Taxi Ordinance Garners No Support At Assembly Meeting

The Anchorage Assembly has been crafting an ordinance that will overhaul the permitting process for taxicabs, limousines as well as chauffeurs and dispatch services and other vehicles for hire.

Dozens from the industry testified on the issue at Tuesday’s regular meeting and virtually nobody liked it.

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Title 11 is the law that regulates taxicabs and some other pay for service transport in Anchorage as well as the businesses that dispatch them. The Assembly has been taking testimony on a rewrite of the law and at their last meeting residents expressed a wide range of concerns.

Silvia Villamides with Anchorage Cabaret Restaurant Hotel Restaurant and Retailers Association, or CHARR, said the rewrite does not do enough to address safety issues downtown. She also singled out poor service to Eagle River.

“There’s a lot of people downtown and all over our city that we need to service. Eagle River is a major area and we have a lot of members there. And they have no way to get from their house to a restaurant or from the restaurant back home or from a bar or a club or the bowling alley because there’s absolutely no service. And we would appreciate your support in this public safety issue,” Villamides said.

This cab driver said he did not like the rewrite’s restrictions on transferring permits.

“My name is … and I am owner of cab 169 … I have my kids, I have my children. If something happen with me, if accident happen with me I can get a ticket and I can lose my chauffeur license and my permit can be taken away. This is not right. So please I request to consider it and make all permit transferable.”

Rafael Barbosa who also drives a taxi said he did not like stricter rules about the number of criminal convictions that a permit user could have. He also is opposed to new requirements about banning rear wheel drive vehicles.

“For the last three years rear wheel drive worked great. Why just like that all of the sudden overnight they’re no good? Law enforcement use them. We have been using them. I myself work on these particular cars the whole time. They are great cars,” Barbosa said.

Heidi Frost testified that the accessibility section of the ordinance was too vague and did not do enough to protect people with disabilities from discrimination.

“The proposed ordinance has no teeth. Many people will say, ‘why should I worry about this if there aren’t any fines or discipline. We’ve had enough of empty promises. We propose that the enforcement be a large part of this ordinance. Putting fines into the ordinance. Putting some sort of discipline into the ordinance,” Frost said.

Others said taxi stands would improve safety and efficiency for taxi service downtown and expressed concerns that repeated requests for them were being ignored.

The rewrite of the law is around 70 pages long.

The taxi cab ordinance is scheduled to go before the body for action at their next regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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