Taxi industry pushes effort to repeal ordinance adding new permits
There will soon be more taxicabs on Anchorage streets. That is, unless the taxicab industry gets its way.
The president and treasurer of the Anchorage Taxicab Permit Owners Association (ATPOA) filed a petition with the municipality in the first step to get a referendum on the April ballot. The referendum would repeal a new ordinance that adds 116 new taxi permits over the next five years. After that point, the cap on new permits is eliminated.
“With our state in the [economic] downturn that it is in and the population on the decline, this is not a good answer or a good solution for our industry,” said Suzie Smith, the ATPOA treasurer. “It’s going to be detrimental to our drivers and their families.”
People waiting for taxis at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport Friday evening had mixed reactions about the idea of having more taxis in the city.
“There’s plenty of cabs here. They’re lined up everywhere. I don’t really have to wait, so I don’t know why they’re bringing more in,” said Anchorage resident Joshua Vincent, who added that he wished the city had ride-sharing services like Lyft or Uber.
A man who identified himself as “Chuck” was in Anchorage on business. He said the city needs more taxis, as it is his usual way of getting around while in town.
“I think it’s a good idea because, you know, every time that I’ve tried to get a cab, it’s always been unfruitful,” he said.
There are currently 189 taxicab permits in the city. Smith said while demand can outpace supply during peak hours, it is unreasonable to boost the number of permits by roughly 60 percent.
“The city does not have the call volume and the market to sustain a living for that many more drivers and operators,” Smith said.
However, the transportation inspector for the municipality described taxicab availability as “hit or miss,” even outside of peak hours.
“There’s just not enough cabs to meet the demand,” Eric Musser said.
He said the ordinance will be an effective step toward resolving the problem.
“The data show that on average, people are waiting greater than nine, 10, 11 minutes,” Musser said. “So the Assembly felt that we could make that better. We could improve on it. So [the ordinance] does it.”
Moreover, Musser said that under the ordinance, the Anchorage Transportation Commission has the right to reinstate permit caps if the market becomes oversaturated after the five-year period.
“They can stop it,” Musser said. “They can turn around and kind of re-balance the supply and demand in the market.”
Still, Smith said the effort to repeal the ordinance is about more than maintaining a healthy business. She said in cities that have deregulated, crime increased as a result.
“Crime went up because drivers were not able to make a living,” Smith said. “People did what they needed to do to survive, and so we don’t want that kind of model for our city. We want it to be safe.”
Smith and her co-petitioner must collect 5,700 legitimate signatures by Feb. 1 in order for the referendum to get a place on the April ballot.
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