Taxi drivers sit down with Berkowitz following rolling strike
If you were in downtown Anchorage Monday morning, you probably heard a lot of honking. A group of taxi drivers staged a rolling strike around city hall as part of a series of protests by the industry -- which claims the city is working against it.
The Anchorage Taxi Workers Alliance hopes to highlight some of its issues with municipal policy ahead of Tuesday's assembly meeting.
"We're just hanging by the neck, I mean, we're in a sad situation," said Rafael Barbosa, who has driven cabs in Anchorage for the last 33 years.
Since Uber and Lyft came to town, Barbosa says he's hurting for customers. And instead of helping, he claims the city is hurting by putting even more cabs on the road.
"Bottom line is they're just flooding the market with too many cabs. You know, too many cabs and not enough business. We're just sitting everywhere," Barbosa said. "I've got four kids-- all four of my kids are university students at this point-- and we're all going through a struggle to keep them in the school."
More cabs and new regulations have the Anchorage Taxi Workers Alliance taking to the streets
"It's not taking away the regulations, it's adding more regulations," Jackie Ransom, a taxi permit holder, said of a proposed ordinance before the assembly Tuesday. "We haven't had any input into it, and they're unnecessary."
Taxi permit holders and drivers say they want a seat at the table to help rewrite city code from scratch-- and they're demanding that the city's transportation inspector be replaced with someone who has experience in their industry.
"The mayor inherited him from Mr. Sullivan, and we understand that, but we need somebody who knows more about these regulations-- and get healthy ones," Ransom said.
Monday's protest did get the attention of the mayor and the city manager, who invited the group in for a meeting. But it didn't go the way the taxi group had hoped.
"We asked for the removal of the transportation inspector two months ago-- no action. So, overall, although we're hopeful with the meeting, we feel like we're not really getting what we want," said Tim Huitt, a member of the Alliance.
Meanwhile, City Manager Bill Falsey says much of what the group is asking for requires action from the assembly.
"We certainly do have personnel prerogatives in the executive branch. We're willing to take a look at all of those options. But, I think there was some misunderstandings about exactly where the transportation inspector's role, what the role the transportation inspector has played to date," Falsey said.
For now, cabbies say they're going to keep making noise until city officials make some changes.
"Mr. Berkowitz' administration is good at sheltering the homeless-- he needs to start building a shelter for the cab drivers as well," Barbosa said.
Some of the specific provisions in the Assembly ordinance the Alliance opposes include a provision to for price-surging, something Uber and Lyft already do.
While the assembly may be intending to offer cabs more tools to compete, the Alliance says if cabs started doing that would take away their flat-rate selling point.
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