COLUMBIA — The city is poised to experiment with turning downtown parking spaces into late-night taxi stands.
Representatives of cab companies and members of the Special Business District agreed in late January to a testing period for the proposed taxi stands. An ordinance for the changes will have to gain approval from the Columbia City Council*.
Providing designated spaces for taxis was proposed by the Special Business District to increase public safety downtown. Special Business District Director Carrie Gartner said she hopes creating taxi stands will help address crowding that occurs outside bars on weekend nights.
“The crowding often leads to fights and people running out into the streets,” Gartner said.
There’s also an issue of taxis double-parking, which also contributes to people running into the streets to get their rides, Gartner said.
The taxi stand proposal would designate no-pickup zones on parts of Broadway and Tenth, Cherry and Ninth streets that both police and cab companies agreed were congested.
In addition to the zones, there would be areas where parking meters would be bagged to reserve the spaces for taxis to wait for customers or respond to calls.
Both the no-pickup zones and designated parking spaces would be in effect from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Angie Nickerson, an owner of Taxi Terry’s, said she was willing to try the stands but was unsure how effective they would be.
“We feel like for the purpose that they’re putting them in, they’re not going to work,” she said.
The issue, as Nickerson sees it, is not just people waiting for taxis, but also people waiting for their friends to leave a bar.
“The thing is they’re not going to move everybody; they might move 20 (percent) or 30 percent,” Nickerson said.
Rick Lacy, owner of Rick’s Taxi, doesn't like the idea of taxi stands but acknowledged there was a consensus among taxi owners to test the idea. He doesn't think customers at bars will want to walk to the taxi stands and that it will have a negative impact on his business.
“The only thing we can do is give it a try,” Lacy said.
Nickerson doesn’t see a solution to late-night congestion downtown.
“I think there are a lot of better things that the City Council could be spending their time on because it’s not going to solve the problem.”