Tuesday, February 24, 2009

City: Taxis may zone or meter

City: Taxis may zone or meter

Publication Date: 02/24/09

The St. Augustine City Commission pleasantly surprised the city's six taxi companies Monday night by passing a resolution allowing them to charge rates either by zone or by meter, whichever they want.

Some drivers told the commission that they'd expected the city to allow only meters in cabs.

City Manager Bill Harriss said, "This doesn't require people using the zoned rate to change to meters. The market will decide which is right."

Vice Mayor Errol Jones moved to pass the revised resolution, which mandates that cabs must "display prominently" which method of payment they use.

The companies have until April 1 to comply.

His motion passed 5-0.

One driver, Richard Davis, told the commission, "The passengers I drive every day are 95 percent working people, and they know the zoned rates as well as anyone."

Greg Blaylock of St. Augustine Taxi said, "Our customers are happy with the flat rate."

Checker Cab, the only one using meters, asked the city last month to look into the two types of payment because they felt that zoned, or flat, rates could be "adjusted" by a driver to be higher than they were.

One driver said, "Cabs have meters in most cities."

Mayor Joe Boles said the "social experiment aspect," meaning which form of payment people choose, is interesting.

"It would be nice to know which system works best," he said.

Commissioner Don Crichlow asked, "Are we doing the citizens justice to allow two forms of pay? It's confusing, (but) I think yes. I've had phone calls to retain the zoned price because it is obviously cheaper than the meter price."

The meter cost will be $1.50 when a customer enters the car, $1.50 per mile and a 35-cent idling charge. The trip costs the same no matter how many people are in the car.

Flat rate trips charge per person.

The commission also turned down a request by the cab companies for additional standing sites on the Plaza.

Crichlow said, "There doesn't seem to be a need for additional spaces. If it were packed and everybody's fighting for a space, it would be different." In other agenda action, the City Commission:

* Passed 5-0 on second reading an ordinance authorizing the renewal of Florida Power & Light's 30-year franchise agreement with the city.

* Passed 5-0 on second reading an ordinance establishing a 10-year historic property tax exemption period. Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline made the motion.

* Passed on first reading 5-0 an introduction of an ordinance authorizing the regulation of wireless communication facilities in the city.

* Approved 5-0 an agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation for the design of the accent lighting and installation of conduit on the Bridge of Lions. Boles made the motion.

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