New regulations turn Sacramento cabbies into taxi gripers

A long-in-the-works effort to regulate Sacramento’s struggling and fractious taxicab industry shifted into third gear Tuesday, but not before half a dozen independent cabbies warned the new rules could put them out of business.

By unanimous vote, a Sacramento City Council subcommittee recommended sending a host of new regulations to the full council for a final decision. They include requiring all cabbies to start accepting credit cards, pass driver tests, adhere to a new dress code and stop scrapping with each other over a dwindling customer base.

The proposed ordinance would also cap the number of city-issued taxicab permits, prohibit older vehicles unless they’ve been exempted, and require all taxi fleets to use 24-hour dispatch centers to schedule fares rather than doing so via cellphone.

When the final council vote takes place wasn’t specified, but it’s sure to attract debate about the fine line between ensuring good customer service and leveling onerous business regulations, especially as new car service platforms siphon customers from a reeling industry.

“Our taxicab business is almost really finished,” said Sacramento Taxicab Association member Kazman Zaidi. “There are so many competition—this Uber, this Lift and also this airport taxi [contract] …. Do you think how we are suffering and how we are surviving?”

Representatives of the local tourism industry and some of the larger cab companies supported the new regulations, saying Sacramento’s reputation was suffering because of the behavior of its infighting cabbies, who refused short-distance fares, couldn’t navigate the city and overcharged or didn’t make change for customers.

Yellow Cab Co. of Sacramento president Fred Pleines said that, while his competitors feared the new regulations, they were “actually the penicillin that will save them.”

Independent proprietors said dispatch centers, in particular, would be too expensive to implement, while at least driver one seemed to take issue with the inference that cabbies are dirty.

“I need to give a message to the lawyer, from me and a lot of the drivers,” he said. “You insulted me. You insulted 400 other drivers. Shame on you. Shame on you. I see you on 500 I St. That’s federal court. To insult on us, they have no right to insult on us. Maybe he should go back to school.”

The driver was likely referring to the staff report’s justification for a dress code: “The city has also received complaints that some taxicab drivers have been dirty and unkempt,” the report reads.

It goes on to state that a dress code would “consist of collared shirts, long or short dress slacks, and closed toe shoes,” and that drivers would have to “wear shoes at all times while on duty.”

The dress code didn’t account for the existence of female taxi drivers.

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