Citizens need to speak up on taxi issue
Congratulations on Mike Nesper’s article (Oct. 4, “Public meeting to be held on local taxi issue”) addressing the second-rate taxi service being afforded the Chugiak-Eagle River community. I agree wholeheartedly with Assemblywoman Debbie Ossiander’s assessment of the need for the Municipality to issue taxicab permits and create a more competitive business environment. She has had a great deal of support in the industry and the means to make it happen. Unlike Eagle River Cab of the 1980s, which had to rent an office and operate its own 24-hour dispatch, the new computerized dispatch being utilized by both Yellow and Checker cabs can transmit to well over a thousand cars and multiple phone lines. Yellow and Checker are not really cab companies. They do not own any cars or hire drivers and have little to do with the quality of service. In reality, all it would take to start an Eagle River Cab is for Yellow Cab to add a phone line and for the Muni to auction off five to 10 permits specifically for the new company. Yellow Cab will be responsible for advertising and adding direct lines to local businesses, while individual owner/operators would bid on the new permits and pay Yellow Cab for its services.
The immediate impact would be much improved taxi service for the community, opportunities for drivers to purchase a taxi permit and needed revenue for the Municipality. It’s a win-win proposition for all involved. The problem is going to be the Anchorage Taxicab Permit Owners Association (ATPOA).
ATPOA was formed approximately 15 years ago to protect the interest of the taxi cab permit owners. Its main objective is to maintain the ever-increasing value of their permits and when they feel their value may be threatened they mount an aggressive campaign to preserve the status quo. Up until this time, 159 permits were transferrable, meaning they were basically private property and coule be leased out or sold to anyone for an agreed upon price. The changes made to Title 11 of the Municipal Code, with ATPOA’s input, prohibited the Municipality from issuing future transferrable permits, limiting the industry to only non-transferrable and limited use permits.
Since then, ATPOA has been busy concealing criticism, lobbying the Transportation Commission and literally using the Transportation Inspector as their agent. The majority of ATPOA members either have never driven a cab or long since retired. Since implementing the changes to Title 11 in 1996, the value of a taxi permit has risen from approximately $28,000 to $150,000. The few non-transferrable permits auctioned by the Municipality went upwards of $80,000. If nothing else, this shows a dire need for more permits and a strong desire to own one. ATPOA, through their attorney, will do everything in their power to prevent the issuance of any kind of permits and if the Municipality does approve the creation of an Eagle River cab company, they will fight tooth and nail to make sure there is enough red tape and restrictions to cause the company to fail. To make certain this doesn’t happen, the citizens of Eagle River/Chugiak will have to get motivated and become vocal and stay involved in the process.
— Dave O’Malley