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City Council, March 10

Council edges closer to comprehensive transportation ordinance
Major contract awarded for Spring/Fishburne drainage
Marc Knapp

A new ordinance to replace those relating to taxis and limousines, and to cover Network Transportation Companies (NTCs), is shortly to come before Council. The Transportation Committee has been working on the ordinance for some weeks and the Committee Chair, Council member Moody last night indicated it’s near completion. He also gave to Council an “executive summary”. It is summarized below. The most controversial part of the new ordinance is probably the new taxi cab rates.

  • We decided to draft a new ordinance with the following priorities: 1. Public safety, 2. Consistency, 3. Current, appropriate, necessary, 4. Pricing /rates.
  • Under Public safety, drivers must be vetted with checks on criminal background, driving record, heath. All drivers must have insurance, either personal or through their employer. All must be covered by a business license.
  • Under Consistency, all groups would be treated the same where appropriate (inspect all or none, when to inspect, who does the inspection). Back ground checks would be for 5 years versus 10
  • Under Current, appropriate, necessary, some articles were deleted, particularly those relating to cleaning, disinfecting, and use of vehicles for sleeping
  • Pricing/rates :Limos – leave pricing structure as is. NTCs- Unregulated and set by market conditions. Taxis - Increase maximum rate for the Peninsula to $7 from $5. Increase maximum rate “off- Peninsula” to $5 from $4, for first two miles, and increase each 1/5 mile rate to $0.50 from $0.35. During night hours (9pm to 3am), allow the maximum rate to rise to 100% of the daily rate.

Council member Moody said that the Committee had also drawn on the Minneapolis MN ordinance for assistance in shaping articles relating to NTCs

There were few questions from Council members, and those that were asked related to the suggested new pricing. Both Council members Lewis and Gregorie voiced concern. The proposed night hour prices would be very onerous for many working on the Peninsula, in particular those working in low paying jobs in the service industry, they said. We would note that the cost of a ride to a point outside the Peninsula would be particularly costly with a rate of $5 a mile, double that of the daytime rate. However, part of the purpose of the new ordinance is to level the playing field for local cabs and limousines with Uber and Lyft. We think it achieves this purpose

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Council member Gregorie was particularly pleased with two items on the Ways and Means agendas. Both related to work on the Spring/Fishburne drainage and transportation improvements in his district. The first item was a $25.5 million contract for work on Phase 2 of the project, and related to surface improvements to US highway 17, and the sinking of 8 drainage shafts. These shafts will be connected to a tunnel that will be driven in the next stage of the project, to connect to the Ashley River. The work under the contracts should be completed within 2 years. The second item was a $2.6 million engineering and inspection services contract relating the Phase 2 project. Financing for the projects came from Federal Funds and a TIF.

As well as expressing pleasure with the two contracts, Council member Gregorie reminded the Committee that there were a number of other areas on the Peninsula that were subject to flooding and needed attention. Council member Riegel added that there were also areas outside the Peninsula too. Discussion ended with a flurry of praise for the work of staff, and the admission that the lack of funding was the principle reason why more was not being done.

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