J&B paints cab fleet to comply with rules

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 6, 2004

J&B taxicab drivers from left L.T. Moran, Charles Holmes, his nephew, William Holmes, and in the back, Thomas Chiplin, stand beside their cabs Friday which are already the standard color white that will be used on all J&B cabs.(Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[1/3/04]Vicksburg’s only remaining taxi company has painted all its cabs white with red lettering to comply with city ordinances that went into effect this week.

New rules require that all cab companies have uniform colors and markings for vehicles.

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J&B Cab Company owner James Buie said that his cabs were painted before the Jan. 1 deadline. The new rule requiring uniform colors were part of changes last year that included installing meters in all taxis.

Buie, who has been vocally opposed to those changes, said his company has weathered the new rules despite the costs to his business.

“My business is so-so,” Buie said. “It’s just something we’ve got to deal with until we get a new administration.”

Although he has not liked the new rules, Buie’s company has been the only one of three to survive the changes. Red Top Taxi Cab Company, a one-man operation, shut down after the city required higher insurance coverage on cabs, and officials with the City Clerk’s Office said that Rocket Cab Company was shut down last month for the second time because of the insurance requirements.

Buie said his business has picked up since the other companies shut down, but the new requirements have cost him.

He said meters for each of his seven cabs cost $300 and painting the cabs can cost up to $1,000 each. Higher insurance rates have also increased expenses, Buie said.

Before changes went into effect in July, taxi companies operated under a 44-year-old ordinance amended only once, in 1990, to reflect a rate increase. Companies also charge by zones, not by miles traveled, and do not have meters.

City officials who complained about the appearance and safety of cabs established a three-member panel a year ago to establish new rates and other changes.

Buie, who operated the largest taxi company in the city before the changes, had a fleet of about 15 cabs before July. Today he has seven, but he said he has plans to add three.

He called the changes, initiated by the current administration, “mostly political” and said that because there is no other public transportation locally, higher expenses have mostly affected the poor and elderly.

A Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce committee has been looking into the possibility of getting state or federal funding to start a countywide bus system, but those plans are not likely to be initiated for at least two years, officials have said.

Under franchise law, cities have power over those selling public services within their limits including public transportation. Specifically, the city sets rates, safety requirements and other rules.