TAMC’s proposal for a rainbow cab coalition has Yellow Cab owners seeing red.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
In less than a year as a Yellow Cab driver, John Petty has yet to deliver a baby, but he has transported psych patients in distress to local hospitals. He regularly ferries a Pressa Canaro canine and his owner to the beach. And he’s been stiffed by local barflies.
“I’m still looking for a guy I took from the American Legion to NPS,” Petty says. “I’ll catch him later. I think he’s a regular at the bar.”
Petty’s experiences on the streets may seem tame compared to the fight that will likely erupt at city councils across Monterey County over a new taxi regulation scheme. The Transportation Agency for Monterey County proposes a countywide authority that would oversee taxi operations, instead of the current city-by-city regulations.
It would open up the convention and hotel-rich city of Monterey to all taxis, and allow all comers into Monterey Peninsula Airport. Currently, only Yellow Cab, the Peninsula’s largest company with 60 cars, can pick up passengers in Monterey, while the second-largest, Central Coast Cab, holds an exclusive airport concession that allows only its cabs to wait curbside for arriving passengers.
The new authority would also offer drivers a streamlined permitting process so that a single fee would cover a countywide taxi license, instead of requiring cabbies to apply to local police departments.
Local police chiefs back the plan because they want out of the taxi permitting process, says Monterey City Planner Kim Cole, and disability rights activists hope it will lead to 24-hour accessible transport for their clients.
But its biggest booster is the Monterey County Hospitality Association, which has pushed the plan for a decade, says John Nariji, the Monterey Plaza Hotel’s general manager. “We believe strongly that fair competition is critical,” Nariji says. “We run into issues on busy weekends where there aren’t enough cabs, and we also think competition will drive quality.”
But Yellow Cab’s John Cardinalli sees the proposal as the death knell for the company his father and uncle built in the late 1970s. “They’re trying to take our company away from us,” Cardinalli says.
The Cardinallis argue that their contract with the city of Monterey guarantees that everyone in town – even less than lucrative passengers, like seniors who depend on taxis to go to the grocery store or doctor’s office – will be served.
They point to a similar scheme that they say created taxi industry chaos in Coachella Valley, and argue that Monterey Salinas Transit, which would oversee the taxi business, not only knows nothing about it, but is a competitor with a conflict of interest.
Not so, Cole contends. Taxis and buses have different clientele, she says, arguing that cab companies can be held accountable for service via complaint procedures. The Pacific Grove City Council has already voted to join the new regulatory scheme. TAMC hopes that other Monterey County cities and the airport follow suit by May 31.
But the plan has hit a snag at the airport, where officials reportedly don’t want to give up the concession fee Central Coast Cab pays for its exclusive curbside rights, and worry about flooding limited space with cabs.
Unsurprisingly, Central Coast Cab owner Duane Gida backs the plan. If the airport sticks with its position, he could maintain his exclusive curbside pick-up rights at the airport, while also moving into Monterey.