By Susan Dickson
CHAPEL HILL â€“ Exactly how much taxis can charge has become a little clearer following the Chapel Hill Town Councilâ€™s unanimous vote Monday to approve an ordinance regulating taxis in town.
The ordinance stems from a petition submitted by former UNC Student Body President Mary Cooper last October, in which she suggested a flat-rate taxi program for Chapel Hill. In her petition, Cooper cited inconsistencies in fare rates and public-safety concerns.
Under the ordinance, which goes into effect Jan. 1, the police department will add a taxicab-inspector position for enhanced monitoring and enforcement of taxis; pedi-cabs will be a regulated mode of transportation for hire; the town manager can create taxi stands; and fares will be regulated.
The ordinance creates a flat-rate zone around the downtown area bordered by Estes Drive to the north, Fordham Boulevard to the east, the N.C. 54 bypass to the south and the Carrboro town limits to the west. Within the zone, the flat fare would be $6 for up to two passengers, with an additional $2 per passenger. A crossover rate of $2 would be added for trips crossing over both Franklin and Rosemary streets within the zone.
The ordinance also allows a special-events charge of $5 per passenger during events causing significant congestion, such as UNC football and basketball games.
Outside of the flat-rate zone, taxis may charge a $5 minimum fare and $2.50 per mile for up to two passengers, as well as 25 cents per minute of wait time.
In addition, the ordinance includes a $75 fee for regurgitation or the release of other bodily fluids in a cab, as well as a charge of 25 cents per suitcase and $1 per trunk or footlocker. Taxis must also accept credit and debit cards as payment.
Police Chief Chris Blue said some of the local cab companies liked the new regulations but that not everyone was on board.
Lesley Parr, owner of Time To Go taxi, said his company has been charging $3 per mile with an $8 minimum for two passengers and that it should be up to the passengers to determine whether or not to use his business according to the rates.
â€œWe feel like itâ€™s a fair rate and easy to decipher for everyone involved,â€ he said.
â€œI do not disagree with some of the regulations that the police department is coming up with. I think some of them are pretty good, especially the inspection of vehicles and the drivers,â€ he said, adding that he felt the new fares were too complicated.
â€œHere I am behind the wheel of the cab trying to get somebody some where as safely as possible, and I have to explain all of this?â€
Council member Jim Ward said he would like to see a simpler ordinance.
â€œTo me, it seems a little more complicated than it needs to be,â€ Ward said, noting a proposed 10 cent per grocery bag charge that was eliminated from the ordinance. â€œI think we ought to simplify that. It seems like a nightmare to both the consumer and the taxicab for everybody to make sure they felt like they were being treated fairly.â€
UNC Student Body President Will Leimenstoll said he strongly supported the ordinance.
â€œI think that most of the changes that you all have made are really positive ones,â€ he said. â€œI think that this taxi ordinance can really benefit the students at UNC-Chapel Hill.â€
Leimenstoll said student governmentâ€™s safety and security committee would work to tell students about the taxi ordinance, encouraging them to use taxis as safe transportation when needed.