Partiers’ ‘peak’ needs may be met 

Allowing more taxis on the streets only during the busiest times could be the solution to those long waits for a cab, especially on weekends.

The Taxicab Commissionis holding a hearing today to discuss the concept of "peak-time" permits to drive a cab only when the cabs are in the highest demand, such as Friday and Saturday nights.

Allowing more cabs to serve The City is always a controversial subject because cabdrivers worry that more cabs means less business, especially during the slow times when cabs can ride around for hours without catching a fare. The idea of a peak-time permit, or medallion, could deflate the argument that more cabs would result in an over-saturation of the marketplace.

The way it might work, advocates say, is that the commission would issue a peak-time permit that would allow a driver to drive a cab only during specified times, such as Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings with long shifts on Fridays and Saturdays.

In March, the commission voted to add 50 more cabs to the streets, following a report that found city taxi service to be slow and unreliable, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Prior to March, the last time The City had boosted the number of taxis was in 2001, bringing the number of cabs in circulation to 1,381. In 1997, there were 821 cabs.

Commissioner Malcolm Heinicke, who is leading the discussion of peak-time medallions, said he is uncertain that peak-time permits are the answer, but he said there is a clear need for more cabs during the busiest times.

Jim Gillespie, a senior manager for Yellow Cab, said he did not think a peak-time medallion would be financially feasible for a driver and suggested that companies, rather than drivers, should be allowed to have peak-time permits so they can send out cabs to address the demand.

Thomas George-Williams, chairman of United Taxi Workers, a group representing a few hundred cab drivers, said adding more cabs is not the answer to fix a flawed system. He said The City needs to address congestion problems as well as pursue a so-called centralized dispatch system, so that the closest cab to a call, regardless of which company it’s with, can pick up the fare.

Heinicke said the commission will likely make a final decision on whether to issue peak-time medallions within months.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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