Every weekend, and most week nights, cab drivers queue up near State Street, waiting to pick up fares from students who spent the night partying.
But after June 1, this may no longer be a common sight.
New legislation passed by Broome County officials in March will prohibit taxi drivers from picking up customers on the street unless they have received a phone call or there is an official taxi stand in place.
‘If you’re on State Street and there is a big fight, I cannot pick you up. It’s dangerous,’ Nas Huseyin, owner of Express Taxi, said. ‘I can’t go to Wal-Mart to pick up customers. They [county officials] make up a bunch of stupid rules; they don’t make sense.’
The legislation also states that drivers will need to finish one route before picking up another person who wants to go to a different destination. All routes will have to be documented.
When the legislation goes into effect, cab companies throughout Broome County will have one set of laws to follow, according to Darcy Fauci, deputy county executive.
‘There were no regulations in the town of Vestal where the University is located,’ Fauci said. ‘We felt it made more sense to have regulations county-wide so there were no discrepancies.’
The legislation includes new costs for license applications, renewals and replacements. Registration for non-hybrid vehicles will have a separate annual cost.
‘It’s tough for them [taxicab drivers] to come up with that amount of money especially in the middle of summer,’ Bob Pornbeck, owner of Courtesy Cab, said. ‘I’ve got a lot of cab drivers that are quitting in June.’
Fauci said the money collected would go back into the business to manage the oversight of the industry.
According to Fauci, the legislation was enacted to ensure people are serious about their business.
‘We want to see a business that is well-operated and well-managed,’ Fauci said. ‘Frankly, it appears that the registration fees are actually quite low. We don’t think it’s out of line.’
Even with these fee increases, the price of a cab ride will remain at the discretion of the company or driver.
However, to prevent over-charging, drivers will be required to post their prices on the vehicle so the passengers know upfront.
‘They can still charge each passenger individually even though we discourage that,’ County Executive Barbara Fiala said. ‘If we get a lot of complaints about it, we will use it against them.’
According to Fauci, the legislation came as a result of a series of complaints from elderly county residents and BU students.
Hotel and motel workers also complained about calling for a cab that never showed up and if it did, the driver and car would be dirty, Fauci said.
Therefore, a dress code mandating the driver to be ‘neat and clean’ by wearing a shirt or blouse with a collar, slacks or skirts and closed-toed shoes, was added to the legislation.
‘We’re not asking for spick-and-span uniforms, just some level of appearance for the drivers,’ Fauci said. ‘The [cab drivers] are kind of a first impression to people in our community.’
According to Jami Goodman, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law, a nicer and more presentable appearance would provide a greater sense of comfort when getting into a cab.
‘A lot of them look really sketchy and I’m a little skeeved out by them,’ Goodman said.
To increase credibility within the industry, background checks and drug tests have been mandated. The regulations will be enforced by the Broome County Security office.
Both Fiala and Fauci said the point of the legislation is to make riding in vehicles better for students and the community.
‘We want to be sure [students] are getting what they pay for, being picked up and delivered to their destination in a quality vehicle that is safe and with a driver who is safe and courteous,’ Fauci said.