Free the Taxicabs!
A new controversy regarding the ownership of Allen Cab Co. has jogged my memories about one of the most unnecessarily, overly regulated industries in St. Louis – taxi cabs. Part of the reason the regulation is unnecesary is that St. Louisans use cabs less than any other city in Western civilization. Despite the burdensome regulations of the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, it is genuinely an improvement over the regulatory situation just a few years ago when both the City and County had their own similar but separate regulations and cabs had to be licensed in one or the other and could not pick up fares in both. At least now, most cabs can pick up someone in Clayton and take them downtown and then get another fare from downtown back out to the County.
The Airport has been the hotbed of taxi controversies in our area. Back in the 90’s, the airport cab regulation was so stringent that no new drivers had an opportunity to work there. It was closed system that worked great if you had the goldmine, aka a license. Not surprisingly, a new company sued and won. After that, around 2000, anyone was allowed to become an airport cab, altough that just allows you to work from the airport to hotels, etc., and not the reverse, insane as that sounds. Soon enough, there were so many new drivers at the airport that the older ones began coming to County Council meetings and demanding new regulations. I would have preferred time and the free market be allowed to sort it out, but soon enough the State created this unified commission and the County and City went with that.
I don’t mean to say that cabs should have no regulations. I understand having cabs inspected and making sure cabbies have valid driver’s licenses. I am less sure about dress codes and I can’t believe the rules still forbid airport cabs from picking up people downtown and taking them to the airport after they have just dropped somone off at the same hotel. I wish the drivers with Allen Cab all the best. I would feel more confident in their future if they had the free market to count on and not some regulatory commission.