The Pierce County Council has decided to turn over the business of licensing taxicabs and their drivers to the city of Tacoma.
County and city officials say the change to a dual license will streamline licensing and improve safety because Tacoma’s regulations are more stringent than the county’s. For instance, Tacoma requires that taxis be no more than 9 years old.
But in response to objections of taxicab operators, the county supported adding a one-year grace period for those older cabs. The agreement with Tacoma was revised so that drivers can continue operating them until the end of next year before having to acquire a newer cab.
Tacoma’s license system also requires taxis to have digital security cameras. The county doesn’t.
The council unanimously approved the switch Tuesday as part of a package of code revisions.
Starting next month, taxicabs and their drivers will 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 both levels of government.
Some cab operators Tuesday supported the changes. Others objected to some of the costs and standards.
Victoria Fair, owner of Fair Fares Taxi, said the age of a car doesn’t determine how well the vehicle has been maintained. She recommended allowing well-maintained, older taxis to remain in use with more frequent mechanical inspections.
Council member Rick Talbert suggested the city of Tacoma explore next year incorporating the quality and condition of a vehicle as a standard, instead of a set age.
Danielle Larson, tax and license manager for Tacoma, said the age limit was patterned after taxi codes in other cities. But she said Tacoma could explore using other factors besides age.
The county will lose about $24,000 in an annual revenue due to the change, slightly more than it’s spending to license taxicabs and drivers, according to county Auditor Julie Anderson.
Of 296 taxi drivers in Pierce County, 217 are licensed only with the county. Another 79 are licensed with both the city and county.
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.
Larson has said the added revenue from the dual license will cover the city’s costs of administering its license program.
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 email@example.com @TNTstevemaynard