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Local cab companies examine student usage

Sarah Mervosh | Monday, February 8, 2010

On any given weekend, a cab driver will experience at least one student bolting from the cab without paying, president of Blue Ribbon Taxi Kerry Clear said.

“I doesn’t seem too much different than ever,” he said. “When people are drunk they pretty much do the same things that they’re going to do.”

Student body president Grant Schmidt said the key to preventing students from bolting is to increase communication between the students and the drivers.

Schmidt said before getting into a cab, students are responsible for asking how much the fair will be and for asking if the driver has change. In turn, the driver should work on being up front about how much the ride will cost and having small bills, he said.

“We just need to make sure that there’s a system in place with the cab companies where it’s understood how much they’re going to pay,” he said. “I do give the student the benefit of the doubt and believe that if that’s happening there is some confusion about how much they needed to pay or they didn’t have correct change.”

Clear said he noticed students asking how much the cab will cost before getting in.

“I think that the students actually have been pretty well working on that,” he said. “[They’ll say,] ‘are you a $2 cab and are you a $3 cab?’ And sometimes they choose to wait for a $2 cab,” Clear said.

Both Schmidt and Clear said bolting from a cab without paying is illegal.

“Running from the cab without paying, it is a crime,” Clear said. “It falls under the theft category.”

Schmidt said his administration worked to improve student relations with taxi companies.

The Transpo initiative was in part meant to help reduce issues about paying for safe transportation, he said.

Schmidt also said he would like to see taxis put a placard in their car that contains basic information.

“You would put [it] on the back of a seat. It would have the number of the cab company, an identification number for the cab and the phone number to call if you have a complaint,” Schmidt said. “It would also have a standard fare.”

Clear said Schmidt’s idea may become a reality in the near future.

“The city of South Bend right now is in the process of rewriting the city ordinance and one of the items in the city ordinance is to require such a placard to be in the back of the cabs,” Clear said.

He said something students could do to improve relations with cab drivers is to accept the fair once they choose to get in the cab.

“I suppose the one thing that maybe would help when they do choose to take, say a $3 cab, instead of a $2 cab, maybe they could refrain from complaining about it the whole ride,” he said. “They chose to get in the cab.”

Vomiting in the cab is another issue cab drivers deal with, Clear said.

“That’s probably the most common. There are always the pukers. That’s not fun,” he said. “It’s something that happens, but it would be nice if you feel like you’re going to puke, you would say something so that the cab driver can pull over.”

There is a $50 clean up fee for vomiting in Blue Ribbon Taxi cabs, Clear said. If a student asks the driver to pull over and vomit outside, he or she will not be charged, Clear said. 

Schmidt emphasized the importance of both students and cab drivers taking the responsibility to be up front before students get in the cab.

“Students aren’t just going to sprint out of there if we know how much we’re going to pay ahead of time, know that [the driver] has change and we know they are going to take us to our destination,” he said. “There really shouldn’t be any problem paying.”

Despite problems they have encountered in the past, Clear said drivers appreciate student business.

“I know cab drivers as a whole appreciate Notre Dame because Notre Dame is a good percentage of our business, especially on the weekends,” he said. “We definitely appreciate your business and we appreciate being able to give you guys a safe ride to and from campus.”