Taxi companies debate new ordinances


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The Iowa City City Council held an open forum Wednesday for taxi companies regarding the newly imposed regulations on vehicles and drivers.

Companies generally offered little resistance to the ordinances, calling them “long overdue,” but one owner expressed cost-related concerns.

The regulations, passed Monday, come in response to an incident that occurred in January 2014 in which a driver of an unmarked cab sexually assaulted one of his passengers, Iowa City police Capt. Doug Hart said.

One primary regulation being imposed upon taxi services in Iowa City is that all companies are required to keep their cabs to one color scheme of their choosing to prevent ambiguity.

Additionally, every cab will be required to post driver identification in the front and back of the vehicle and be visible to passengers.

“The purpose of these new regulations are primarily for the safety of the passengers,” Hart said. “By requiring cab companies to keep their cabs to a pre-approved color scheme and having the driver’s ID visible to passengers, drivers can be immediately identified in the event of driver misconduct.”

Joe French, the general manager of Marco’s Taxicab Company, 116 Stevens Drive, has been advocating for these regulations for years.

“Safety has always been our primary concern,” he said. “We’ve been pushing for these regulations long before the incident that occurred last year. These ordinances were long overdue.”

There was initial confusion that the city would not provide enough color variation options for the taxi color schemes, but they have been more than compliant in giving them options, French said.
Though all of the taxi service representatives at the forum approved of the regulations’ efforts to improve safety, not all were content with what they said would be financial repercussions.

Alaeldin Osman, a representative from City Cab of Coralville, expressed concern about his business because of the costs of the new color scheme.

It will cost his company $700 to $900 to repaint each of its taxicabs, he said.

“We’ve tried asking the city for a loan, but we’ve had little luck,” he said. “With such high-insurance prices for cabs in Iowa City, it is costly already to maintain our vehicles.”

He said, as a smaller business, City Cab would be disproportionately affected.

“While I agree that the IDs are important to passenger safety, the color-scheme requirements seem extraneous and are solely detrimental to us smaller cab companies,” he said. “This only gives larger companies an advantage over us.”

City councilors at the forum declined to comment and instead deferred to police. However, they were explicit that if ride-sharing companies such as Uber were to start up in Iowa City, they would have to adhere to the new regulations.

Uber has publicly criticized the regulations.

Regardless of its criticisms, all taxi services will have to comply with the new ordinances by March.

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