In San Diego’s ever changing political landscape, reform of the taxi industry is now inevitable. The taxi industry is an integral part of our public transportation network, and its health and viability have an immediate impact on tourism, commerce, and entertainment, which industries of great significance to San Diego’s economy.

It is of utmost importance that an engaged citizenship participate in the process to ensure that the taxi industry maintains a high standard of service, as well as develop into a healthy sector attractive to small business people and entrepreneurs without devaluing the assets of current stakeholders.

In February 2011, Sam Hassan Daly, a driver for Emerald Cab taxi service jumped the curb in front of the Stingaree nightclub downtown, plowing into a crowd. More than 30 people were injured. Daly said he had been working long shifts before the incident. Charges were dropped against Daly; no fault was found beyond the district attorney’s office’s statement that, “This was just an unfortunate accident.”

However, the Stingaree accident surfaced many of the stark realities of the taxi industry that many would like not to acknowledge. Taxi lease rates often mean that drivers who do not own their own cab must work these long hours simply to make up the cost of the lease. Long shifts create hazardous circumstances on the roads, and the standards at which taxi cabs are maintained leave much to be desired. An insular culture of fear among drivers leave many with no other option than to operate a vehicle leased to them that is in many ways unsafe.

MTS had been sub-contracted by the city to regulate the industry for many years, and this summer the contract is expiring. The city has requested an extension of the current contract of up to one year in order to transfer the responsibilities to the city, rather than have MTS continue to regulate it. There will also be a forum for public input during the transition.

Safe Cab San Diego is a coalition seeking the support of individuals, small businesses and stakeholders who wish to encourage the taxi industry’s development into a safe and profitable sector for business. Safe Cab San Diego is seeking to unite the voices of positive reform of the industry in order to encourage best business practices, as well as protect the investments that businesses, stakeholders and individuals have.

Andrew Rae is a Safe Cab San Diego coalition partner.

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