to survive.”

Clarke said he has worked in the Iowa City taxi industry for some years and only recently opened his own business. He said that he was prepared for potential changes but knows that other businesses are not as prepared.

Currently, 14 cab companies are licensed to operate in Iowa City, all of which have more than four taxi cabs, but some of the smaller businesses may be financially harmed by the potential changes.
Nazar Osman, a co-owner of American Class Taxi, noted that his company is based in Cedar Rapids, not Iowa City, and fears that he would not be able to afford moving his company to Iowa City.

“Some of the rules favor certain taxi companies and are only for those companies,” Osman said. “To make us have two offices would not be fair.” 

Still other owner-operators are concerned that having a unified color scheme among their cars would be a great financial burden that really wouldn’t help the customers.

“I have three cars that are brand-new, and I don’t think that I should have to change the color,” said David Tiet, the owner of Big Ten Aardvark Taxi Cab.  “We have big letters on the side, our customers know who we are.”

Tiet said that he owns nine cars and to paint them all would be a serious financial burden, especially because the company has good relations with its customers.

In fact, most of the complaints do not originate with customers, but come from competing cab companies. Because of those complaints, on Oct. 31, the City Manager’s Office hosted a meeting and invited all the cab companies in Iowa City.

“A number of cab companies were calling to request changes, so we invited everyone to come together and talk,” said City Clerk Marian Karr.

While many of these suggestions were made under the guise of keeping businesses fair and customer friendly, the city and community members would all be better off with fewer regulations and more enforcement for those regulations in place.

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