Daily Press Staff Writer
Santa Monica will soon authorize only one taxi company to pick up passengers on the street and wait at taxi stands.
City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to update municipal code to comply with recent changes to state law that prevent local governments from regulating taxi companies that do not operate out of or make the majority of their trips within their jurisdiction. The only taxi company that makes most of its trips and is headquartered in Santa Monica is Taxi! Taxi!, and under the new law, it will be the only taxi company allowed to pick up street hail passengers and wait at the city’s 75 official taxi stands.
The City currently has a franchise agreement with three other taxi companies, which provide 40 percent of its taxi trips. By January, Bell Cab, Yellow Cab, and Independent Taxi Owners’ Association will only be permitted to pick up passengers who have arranged trips by phone or online. The City will lose about $79,860 after the three companies stop paying franchise fees.
“We’re talking about policy that would give a company or companies substantially located in Santa Monica a hometown advantage, not a monopoly, because other companies could still take calls (from passengers),” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown. “That makes sense to me, particularly in an era when being a cab driver is harder and harder.”
Council also voted to set a maximum fare rate and allow taxi companies to adjust rates based on demand in order to compete with ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber. Taxi! Taxi! plans to maintain its current rates, but may adjust them in the future, according to a staff report.
Taxi trips fell by 80 percent and revenue declined by 64 percent between 2013 and 2017, according to the report. There were as many as 94 taxis operating in Santa Monica last year, although the four currently franchised taxi companies submitted applications to operate 137.
Neil Evans, an attorney for Independent Taxi Owners’ Association, said the company may create a subsidiary that will operate exclusively in Santa Monica to qualify as “substantially located.”
Daniel Klein of Bell Cab said he thinks the City should allow non-franchise taxis to wait at taxi stands when franchise companies are not using them, a request that City staff recommended the council reject because of the significant administrative requirements it would create.
City staff recommended council return on Nov. 13 to propose extending Taxi! Taxi!’s franchise for another five years with changes that comply with the new state law.
Council will meet on Tuesday, Nov. 13 in City Hall, 1685 Main Street. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m. and open session begins no earlier than 6:30 p.m.