By Susan Dickson
CHAPEL HILL â€“ Taking a cab ride around Chapel Hill could change somewhat if the Chapel Hill Town Council approves an ordinance regulating taxis in town.
The proposed ordinance, which the council considered at a meeting on Monday, 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 inconsistency in fare rates and public-safety concerns.
Under the proposed ordinance, the police department would add a taxicab-inspector position for enhanced monitoring and enforcement of taxis; pedi-cabs would be added as a regulated mode of transportation for hire; the town manager would be allowed to create taxi stands; and fares would be regulated.
In addition, applications for franchises would only be accepted once a year, with a requirement to reapply every three years, and franchises would be required to have more than one vehicle.
Police Chief Chris Blue said that last requirement was suggested because business owners with only one vehicle would be less likely to take it out of service over safety concerns than those with multiple vehicles.
Drivers would be required to apply for permits every two years and pass drug tests and background checks.
Beck Kasimov, who has been in the cab business in Chapel Hill for five years, said he felt that the inconsistency in fares stemmed from out-of-town cabs coming to Chapel Hill on busy nights.
â€œAll these problems with prices donâ€™t come from the local companies,â€ he said. â€œMost of our prices are consistent with each other.â€
Kasimov said a flat rate was a good idea, but urged the council to keep in mind that lower rates would result in lower profits for cab companies, preventing them from updating their equipment as often as they might need to.
â€œThe companies that charge very cheap prices, they donâ€™t have a quality car,â€ he said.
Council member Jim Ward said he would like for the regulations to be less strict, adding that he felt franchises should be able to have just one vehicle and should be able to apply more than once a year.
â€œThese are small businesses,â€ he said. â€œI think we need to minimize the regulations.â€
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he felt the regulations could be narrowly targeted to address specific issues.
â€œIrrespective of where these cab owners are from, it is kind of just shocking how you donâ€™t know what youâ€™re getting when a cab pulls up,â€ he said.
The council will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed ordinance on June 18.