(Sept. 13, 2013) Although Ocean City officials still have interest in dispersing the concentration of taxi cabs that have amassed on 64th Street, City Solicitor Guy Ayres advised the Police Commission this week that the effort will likely never be clean-cut.
“So the big answer is that there is no simple answer,” said Mayor Rick Meehan.
“The practicality of this business is that they don’t have your typical office,” Ayres said. “So to meet a requirement for on-premise parking, they’re going to first have to have a premise. It’s going to be a costly venture that gets passed on to the customer.”
Last month, the commission had been approached by Dead Freddies restaurant owner Steve Carullo regarding the use of 64th Street as a de-facto staging area. 64th Street borders Carullo’s restaurant to the north and runs out alongside the bay inlet that Dead Freddies’ dining area overlooks.
While by no means an official location, drivers from multiple cab companies use the street as an exchange point for shifts. Drivers will park their personal vehicles on the street and get in a cab vacated by the driver from a previous shift, who then drives his own personal vehicle home.
Not only is 64th a central location in the resort, cabbies say, but it also has virtually no through-traffic and an abundance of perpendicular parking spaces.
However, Carullo previously described the situation as an “eyesore” that would’ve discouraged him from establishing his restaurant had he anticipated the proliferation of cabs.
“The direct response … is that it’s a public street,” Ayres said this week. “He [Carullo] has no claim on that parking.”
Meehan had previously suggested that the city’s cab ordinance be amended to require medallion-holding cabs to have designated parking in the same way that the city’s zoning code requires business establishments to have a certain amount of parking depending on the use of their facility. This would require cabbies to have a physical business location, however, which most do not.
“Real estate is expensive, whether they would be in town or out in the county,” Ayres said. “You’d be legislating them to secure property they wouldn’t otherwise need. In the end, what would you be doing other than putting them out of business?”
“We’re not looking to make that a requirement,” Meehan said in response to Ayres’ prediction. “I’m just asking if there’s any way to alleviate the number of cabs on the street.”
A legal argument for restricting where cabs can park when not in service would be difficult to establish, Ayres said, given that other unused commercial vehicles can park as they please.
“How can John the plumber’s truck be parking on the street not in service?” Ayres said. “You would leave yourself open to accusations of a double standard.”
However, Council President Lloyd Martin said he had spoken with a cab company that was willing to voluntarily move its vehicles if the city would be willing to sell them reserved spaces in the lot at the nearby Public Safety Building.
“They’re trying to help alleviate the problem by offering to pay for a spot,” Martin said. If the city was able to offer cabbies designated parking at a reasonable price, they would like to solve the problem without legislation, Martin said.
The city began regulating the taxi industry in 2010, initially selling 170 medallions, which grant the bearer the right to solicit as a for-hire vehicle within the Town of Ocean City, for $1,500 each. Additionally, the town gets a 25 percent cut of the sale price every time a medallion changes hands. Cabbies are free to openly trade their medallions, although the market price of a limited supply has naturally risen above the initial 2010 sale price.
Further, the city’s also has a set minimum transfer fee of $500, meaning that cabbies will essentially have to pay a higher tax rate if they sell their medallions for less than $2,000. The city has previously discussed increasing the minimum in order to raise the margin floor on transfers and raise the sale prices even higher.
Cabbies have subsequently contended that they are already paying for the right to operate a business on public thoroughfares and thus have a right to use parking spaces for commercial purposes.