Saturday, July 28, 2012

Taxi Licensing Commission still dysfunctional and unconcerned

by Daniel Horwitz

The Metro Taxi Licensing Commission met Thursday and here are a few interesting things that occurred that the Commissioners could not have appeared to care less about:

Cab Companies Continued to whine about competition

Notwithstanding the existing cab companies' repeated assurances that no new cab companies are necessary because they are already providing exceptional customer service to the people of Nashville, the RPM taxi report very explicitly and quite scathingly concluded that "[n]o company was exempt from poor service— there were multiple instances of poor service on rides from all of the companies" (p. 3-24).  Additionally, given that RPM's secret shoppers also concluded that "United Cab’s arrival time also appeared to be longer than the other taxi companies," that "United Cab drivers were more often found to be either refusing credit cards or very reluctant to accept them," and that United Cab's atrocious customer service was the "most egregious of all" because its drivers "would appear to be routinely overcharging their unsuspecting customers" (p. 3-24), today's comments from the United Cab executive who cried that the closed industry was being unfairly crucified by the media were particularly entertaining.  

Cab company owners can continue to whine about the extreme unfairness of having some potential competition in Nashville's taxi industry, but for years now they've enjoyed all the profit without doing any of the work.  As I've previously noted in great detail, the only people who do any work or take any risks at all are the drivers themselves.  

Cab company owners continue to lie about their "fleets"

There is really no other way to say this, but when cab company owners like Taxi USA's Michael Solomon and Checker Cab's Mulugeta Abebe make grand promises about their "fleets" of taxis, they are lying.  These owners don't actually own any cabs.  They merely own the permits that give people the lawful ability to drive cabs, and they sublease these permits to actual cab drivers for between $150 and $205 per week (p. 1-4).  In sum, the five current "cab companies" in Nashville (which, it should be noted, actually describe themselves as "franchising companies") are outrageously profitable but completely unnecessary middle men who provide absolutely no goods or services whatsoever to the community.  

If we're going to be dealing with facts, there are 585 total permitted cabs in Nashville, and the RPM transportation consultants clearly stated that "virtually all of the regular taxicabs are owned by the taxi drivers" (p. 3-1)-- leaving very little room left for any of the current cab company owners' aforementioned "fleets."  Perhaps notably, the study also found that Taxi USA-- Nashville's biggest cab company by far with 205 taxi permits (p. 3-1)-- has only "one company-owned sedan" (p. 3-3).  

MTLC continues to defer new cab permits

The Volunteer Taxi drivers first submitted their permit application in November 2011.  At the November 2011 hearing, the TLC deferred its decision on their application to December 2011.  At the December 2011 hearing, the TLC then placed two future conditions on the granting of Volunteer Taxi's permits, and deferred a final decision until June 2012.  At the June 2012 hearing, the TLC then deferred its decision until today, July 26th.  Today, after wasting hundreds of people's time for about three hours, the TLC again decided to defer a final decision until August, citing their own failure to provide adequate public notice for today's hearing.  

I'm generally very supportive of public servants who volunteer their time for the good of the community, and I don't want to allege bad faith without any specific basis for believing that there's something illicit going on behind the scenes, but this is beyond ridiculous.  Either do the job, or step aside and let someone else do it.  

Daniel Horwitz is a third year law student at Vanderbilt University Law School, where he is the Vice President of Law Students for Social Justice.  He can be contacted at

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