Pierce County delays plan for one-stop taxi license

Cab drivers object to cost of meeting Tacoma’s higher permit standards

Staff writerNovember 27, 2013 

Taxi Ride to McCarver

Michael Shackelford, left, and his brother Raymario Shackelford catch a taxi in front of their Tacoma home on Thursday, March 13, 2003. (Bruce Kellman/The News Tribune)

BRUCE KELLMAN — THE NEWS TRIBUNE Buy Photo

After drivers objected, the Pierce County Council put the brakes on a plan Tuesday to turn over the business of licensing taxicabs and their drivers to the city of Tacoma.

The council put off the proposal until Dec. 10.

Cab driver Ashton Haldane, of Fort Lewis Taxi, said he would have to buy a new cab to comply with Tacoma’s standards.

“That is outside my budget for the moment,” Haldane said.

Tacoma’s regulations require that taxis be no more than 9 years old. Haldane drives a 2003 Chevrolet Impala.

Council members agreed they want to add a one-year grace period for taxicab operators to comply with the added standards. They voted to delay a final decision so the proposed grace period can be worked out with Tacoma.

Under the measure, taxicabs and their drivers would be required to have only one license — from the city — to pick up passengers in the city and county. Now, they must have separate licenses with the city and the county.

County and city officials say the change to a dual license would streamline licensing and improve safety because Tacoma’s regulations are more stringent than the county’s.

Tacoma requires taxis to have digital security cameras. The county doesn’t.

Victoria Fair, owner of Fair Fares Taxi, said a camera costs up to $750, including installation.

“That’s a big chunk of change for a cab driver,” she said.

Sergio Anastasio, general manager of Fort Lewis Taxi and Ace Taxi, said the dual license would discourage drivers from picking up passengers in the unincorporated county. He said cab drivers would have no incentive to drive out to Spanaway and beyond when they can pick up passengers at the Tacoma Dome.

Of 296 taxi drivers in Pierce County, 217 are licensed only with the county. Another 79 are licensed with both the city and the county.

Given the number paying for both city and county licenses, county Auditor Julie Anderson said, “It’s counter-intuitive to me that licensed cab drivers would stop serving people in unincorporated Pierce County.”

Anderson said she proposed the changes for taxicabs and their drivers because the county’s standards “seemed woefully inadequate.” After evaluating Tacoma’s system, Anderson decided the most efficient step would be consolidating with the city.

Some jurisdictions require business licenses for taxi companies operating in their communities, but to Anderson’s knowledge, no other cities in Pierce County require cab or taxi driver licenses.

The county would lose about $24,000 in annual revenue, slightly more than it’s spending to license taxicabs and drivers, according to Anderson.

The county charges $30 for an annual taxi driver’s license and $120 to license the cab itself. The city charges $50 for an annual taxi driver’s license and $175 for a cab license.

Danielle Larson, tax and license manager for Tacoma, said added revenue from the dual license would cover the city’s costs of administering its license program.

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 steve.maynard@ thenewstribune.com @TNTstevemaynard

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