Anchorage taxi drivers protest new permits
It's been eight months since state lawmakers opened the door for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft in Alaska. Cab drivers say that was hard enough on their industry-- but now, they claim the City of Anchorage is making things even worse.
Several dozen taxis staged a parked protest outside the City Transportation Inspector's Office Tuesday morning, calling for his resignation. The group claims the City is working against them by continuing to issue permits for new taxicab drivers when Uber and Lyft have already saturated the market-- leaving fewer customers.
"For me, it's so stupid why the authorities decide to do this," said Jorge Garcia, who's driven taxis for more than 17 years.
Now, he says he can barely support his family.
"We are suffering a lot from our income. We're struggling a lot to make a penny and these people don't care about us-- they are heartless," Garcia said, pointing to the City Transportation Inspector's office on Tudor Road.
Many at Tuesday's protest have similar stories.
"I'll tell ya, our income has probably been 50 percent-- 30 to 50 percent, I'd say, easily," said Bob Ransom, a driver with Checker Cab.
The group says morale has hit a low.
"In New York, people are committing suicide over this stuff. We've lost some people. We don't want that to happen here," said Tim Huit.
For his part, the City Transportation Inspector, Eric Musser, says he's just following the assembly's orders.
"I can assure you, this office from myself down to my assistants, conduct themselves in the highest ethical and professional manner in administering the requirements of this code," said Musser. "Those adversely impacted may feel that we should be supporting them, but it's not the role of this office to support. It's you know, the role of this office to administer, you know, the codes adopted by the Assembly-- and to treat everybody the same."
The municipal code requires at least 20 new permits every year, and any changes to the code are up to the Anchorage Assembly.
Assembly Chairman Dick Traini says he wants to put a moratorium on new permits and require that city do a market study before issuing any more-- an amendment to an ordinance the Assembly considered last week but decided to table until April 10.
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