CITY HALL — Responding to calls for more transparency in its taxi cab overhaul plan, City Hall officials this week released new information about how they determined which cab companies should be allowed to operate in Santa Monica under a proposal the City Council will consider later this year.
The push to shift Santa Monica’s open-entry cab system to a franchise-based system where only approved operators would be allowed into the market has long been the subject of controversy among taxi companies.
But tensions increased last month after City Hall staff released its list of the five companies out of 13 applicants recommended to receive franchises. Cab drivers staged a protest in front of City Hall and several companies faulted officials for failing to explain why certain operators were left off the recommended list.
The stakes were high, taxi companies said, because the franchise proposal could mean 39 of the 44 companies currently licensed to operate cabs in Santa Monica would be forced out of the market. The total number of cabs in the city also would be reduced to 250 from 463.
Don Patterson, who headed the committee that selected the recommended companies, defended City Hall’s evaluation process as fair.
This week, officials released the ranked list that showed applicants’ cumulative scores in 10 categories including financial viability, experience and quality of proposed business plan, each of which received 20 percent weight in the evaluation.
Fleet composition received 15 percent weight, and Santa Monica-based companies were given an 8 percent edge. Other evaluation categories included: level of discount offered to seniors and the disabled, quality of dispatch system and owner’s character.
In order of ranking, the five cab companies recommended to receive a franchise are: Metro Cab Co., Yellow Cab, Independent Cab Co., Bell Cab and Taxi Taxi.
The other eight companies were also listed in order of ranking in a report released Wednesday by City Hall.
It’s unusual to release such a detailed account of how city staff evaluated applicants who responded to a request for proposals, Patterson said.
But “due to the nature, size and complexity of this franchise award, additional information may be helpful for the council and community,” he said.
The City Council is expected to decide in September whether to award the franchises to the recommended companies.
Patterson said City Hall does not expect to change its recommendations before then.
“We stand by the recommendations,” he said. “We went through a very long, detailed process in evaluating the RFP responses.”
By Thursday, he said there had not been an outcry from cab operators decrying City Hall’s rankings.