Tougher city rules shut down 2 cab companies

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Vicksburg Police Lt. Walter Beamon, right, talks with J&B Cab Company driver William Holmes while driving around Tuesday to check the taxi’s meter for accuracy.(Chand Applebaum The Vicksburg Post)

[6/4/03]Tougher safety rules have put two of Vicksburg’s three cab companies out of businesses, at least for now.

Rocket Cab Company and Red Top Taxi Service lost their licenses to operate in the city after failing to show up for annual inspections Tuesday by the Vicksburg Police Department. The third company, J&B Cab Company, had seven vehicles that passed inspections.

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Chief Tommy Moffett said the two cab companies had not shown proof of insurance to the City Clerk’s Office before the inspection.

“If they are operating in the City of Vicksburg right now, they are in violation of the city ordinance,” Moffett said.

It was not clear if the two companies, which operate only one vehicle each, could get proof of insurance and then return to business or whether they will have to wait a year.

Vicksburg’s cab operators have been under the scrutiny of City Hall for about seven months after local residents and tourists began complaining about service. In December, city officials established a committee to take a closer look at cab companies and suggest regulations.

In addition to the tougher inspections, the Vicksburg Transportation Board set new rates that went into effect Sunday and require all cabs to use meters. The new metered rates are $1.50 for the first 1/8th mile and 15 cents for each additional 1/8th. Previously, fares were decided by a zone system.

Cab companies are also being asked to submit plans to make all their cabs the same color beginning in 2004.

“As a citizen and as the chief of police, I think there should be some level of professionalism,” said Moffett, who serves as a non-voting member of the transportation board. “It’s about accountability to the people.”

James Buie, who operates J&B Cab, said it cost a lot of money to bring his cabs up to the new standards, including higher insurance and meters and said he reduced his working fleet from 15 because of the new expenses.

“We’ll just see how it works out,” Buie said. “The city has got a lot of regulations on us now, and the other companies just couldn’t do it.”

Cab owners including Buie have said the new rates and meter system will hurt their businesses, which rely heavily on the elderly and poor. City-set rates were based on a 44-year-old ordinance that has been amended only once, in 1990.

Before this month, cab charges were based on 14 zones and not by actual miles traveled. Rates started at $2.05 and went up to $8.50 for local travel.

New rates will be higher for some trips and lower for others.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said the goal of the new rules is not to put cab companies out of business, but to provide safer and more reliable cars.

“I think that our board was excited to see the first real inspection of the cab companies in years,” Leyens said

“It was hard to understand how they passed inspection before,” he said.

Under franchise law, cities have power over those selling public services within their limits.