The Daily Press can sympathize with City Council members who had to make the difficult decision of awarding five franchises to taxi companies, abolishing Santa Monica’s open-market system that created an overabundance of cabs that clogged Downtown streets, increasing our community’s carbon footprint. By excluding a dozen or so other companies and their drivers, the council most certainly put some out of business, with drivers worried about how they will make ends meet come January.
We feel for those who might lose their jobs, but we hope they can catch on with another company, particularly those that were awarded franchises since these drivers know the city well and have some loyal customers. Those awarded franchises for at least 50 cabs, with the option of going to 60, will most likely need to hire more drivers. We hope these companies look locally.
There are those who feel the franchise system is another example of City Hall being too intrusive and cumbersome when it comes to doing business here. While we are not in favor of government interference, we do believe there are times when capitalism must be controlled to protect public safety/health. This is one of those cases. At one time there were more than 500 cabs in a city with roughly 90,000 residents. That’s just too much competition. Drivers have a hard time getting fares and in turn making a decent living to support their families. The impact on traffic and the environment is real and needed to be addressed.
We have to applaud the wisdom, even if it was a little self-serving, of Mayor Bobby Shriver for insisting that cab companies be allowed to still offer special discounts (Shriver said he routinely uses discount coupons when traveling to LAX). This offers cab companies a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors while giving consumers more options the next time they decide to take a cab to the airport. Some drivers said they receive larger tips when their customer gets a discount. Banning these special deals would have been a bad move, another example of City Hall being a hindrance to businesses.