Public hearing to be held on local taxi issue

Ossiander seeks changes to transportation code


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A Yellow Cab taxi travels down Muldoon Road in Anchorage on Monday, June 25. A public hearing will be held on Monday, Oct. 15 to address the issue of taxi service in Chugiak-Eagle River.

MIKE NESPER

Got an issue with taxi service in Chugiak-Eagle River? Then speak up.

The Anchorage Transportation Commission is taking public testimony on taxi service in the Chugiak-Eagle River area during its monthly meeting Monday, Oct. 15 at Eagle River Town Center. The meeting is slated to run from 7:30 p.m. until 10.

The Commission voted to hold a public hearing at its June 25 meeting after an Anchorage woman requested permission to operate a cab in Chugiak-Eagle River for three months to collect data to see if the community can support its own taxi service.

Megan Patrick, president of dispatch company AK-eCab, LLC, started offering free transportation to local residents about four months ago to generate data in support of her request. The community was receptive to her presence, and Patrick said she made nearly 50 trips in just one night.

Patrick, who drove a taxi for Yellow Cab for seven years, said Eagle River has suffered from insufficient service for years.

She’s not the only one who thinks so.

Chugiak assemblywoman Debbie Ossiander said she’s received complaints about the community’s lackluster taxi service for two decades. Ossiander is currently working on revising Title 11, the Municipality’s transportation code.

“I’ve just gotten so frustrated with this taxi situation,” she said.

While her ordinance will seek to change “a gazillion things,” Ossiander said her main goal is to make obtaining taxicab permits easier.

“Generally, it’s to bring more competition into the market, which I think will solve a lot of problems,” she said.

Currently, there are 173 permitted taxis operating in the Municipality, according to Transportation Inspector Eric Musser.

Ossiander’s ordinance is in draft form, and she’s currently making changes after receiving feedback from the Muni’s attorney. Ossiander said she’s aiming to introduce her ordinance to the Assembly by the end of the month.

Coupled with the cancellation of two People Mover bus routes in Chugiak-Eagle River two years ago, the lack of taxi service makes it difficult for local seniors, people with disabilities and low-income residents to get around, Ossiander said.

“All those folks need options,” she said. “And I don’t think we have enough options right now.”

In June, Patrick also had backing from Transportation Commission board member Bernadette Bradley, who supported Patrick’s request.

Musser said he requested four months of data from the Municipality’s two dispatch companies — Alaska Yellow Cab and Checker Cab — to study the issue.

He has the raw data, but it’s doubtful the numbers will be compiled for the meeting, Musser said Friday, Oct. 5.

“We’re a month or so away from data compilation,” he said.

Musser said it’s been several years since taxi data has been analyzed for Chugiak-Eagle River.

During the June 25 meeting, Patrick’s opponents argued her evidence was anecdotal. Board member Bill Evans agreed, then made a motion for a public hearing.

Transportation Commission chair Andrew Tierney said it was the first time in his three years on the board he’s heard of the problem. Tierney said he was open to exploring the issue further.

Chugiak-Eagle River residents aren’t those only ones upset with the taxi situation.

Ossiander said she’s heard complaints from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Cook Inlet Tribal Council and the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association.

Musser said he has invited representatives from JBER to attend the hearing to get as much input as possible.

While Ossiander is working to address the concerns of all parties, the Transportation Commission needs to know that Chugiak-Eagle River’s demand for taxis is not being met, she said.

“This public hearing is important,” Ossiander said.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com.

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