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South Bend updates taxi ordinances

By ABI HOVERMAN | Thursday, September 5, 2013

 

The City of South Bend has worked to better regulate local taxi companies and improve the municipal code, assistant city attorney Ann Carol Nash said.

 “What we’re really trying to do is help taxi drivers know that they’ll do better business-wise if they become more customer oriented. … I’m hoping the requirements of the ordinance will help them along,” Nash said. “It will be good for taxi business and better for the city as a whole.” 

In an effort to improve safety, the City now must inspect taxi vehicles once a year and the South Bend Airport must do the same once a year. 

“We make sure the car is in very good condition,” Nash said. “We always did inspect [the cars], but we standardized our criteria with the criteria of the airport, so there is no confusion.”

Following a suggestion made by former Notre Dame student body president Grant Schmidt, all cab drivers the City licenses must display a placard inside their vehicles that shows the driver’s name, the company, the cab number, a city map and the company’s rates. The drivers must also post the phone number of the City’s Central Office in case an issue arises, Nash said. “One of the biggest complaints we have gotten is people feel they were overcharged,” Nash said. “You should be able to look at this card and know what it is you’re going to be charged.” 

Nash said other major changes include requirements for taxi companies to have more vehicles and drivers, increasing from two to six of each. At least two taxis must be available at all times, she said. “We need someone available all of the time. … We don’t want anybody stranded,” Nash said. “We require them to have something available.”  

Nash said in order to be more customer-friendly, improve business and encourage safety, taxis must equip themselves to accept credit and debit cards. “It’s been a long time since we had a taxi driver hurt,” Nash said. “They’re already vulnerable – they have to drive anywhere in the city anytime they’re called. We certainly don’t want them hurt. If they’re taking debit cards instead of cash, they’re better off.” 

Due to public health and safety risks, the City forbids smoking in vehicles, Nash said. She said passengers who smell tobacco smoke in their taxi should immediately report it to the City number posted in their cab.

“Nobody should be smoking in the cab,” Nash said. “We’re dead serious about that. That’s not allowed. … There’s absolutely no excuse for that.” 

Nash emphasized to students the importance of only using City-licensed taxis because these are the only safety-inspected vehicles. She said the City also screens licensed drivers for unsafe driving records and administers drug tests to them.

“We have some security measures in place when we do our licensing of our drivers,” Nash said. “If you get into a taxi that isn’t licensed, you have no idea if that person has a criminal history, how they drive or even if they have a license at all. You can’t just rely on the fact that they call themselves a cab driver. We encourage people only to use City-licensed vehicles.”

Nash said before getting into a taxi, students should look for special taxicab license plates and should verify that the outside of the vehicle displays the company name and rates. She said if the taxi does not display the required placard and license, students should not use the vehicle and should report a description of it to the City or to the police. 

Nash said these changes will ensure students and other customers have positive and safe experiences in taxis. She applauded Notre Dame students for relying on taxis, especially while intoxicated, and she said this usage has made drinking and driving a non-issue in her eyes. 

“Don’t be afraid to get in cabs,” Nash said. .The drivers are very safe, and are very excited to serve the students. … for the most part you’re going to get great service and safe driving. These are the people who are doing it right. The people who are doing it wrong are giving others a bad name.” 

Contact Abi Hoverman at hoverman.1@nd.edu