City Council introduces taxi stand ordinance

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 | 8:33 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Downtown Columbia's late-night taxi stands should become permanent, city staff is recommending.

The Columbia City Council will introduce an ordinance Tuesday night that would ratify the taxi stands that have been established throughout downtown. The proposed ordinance stems from a pilot project started in May 2011 that was designed to reduce late-night congestion downtown, especially from Thursday nights to Sunday mornings.

Taxi stands and “no pick up/drop off zones” were established to decrease crowding and keep traffic moving as people leave downtown businesses at night.

The final five proposed taxi stands would run along portions of Ninth Street, Tenth Street and Broadway. The areas would be enforced from 9 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. Thursday nights through Sunday mornings. Any vehicle other than a taxi, limousine, bus or STRIPES van parked in that area would be ticketed.

The city also has designated six “no pick up/drop off zones” lining the busiest segments of Broadway, Ninth Street, Tenth Street and Cherry Street. Motorists would be prohibited from dropping off or picking up passengers in these areas during the enforcement hours.

Carrie Gartner, director of the Downtown Community Improvement District, thinks the measure has enhanced public safety downtown.

“There were a number of safety issues at night in the downtown district — people running into traffic and crowding around, not knowing where to find a cab,” Gartner said.

Terry Nickerson, owner of Taxi Terry’s cab company, was initially displeased with the plan. He credits the communication between the city, the police department and the cab companies for bettering the proposal.

“We’ve all worked together," Nickerson said. "It’s definitely decreased the ruckus in the middle of the street.”

Nickerson’s only gripe is that private vehicles have been parking in areas set aside for cabs, despite the risk of getting a ticket.

Laurie Huey, a dispatcher for Tiger Taxi, said some of the people who call her company for rides don't yet know where the taxi stands are.

Two suggestions from the Downtown Community Improvement District could help solve both those problems. The district has recommended the city install permanent signs alerting motorists where taxi stands and “no pick up/drop off zones” are. The district also asked the city to paint the curbs in a checkered black-and-yellow design to help potential customers determine taxi stand locations.

The ordinance is scheduled for a final vote by the council at its regular meeting on Feb. 6.

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