By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
A proposal to increase the number of taxis allowed to operate in town and to hike the license fees has Red Bank hacks riled up.
About a dozen taxi drivers and dispatchers who believe the current rules work just fine came to take up a few rows in the council chambers Monday night, when the ordinance change was introduced.
The council had decided to amend the ordinance to curb what it sees as a hording problem in which larger companies buy and sit on licenses without using them, thereby squeezing out competition.
That just isn’t the case, says Gary Damanti, who represents Red Bank Yellow Car Company.
“I think a lot of the steps in this ordinance really address problems that don’t exist,” he said.
Damanti contends that the current rules, which require taxi operators to show proof of insurance to get a license, already deter operators from sticking licenses in their pockets, because insurance costs are so high. Factor in the purchase price of the car, and there’s motivation to get on the road and put heat in the back seat, Damanti said.
“Nobody’s buying licenses so nobody else can get them,” he said.
The council has proposed raising the registration fee, too, to serve as an economic push for operators to use their licenses. The fee proposal is staggered depending on the number of cars one company or operator owns, ranging from $150 to $1,000.
Mark Kelly, also of Yellow Cab, thinks those prices would put a pinch on the local companies.
“I’d be in great financial hardship,” said Kelly, who runs eight cabs in Red Bank.
And on the proposal to allow five more licenses in town, from 45 to 50, Kelly thinks there’s no need for it.
“On a Tuesday night at midnight, or twelve in the afternoon, we’re all just lined up there waiting,” Kelly said. “To put five more cars on the street just cuts the pizza into smaller slices.”
Mayor Pasquale Menna said the council will take the cabbies’ concerns into consideration and is open to making changes if necessary.
On the fee change, Menna said, “It’s a legitimate concern and we’ll take a look at it. Maybe it should be reviewed.”
The ordinance will go to a public hearing at the council’s August 9 meeting.