County Council Sets Public Hearings to Address Taxicab Regulations
Three bills to address taxicab regulations were introduced before the Montgomery County Council on Oct. 28. Public hearings on all three bills are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 2. at the County Council Building in Rockville.
According to a press release, the bills seek to adjust current taxicab regulations, help regulate new companies that use phone apps and Internet to locate taxi users, and seek to address a new approach to Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and Lyft.
These companies are not regulated in Montgomery County.
“As technology has shaped innovation in transportation, as a County we must innovate, too,” said Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner.
Beth Levie, union representative at American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, still has concerns about these bills.
“It doesn’t do a good job addressing the concerns of the drivers. … Most of them live in Montgomery County. … It doesn’t address how do we get them out of poverty,” Levie said.
Levie is working with members of the Montgomery County Professionals Drivers Union and added that union representatives, drivers, and supporters will attend the Dec.2 hearing.
“None of these bills addresses economic condition,” Levie said.
Bill 53-14 is sponsored by Montgomery County Councilmembers Nancy Floreen, Roger Berliner, Nancy Navarro, Hans Riemer and Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice. The bill seeks to address issues faced by the taxicab industry in adapting to a market now populated by Transportation Network Companies, as well as regulated taxicab companies.
The bill would adjust some of the requirements for obtaining a temporary driver identification card in an effort to shorten the time required to get qualified taxicab drivers on the road. Current law requires that a license must be issued only to the owner of each taxicab.
According to a press release, bill 53-14 would also change the age limitations on vehicles by one year, to no more than five model years when placed in service, and no more than eight model years when in service.
Requirements for vehicle numbering, markings, colors and cruising lights would be “relaxed” under the bill to permit taxicab service in vehicles to look less like “traditional” taxicabs.
This bill would also allow cab drivers to have a software-based metering system as an alternative to the currently required taximeters.
Bill 54-14 is sponsored by Berliner, Floreen, and Navarro. This bill requires a transportation network application companies such as Uber and Lyft and their drivers to obtain a license to operate in the county, and meet registration requirements.
“Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are making terrific use of new technology and are gaining popularity. While we certainly want to encourage innovation, we also have a responsibility to ensure a sufficient level of safety and security for customers,” Floreen said.
Bill 55-14, sponsored by Riemer, requires the Montgomery County Department of Transportation to implement a centralized electronic taxicab dispatch system and may require certain taxicab operators to participate in the system.
“I support legalizing Uber and similar services. The big question is what is the future for taxi services? Taxis are a valuable part of the transportation network, but the business model that is currently in place is probably not viable. My bill would require taxi companies to use digital dispatch—the kind of app used by companies such as Uber,” Riemer said.