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Cab drivers protest parking laws

Joseph McMahon | Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Several South Bend taxi companies have complained Notre Dame Security/Police (NDSP) officers have begun chasing them away from Notre Dame’s main circle this semester, hurting their business and affecting their ability to transport students.

A driver from American Cab Co. who repeatedly returned to the Main Circle area was even issued a no trespass notice last week and told by NDSP officers he would be arrested and taken to jail if he came back again.

And while the taxi companies recognize there have been “no parking” signs in place for several years, many cab drivers say that it was not until this semester that security started threatening them.

“Our drivers want to be able to sit at Main Circle because that is where so many students gather,” said Mark Elliot, a driver from American Cab Co. “If we can’t wait there, then we will not be able to service the student population of Notre Dame.”

NDSP Director Phil Johnson, however, said the University has always been clear in its policies and taxi companies should not be surprised to see them enforced accordingly.

“There have always been ‘no parking’ signs there, so really nothing significant has changed as far as we are concerned,” Johnson said. “I have talked to a lot of people over the years who have received parking tickets for being at Main Circle, so the law has always been enforced. Furthermore, when you repeatedly don’t comply with the laws, you are going to be issued a ‘no trespass’ notice.”

Nonetheless, Elliot was not the only cab driver who said the enforcement of these laws is new this year. Walter Jones, owner of ABC Cabs, said this is the first year his company has dealt with resistance from NDSP – a development that has already caused his business additional expenses.

“We need to go there for business sometimes. With this new set-up, our drivers have to keep going back and forth,” Jones said. “It’s really hurting the drivers because it’s costing them a lot of gas money.”

And because Notre Dame doesn’t have an official cabstand, Elliot said, the University should allow Main Circle to be the spot where taxi drivers can wait to pick up passengers and where students can have quick access to cabs.

“Either start a line where a couple of cabs can wait in Main Circle and the rest can sit back at Notre Dame Ave., or find a place where cabs can go to wait for students,” he said.

But allowing taxi drivers to continue to use Main Circle as an unofficial cab central is out of the question, Johnson said.

“The physical landscape of the campus prevents us from putting in a cabstand there. And Main Circle needs to be used for other things,” he said. “There is a lot of traffic, including buses, that is constantly flowing in and out of there, and to put a cab stand there would back everything up.”

The consequences of the cabs’ additional gas consumption in the event they have to make repeated trips to and from Main Circle, however, might eventually rest in the students’ wallets.

“Because gas is so high right now, we might have to raise fares for students if we are forced to be constantly driving around,” Elliot said. “We are simply trying to provide a service to students, and right now NDSP is hindering our ability to do so.”