Number of taxi licenses in San Diego to increase

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taxi1It should become easier to get a cab in San Diego soon, and the cost of that cab ride may go down. The changes come from Monday’s decision by the San Diego City Council to remove any limit on how many taxi permits are allowed in the city. Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who argued that the changes should be done in incremental steps, rather than all once, cast the only vote against the measure, which passed by a vote of 8 to 1.

In addition to removing the caps on taxi permits, the newly-passed rules also:

  • require cabs to be newer than 10 years old,
  • lowers the driving experience time to 6 months from 5 years, and
  • forbids using cars that have been salvaged as taxicabs

According to the taxi union, the United Taxi Workers of San Diego, less than 10% of those with taxi permits drive cabs, most of the rest own more than one vehicle, leasing them to drivers without owner’s permits. Prior to this vote, the upper number of permits issued was formulated  by calculating how many trips per cab would be necessary given the current estimated demand for rides. The cap stood at 993 before the regulation change.taxi2

Marti Emerald, the councilwoman who spearheaded the move to drop the cap, related to the Council that permits cost $3,000 from the Metropolitan Transit Authority of San Diego, but because of the artificially-maintained short supply, were sold on the black market for almost 50 times that amount.

Based on information from the MTS, the cost of a new taxi, equipped with a meter, credit card reader and a radio is approximately $60,000. Many drivers cannot come up with this amount of money, and therefore drive cabs owned by companies which have obtained permits.

taxi3New kinds of competitors have recently come onto the scene, such as Lyft and Uber, and they have not been required to have taxi permits, or the same kind of insurance. This will change soon, as a new state law due to be put into practice in mid-2015 will subject ride-sharing services to be regulated by the Public Utilities Commission.


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