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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Libertarian Councilmen Push Mountain View Taxi Deregulation

From an Oct. 13 article by Daniel DeBolt in the Mountain View Voice:
The City Council has decided to open the city to competition among taxi cab companies, ending the lock held by the two cab companies — Yellow Cab Company of the Peninsula and Checker Cab of Silicon Valley — who until now had sole permission to operate in Mountain View. Under the previous system, Yellow and Checker were allowed to operate 34 cabs at any one time in Mountain View. With the new rules, approved unanimously Tuesday night, any cab company is free to operate as many cabs as it wants within city limits as long as...

its cars and drivers meet safety requirements and the company pays permit fees.
Taxi cab companies wishing to operate in Mountain View must now buy a minimum of five car registrations, or "medallions," which some council members said would restrict the market to companies that were more serious and committed to the city.  "We've been trying to get into Mountain View for 20 years now; we've always been locked out," said one cab company owner. He said wanted his drivers to at least be able to pick up fares on their way out of Mountain View after dropping someone off, which they currently can't do.
Instead of paying a sworn police officer to inspect almost 100 cabs, the city will now take a statement under penalty of perjury that cabs are insured and in good working order.
Video of the City Council meeting is here. Libertarian councilman John Inks said: "It looks like, one way or the other, we're still going to have a taxi service system that is based on price controls. I personally feel that we could actually have a very very strong market-based system to give you the best product in terms of safety, price, and service."

Councilman Tom Means is a fellow at the libertarian Independent Institute think tank in Oakland. He seemed at ease with a certain amount of price controls: "This isn't complete deregulation because we're still going to be choosing the price controls. It is good to know when you land at an airport, here are the prices, they're posted, and so you don't have to sit there and search and say I'm going to wait until the cheapest taxi comes by. They all charge the same fee, and that's what a lot of airports have set as their policy."  (Means didn't say whether he thought cheeseburgers and cups of coffee should all cost the same at every airport vendor.)

Means pointed out that Mountain View doesn't regulated in-city pickups by limousines, car services, or airport vans -- only taxis. He disagreed with the rule requiring a minimum of five medallions: "I'm not sure we should have a price and quantity czar setting these things, and I think people will sort this out. Should we decide how many coffee shops are in Mountain View? Should we decide how many car repair shops are in Mountain View?"

1 comment:

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