City Council Recommends a Formal Response to Taxicab Association Complaints

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After months of trying to call attention to grievances that have plagued their operations, Berkeley taxi cab drivers are finally seeing their complaints addressed, as the Berkeley City Council passed a recommendation Tuesday night for the city to formally respond to the complaints.

The Berkeley Taxicab Association - an organization comprising 93 of the city's 120 permitted taxi owners and drivers - submitted a letter to the city manager Oct. 4 outlining suggestions to improve taxi cab business in the city, such as reducing the number of annual vehicle inspections, placing a limit on the number of company cabs that can wait at a particular stand and creating additional taxi stands. The letter also asked the city manager to enforce the permitting process for taxi cabs, citing a problem of taxi cabs operating within the city without the proper permit.

At the meeting, the council requested that the city manager draft a preliminary response to the letter by April 26, according to Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

Said Ali, chair of the association, said he was pleased with the recommendation and that it was "good news that they are working on it."

Currently, cabs undergo two inspections a year to maintain a vehicle permit - one at the City Corporation Yard and another at a different location in Downtown Berkeley, according to Worthington. Ali said the requirement is unnecessary, adding that cabs could easily be inspected once a year.

Though Worthington said he agrees with the majority of the cab drivers' demands, he does not think that restricting the number of cabs from each company that can wait at a taxi stand is reasonable. He added that the more pressing issue is the inadequate number of stands in the city.

"The current situation with the drivers is also hurting the public because of their lack of access to locations in places like the Amtrak (station) and the UC campus," he said. "There are lots of people who want taxi stands, and if there is not one, they have to call and wait half an hour. It's about customer service."

Another major concern is the significant number of outside cabs that operate within the city. The council suggested the Berkeley Police Department collaborate with the city to create a police training bulletin to enforce the law that prohibits drivers from picking up passengers in the city without a proper permit.

"Since this was just recently discussed as a council item regarding taxi operators, as is customary, the city of Berkeley Police Department requires time to review any council items, recommendations, make a determination if there is a need to create policy and/or if training is required," Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said in an email.

Karinina Cruz covers business. Contact her at [email protected]

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