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ND, South Bend to begin taxi reforms

Tori Roeck | Thursday, August 25, 2011

Early morning cab rides back from Club Fever will soon be safer for students thanks to reforms to South Bend taxi services planned by Notre Dame’s student government and the South Bend Common Council.

The changes are intended to reduce the number of unlicensed cabs operating in South Bend, improve taxi safety for passengers and prevent drivers from price-gouging customers, the most common offense, South Bend assistant city attorney Ann-Carol Nash said.

“Specific reforms addressing these concerns include prohibiting smoking in all vehicles, requiring a receipt for each passenger, publicizing standards for passing inspection, raising the fine for operating an unlicensed cab and requiring placards inside taxis that list the driver’s name, the fares and a phone number for complaints,” Nash said.

The reforms will begin taking effect in October.

“The predictability and structure for charges is a very big [reform] because that is often the source of complaints or confusion,” Nash said. “We want to help prevent surprises.”

Student body president Patrick McCormick said safety issues are the biggest reason for the reforms.

“Taxis provide an essential service for many students who lack transportation for otherwise getting to and from various places, whether meeting up with friends, going to parties or getting to and from the airport,” he said. “The safety of students is the main focus of why we would be engaged in something like taxi reform.”

Nash said she has seen students cramming into cabs at late hours and riding in unlicensed vehicles with drivers that have not received criminal and background checks or drug testing.

 

“I was very concerned for [students’] safety when they go from house party to house party or from one bar to another or back and forth to campus,” she said.

McCormick said Notre Dame students are often charged an unfair rate.

“The reforms hopefully will go a long way to address many of the concerns that students have raised about being taken advantage of by taxi drivers in terms of not knowing the area,” he said.

He also said the reforms will help students make sure the cabs they enter are certified.

Other reforms include prohibiting smoking in all vehicles, requiring a receipt for each passenger, publicizing standards for passing inspection, raising the fine for operating an unlicensed cab and requiring placards inside taxis that list the driver’s name, fares and a phone number for complaints, Nash said.

After a meeting Monday night with the South Bend Common Council and representatives from Notre Dame student government, some of the proposed reforms were abandoned, including requiring cameras in all taxis by 2013 and requiring that every vehicle used by a particular company display a uniform color and design.

“We’re still going to have to have some kind of identifying information on the vehicle,” Nash said.

The proposed reforms are the product of years of work, McCormick said, and student government and the South Bend Common Council are still open to hearing students’ concerns.

“They’re still undergoing an implementation phase,” he said. “Many reforms will take effect in 2013. Because of that, there is an opportunity to continue to provide input.”