Monday, August 27, 2012

Council, airport management differ on solution to taxi cab issue

Portland Daily Sun Council, airport management differ on solution to taxi cab issue Written by Craig Lyons As the Portland Jetport seeks to limit the number of non-reserved taxis, it became apparent that the facility's management and members of the City Council have differing opinions on how to achieve that goal. The airport's management ideally wants to create a lottery or request for proposal system that would reduce the number of permits to 40, though members of the City Council's Transportation, Energy and Sustainability Committee would prefer a solution to the number of cabs that doesn't leave the current permit holders without a job. To cut down on the number of non-reserved taxi permits, the airport administration began looking at leaving the system as it stands, creating a medallion system, starting a lottery for the permits or instituting an request for proposals process. Creating a lottery or RFP process are the preferred method of the jet port administration. Whatever solution is determined to be the best way to reduce the number of cabs would take effect on Jan. 1. Airport Director Paul Bradbury said the jet port instituted a cap on the number of non-reserved taxi permits at 40. He said at the time there were 51 permits and they were grandfathered. The goal was that attrition would eventually get the number of permits down to the level of the cap, said Bradbury, but the number has only gone down to 49 in nearly five years. Councilor Kevin Donoghue asked about any issues the airport is seeing with power of attorney transfers with the taxi licenses. Bradbury said taxi permit holders can in essence transfer the permit to another owner by created a very limited in scope power of attorney. He said the power of attorney setups don't expire and has given value to the taxi permits that are now limited to 40. Bradbury said 19 of the 49 existing permits are setup through a power of attorney agreement. Donoghue said he's most interested in finding a way to further the goal of attrition rather than just cutting the number of cabs down. "Find a way to make attrition work," he said. Councilor Cheryl Leeman asked Bradbury how it's possible to get the number of companies down to 40 without displacing jobs. Bradbury said attrition was the initial method of choice when the number of permits was capped at 40. "Functionally, that hasn't happened," he said. Leeman said the perpetual debate has been about how to issue the permits in a way that's fair and equitable. She said it almost seems that a lottery or RFP might be the best system. Councilor David Marshall said a lot of people's livelihoods rely on their cab businesses so it's important to consider that as a decision is made on how to issue the permits. Marshall said he felt whatever solution is pursued should not start so quickly so it gives the affected cab drivers time to organize themselves and prepare their businesses for the change. The issue of how to allot the non-register taxi permits will be back before the committee in September.

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