A potential set of rules governing regional taxi cab service being developed by the Capital District Transportation Authority is ready for communities to consider, CDTA Chief Executive Officer Carm Basile said in a report on Wednesday.
“We are beginning to schedule meetings with the elected leaders in the six cities/towns that we will seek adoption from,” Basile wrote in his monthly report to the CDTA board at a meeting in Albany.
CDTA has been working on the taxi rules for several months, after the state Legislature last year gave it the authority to oversee the taxi industry in the region.
“This will take a few months to complete, but it will provide the framework for improvements that we are considering, like a common code of conduct, a universal medallion system, a regional fare structure with mobile payment opportunities, and easy to use information components about local taxi services,” Basile said.
The taxi ordinance is being developed at the same time as recent state legislation authorized ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate throughout upstate New York, including in the Capital Region. They are expected to begin regional operations by mid-summer, with an unknown impact on taxis. The industry, in general, opposed the expansion of ride-sharing services into upstate.
With the support of local legislators, the state Legislature authorized the CDTA to develop a regional taxi oversight system, subject to its adoption by the cities and towns — including Schenectady and Saratoga Springs.
The region’s taxi services have been the topic of numerous complaints over the years, about costs and conditions and the fragmented nature of how they are regulated — or not regulated, in most of the region. Basile said the proposed ordinance was drafted with input from many stakeholders, including the cab companies.
“Taxi oversight will improve service not only for our residents but for visitors to the region,” said CDTA board Chairman David Stackrow.
The taxi ordinance is being drafted at the same time that CDTA is developing a bike-sharing program that is due to start operating in late July or early August, with about 160 bicycles. The authority last week was awarded a $2 million state grant that will ensure the program will be able to expand to 300 bicycles in 2018, as officials had hoped when planning the program, which will launch multiple bike stations in the region’s four major cities and beyond.
“Thanks for the faith,” Basile told the board. “We were very confident we would get this grant, but we weren’t sure.”
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Stackrow, who was elected to a one-year term as chairman on Wednesday, said both the taxi and bike-sharing efforts are in keeping with CDTA’s efforts to be innovative.
“Our vision is to be more than a bus company,” he said. “We want to be a community resource, a valued partner and a component of the engine that drives economic prosperity.”
In addition to developing new transportation plans, Stackrow noted that CDTA will be launching a new payment system this year that will allow customers to pay bus fares using their phone or other mobile applications.
The authority carried a near-record 16.9 million riders in the fiscal year that ended March 31. The number would have been closer to last year’s 17.1 million record if not for the March 14 snowstorm, which Basile said cost the system roughly 55,000 riders over a two-day period.
In addition to re-electing Stackrow, the board re-elected Georgeanna Nugent of Saratoga County as vice chairman; Joseph Sapirana of Rensselaer County as secretary, and Arthur Young of Albany County as treasurer.