Monday, Aug. 25, 2008 | I travel frequently and can say with certainty that San Diego’s cabs are among the worst of any major city in the country. Missing seatbelts, broken upholstery, faulty door locks, no air conditioning, dirty interiors, and bald tires are all commonplace. The Metropolitan Transit System has paid scant attention to this crisis, and the impact on San Diego’s residents and visitors has been ignored for too long. It’s only a matter of time before an unsafe cab leads to serious injury or death for an unsuspecting visitor.

MTS needs to get its priorities straight and start conducting safety, mechanical and cleanliness inspections. I trust the free market to come up with a rational region-wide cab system if that’s what the market demands (preserving MTS’ current dominance is no solution at all), and only it can ensure that the cabs meet minimal standards.

MTS also needs to audit drivers and fine those who lack basic geographic knowledge, lack basic English skills, or insist on punishing “short fares” from the airport with rude comments or refused service.

Bureaucrats will hide behind the complaint system — telling us they will follow up on any complaints lodged against a driver. But that is no system at all. Most visitors and businesspeople are far too busy to write down a driver’s name and tag number, and have no idea where to file a complaint.

The article reports that “MTS is in talks with SANDAG to comprehensively evaluate San Diego’s taxicab industry.” Really? One government entity is talking to another about whether to study the problem? Can anyone guess how long this chat will last and how much money the ensuing studies will cost? How about if they talk about disbanding MTS, turning this over to the Board of Supervisors (it desperately needs something to do), and we can hold our elected officials accountable for this travesty instead?

Where is the voice of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau? The City Council? The Chamber of Commerce? This crisis is real and our civic leaders need to act soon.

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