In last Wednesday's PS&RS committee, I voted in favor of an ordinance change to gradually take away the artificial cap on the number of taxi licenses granted in Minneapolis.
Here is my main reason for doing so: I believe that gradually lifting the cap on taxi licenses in Minneapolis will be good for taxi drivers (present and future), customers and the city at large, in the long term.
I also believe that this will make the taxi industry similar to other industries, in terms of City regulation. We put all sorts of restrictions and regulations on bars, restaurants, coffee shops, rental housing, etc. What we don't do in any other industry is regulate the number of people who can participate. I think this is a question of basic economic fairness and justice: if I want to start a coffee shop, it doesn't matter how many other coffee shops already exist. If I want to drive a cab, I have to convince someone else (a competitor) to sell me a license for $20,000.
I understand that many of the current license holders are concerned about losing income and the investment of more than $20,000 that the artificial cap has forced them to make. I am sensitive to those concerns, and I will be watching to see if they are borne out over the next few years. I will work to explore what support the City can provide to current drivers to ease this transition.
I supported Council President Johnson’s proposal to create a task force on taxi policy. I believe that such a group should include policymakers, City staff, people currently working in the Minneapolis taxi industry and also people not currently working in the Minneapolis taxi industry.
During the committee I highlighted three things in particular that I thought the task force should focus on:
- Ending the prohibition on Minneapolis Licensed cabs from also being licensed in the suburbs.
- Exploring how to mitigate the hardship that phasing out the cap will place on current holders of licenses, and
- Examining further the recommendations of the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities regarding wheelchair accessible cab service.
I also believe that increasing the level and quality of taxi service in Minneapolis is one step towards crafting the multimodal transportation system ecological wisdom require and our recenbtly passed Sustainability Indicators call for. With the reforms we will put new incentives for both more accessible and more fuel efficient vehicle. I think it's important to note one move the committee took yesterday in particular: ALL new cab licenses must go to fuel efficient vehicles and existing companies must increase their percentage of fuel efficient vehicles by 10% every year until 2016, when 100% must be fuel efficient. This is a big deal. Now we still have a little more work to do on this. We need to make sure that we define "fuel efficient" in the right way.
I am facing some legitimate criticism on this vote, some of it within the Green Party. I want to be clear that I believe Green principles demand that this cap be lifted. It is the socially and economically just thing to do. It is the only way to begin to economically decentralize the taxi industry in Minneapolis - allowing more people more economic power and choice.