(July 18, 2014) After a previous attempted fix succeeded only in moving the problem elsewhere, the city’s Police Commission this week seemed to be leaning toward more drastic measures to address the volume of public parking being consumed by vacant cabs.
“Every time you try to fix it, you’re just going to move them somewhere else, unless you actually change the ordinance,” said Mayor Rick Meehan.
Last month, the commission discussed, and City Council ultimately approved, a request by business owners on the bay side of 64th Street to have half of the block designated as two-hour parking.
This would prevent unused cabs from occupying all the public parking on the block – where head-in street spaces and a central location make a prime location for taxi layovers. Both Dead Freddie’s Restaurant and the Rick’s Market shopping center lobbied that their customers were unable to use their fair share of the public parking given the volume of cabs.
However, the move appears to have only shifted the load elsewhere, and Meehan has already received a letter from residents on the ocean side of 65th Street noting a sudden proliferation of vacant taxis.
Additionally, the commission observed, the ocean side of 59th Street – which has head-in parking as well – has also been partially filled up with cabs formerly parked at 64th Street.
The long-term solution, City Solicitor Guy Ayres confirmed, would be to change the city’s taxi franchise ordinance to require that any medallion holder provide proof of having designated off-street parking – either in town or out – and to prohibit medallion vehicles from sitting for more than two hours on public streets.
When the suggestion has come up before, taxi owners have argued that they have just as much right to use public parking as anyone else. But Ayres noted that the city already requires private parking under the zoning code.
“We require all other businesses to provide parking based on their square footage,” Ayres said. “The taxis should be able to produce a deed, lease, or some type of agreement that shows they have parking as well.”
Meehan, however, seemed to think that this was not necessary.
“Not to try to move the problem out to the county, but if there’s a public place for them to park out there, what do we care?” he asked.
The stipulation that cabs cannot sit unattended for more than two hours on city streets is justifiable, Meehan said, by the very fact that taxis are already being given special dispensation by the city to solicit fares and do business on public rights-of-way.
“You have the right to make the agreement work for both the franchisee and the franchisor, which in this case is the citizens of the Town of Ocean City,” Meehan said.
The city began regulating the taxi industry in 2010, initially selling 170 medallions for $1,500 each. Additionally, the town gets a 25 percent cut of the sale price every time a medallion is sold between operators, with a $500 minimum fee. The current market price of medallions runs between $3,000 and $5,000.
One possible suggestion to the proposed new rule would be for cabbies parking on streets near their homes. This would likely waylay some accusations of a double standard, given that the city has no prohibition on any other type of commercial vehicle being parked on the street.