COLUMBIA — A proposal to create taxi stands in downtown Columbia is intended to address public safety problems, but some owners of cab companies that would be affected think it's a bad idea.
A report on the proposal is on the agenda for the Columbia City Council's meeting Monday night.
The streets identified as problem areas include:
- Broadway from Seventh Street to Short Street
- South Tenth Street from Broadway to Locust Street
- Cherry Street from Ninth Street to Tenth Street
- Ninth Street from Walnut Street to University Avenue
The proposed taxi stands would be located at the following areas in each "no drop off/pick up" zone:
- North Tenth Street between Broadway and Walnut Street, east side
- Cherry Street between Hitt Street and Tenth Street, south side
- Locust Street between Ninth Street and Tenth Street, north side
- South Ninth Street between Elm Street and Starbucks, west side
The proposed restrictions would be in effect from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day, and signage would clarify each taxi stand zone.
The main concern revolves around crowds outside bars and restaurants. Representatives of taxi companies, the Columbia Police Department and the Special Business District met to discuss the matter in November.
The public safety worry is that pedestrians are crowding sidewalks, running into busy streets, fighting over cabs and causing traffic problems, according to the report released on Nov. 17 by Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Special Business District.
To eliminate the problem, the District wants to restrict taxi drivers from loitering outside bars and restaurants and instead place "taxi stands" along designated streets downtown. Here's the plan:
- Create "no drop off/pick up" zones in highly trafficked areas from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., except at designated taxi stands. That means taxis cannot loiter in prohibited areas.
- Create taxi stands nearby and direct customers to them. Parking meters would be bagged in these areas, and no regular parking would be allowed.
- Allow customers to choose any cab they want at the stands rather than requiring them to take the first taxi in line.
Gartner wrote in her report that the plan seemed to meet with everyone's approval at the November meeting.
"All participants agreed that this would increase safety, improve the customer experience, ease the burden on bar owners and allow the police to address more serious issues," she wrote.
Cab services present at the meeting were Taxi Terry's, Rick's Taxi, STRIPES, Economy Cab, Tiger Taxi and A-1 Taxi.
Two owners of cab companies, however, said Friday that they don't support taxi stands.
Terry Nickerson, owner of Taxi Terry's, said they wouldn't be effective.
"I don't think it's going to serve a purpose," Nickerson said. "Putting taxi stands up won't stop kids from running out in the street."
Rick Lacy, owner of Rick's Taxi, said he doubts any cab company in the city thinks this is a good idea.
"That is the worst thing this city can do," Lacy said. "Nobody in this cold weather will want to stand at a taxi stand."
"If you shovel 200 people to a taxi stand, you've got 200 people fighting over a taxi," Lacy said.
Lacy said a better solution would be for the city to designate parking spots in front of downtown bars and restaurants from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. specifically for taxis, rather than restricting them to four specific locations. That would allow taxi cabs to pick up patrons quickly and not block traffic.
Lacy said he believes the council will favor taxi stands anyway.
The council meets at 7 p.m. Monday in its chambers at city hall. City staff workers are suggesting the council ask for an "interested parties" meeting and an ordinance establishing taxi stands.