The Marathon City Council seems ready to vote on a new taxi law. Although there are state laws governing passenger vehicles for hire, and a required county occupational license, licensing of taxis usually falls to municipalities. According to City Council member Ginger Snead, who initiated the proposed regulations, there are concerns that some cabs are operating in the city without commercial insurance and properly licensed drivers.
“I think that knowing who is driving the taxi is important for the safety of our residents as well as our tourists,” said Snead.
The city proposes that each taxi business apply for a $300 annual license and pay $100 to renew that every six months. In addition, there will also be a $25 fee to license each driver of the cab company and verify his or her license and a $5 fee to swap out vehicles in a fleet. Those fees are in addition to what a cab company pays for commercial insurance and the rent on a business location.
“I know I’m legitimate,” said Patti Haws of Key Hopper Taxi, adding that commercial insurance costs about $3,000 to $5,000 per vehicle. “But Marathon does not have a medallion system, and there are people out there that just slap a magnet on a vehicle and don’t have proper insurance or valid licenses to be cab drivers.”
Steve Targonsky of the Bob Narley taxi company said it’s an unnecessary extra level of regulation.
“I already have all that,” he said, “it’s just going to cost me more money to operate my business. It would result in an increase in fares.“
In addition to the fees, the City of Marathon will require a properly zoned business address for each cab company. This is likely to affect one-car, independently owned taxi drivers that operate the business out of their home. The city will also require taxi company owners to submit proof of insurance that lists the vehicles and drivers. Initially, the city thought to require that once a year but then changed it to every six months.
Haws of Key Hopper said that may still not be often enough.
“Any taxi company could get insurance and give it to the city. But if they stop making payments they would be uninsured and nobody would know,” she said.
In Marathon, traffic laws are enforced by the Florida Highway Patrol and Monroe County Sheriff Office patrol officers. In the case of taxi medallions, however, city code enforcement officials would be the most proactive, according to City Manager Roger Hernstadt.
“We hope that we will have compliance. And we hope that other enforcement agencies assist us in upholding the law of Marathon,” he said. “But our code officers would sort of be the first people to enforce the code as necessary.”
Snead said she thinks the proposed rules are fair.
“I worked hard with the taxi company owners, city staff and the city attorney to ensure it wasn’t too much regulation, but enough,” she said. “We are trying to hit a happy medium. I think we’ve done that, at least for now.”