COLONIE — For the third time, the Town Board opted to table legislation that would have dictated how taxi cabs are regulated.
Town Board member Jennifer Whalen is the most vocal critic of the local law that would allow Colonie to join five other municipalities under the umbrella of regulations overseen by the Capital District Transportation Authority.
“I don’t want to impose any additional burden on small business,” she said. “I am not against public safety or clean cabs but I am not dealing the final death blow to cab companies in Colonie.”
She said they are already reeling with Uber and Lyft opening up shop in upstate, and if the state wanted to make taxi cabs a better alternative they should have done it prior to the new ride sharing options.
“It really is too little too late,” she said. “And when you do consider the free market, cab companies will go out of business on their own if they don’t keep themselves clean.”
The regulations, passed by the state Legislature in 2016, would govern how clean a cab must be, the safety features of the vehicle, the ability of the driver to speak English, how cabs are inspected and who can get a license.
It would also require cabs to install a meter system of charging for a ride rather than a zoned system. In other words, it would be based on time with allowances for traffic and other obstacles rather than the more arbitrary distance methodology which opens itself to abuse.
Albany, Troy and Saratoga have passed the local law while Schenectady, Colonie and Rensselaer are still considering it. The new regulations can still go forward, but it would help streamline things if all six got on board. For example, if Colonie refused there is little to stop cab companies from opening in Colonie and still doing business in Albany and Troy.
The idea was first presented by the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau and CDTA, logically, was recruited to enforce the regulations.
“We understand this is a big change and local municipalities have questions,” said CDTA spokeswoman Jaime Watson. “What we want to do is make taxi services a much more attractive and convenient alternative for people in the Capital Region.”
Another concern Whalen has is the potential cost to Colonie, which is not spelled out in the legislation and is unknown at this time. Much of the cost depends on cab companies, and if the town would have to hold – and pay for – hearings to settle disputes if a cab company is not in compliance.
Unclean and unsafe cabs, she said, really aren’t that big of an issue in Colonie so the new regulations really aren’t warranted on a practical level.
Saisal Shehzad, a representative of Colonie-based Northway Taxi said he is not necessarily against the new regulations but it would cost his company unnecessary money – about $3,000 a year.
He also thinks the cab companies were being treated unfairly.
“If they make new rules for cab companies why isn’t it extended to Uber. They say we are different but we are not. The only difference is people call us and we dispatch a cab and people call Uber on a smart phone. They are driving cars transporting people and we are driving cars transporting people.”