SCHENECTADY — The city would join other Capital Region communities in having a unified set of regulations for the taxi cab industry under a proposal being reviewed by the City Council.
Council members generally spoke favorably about the ordinance proposed by the Capital District Transportation Authority during a committee meeting Monday, but decided to hold a public hearing on Jan. 8 before deciding whether to adopt the rules, though CDTA officials had hoped for a decision before Jan. 1.
"That's not enough time to make this decision," Councilman Vincent Riggi said.
While council President Leesa Perazzo said she has reviewed and commented on drafts, Monday's presentation was the full council's first look at the proposed ordinance. Perazzo said she believed more study is needed before a vote takes place.
The taxi regulations drafted by CDTA have already been adopted by the cities of Saratoga Springs and Troy, but still await action in the cities of Schenectady, Albany and Rensselaer, as well as the town of Colonie. All those communities have varying local taxi regulations, and the goal of CDTA's effort is to have all of them adopt a single set of standards for passenger fares, cab cleanliness, insurance coverage and other variables.
The state Legislature authorized CDTA to oversee the Capital Region's cabs in 2016, following years of customer complaints about various issues regarding cab service. CDTA has since put information on all the region's cab services on its website, and drafted regulations.
"Some [cabs] reflected well on the region, and some were an embarrassment," said Schenectady Mayor Gary R. McCarthy, who supports the proposed regulations.
Much of the proposed ordinance is based on Schenectady's current cab regulations, since cabs in the city are required to be metered. They aren't in some other local communities.
"It's about customer safety and satisfaction," Councilman Ed Kosiur said. "We have Rivers Casino now, and a lot of times that [cab ride] is a customer's first experience of the city."
The draft ordinance has been in development for nearly a year, as CDTA has met with cab companies, elected officials and other stakeholders, said Jonathan Scherzer, CDTA's director of marketing, who made a presentation to the council committee.
Scherzer said CDTA will be able to take over administration of taxi medallions and regulations and handling of complaints, relieving a burden now borne by the Schenectady Police Department. While the city could pay an administration charge, McCarthy said he expects the city won't pay up front, but will let CDTA have fees paid by the cab companies that currently go to the city.
Schenectady currently has 17 licensed cab companies. Once all six communities that now regulate cabs have adopted the new ordinance, Scherzer said he expects there will be a roughly one year transition period before the cab companies are fully under CDTA's regulatory authority.
The move to standardize and improve cab service comes as ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have also begun operating in upstate New York, creating more competition for cab services.