Despite the increase in cabs, the number of complaints has not increased. In 2006, 125 complaints were filed. In 2013, it was 120.
“The number of complaints issued … are pretty minimal when you consider the number of taxicab rides that happen in the city,” said Cap O’Rourke, a lobbyist working on behalf of the taxi industry.
Wilson said the city takes the complaints seriously and investigates each one. If his inspectors find that the complaint is valid, the city sends a violation letter to the driver. A second offense brings a $200 fine. Any other violations bring additional, costlier fines.
One man who complained to the city, David Dominguez, said he was practically kidnapped by a taxi driver who did not want to accept his credit card.
“We called 911 and told him to let us out,” he said. “When he stopped at a red light, we ran out.”
Dominguez filed a complaint with the city. Wilson said the city was unable to take action against the driver because Dominguez couldn’t identify the taxi company or cab number.
‘OK, then call the police’
As the swarm of bar patrons descended on downtown streets in Minneapolis a week ago Friday night, so did taxis.
Two Star Tribune reporters tried to hail a cab around 2 a.m. to 19th and Stevens from Hennepin Avenue. It took one reporter eight tries to find one near 7th and Hennepin.
One cabdriver pulled over and asked where the reporter was going. The driver said someone was already paying him $40 to go to Burnsville.
“Are you giving me $40?” the driver asked. Another driver refused to take a credit card for payment. When told city law required him to take it, the driver responded: “OK, then call the police. I’ve got to go.”
In less than an hour, the reporters, who were taking a 1.5-mile trip, were turned down 17 times by taxi drivers.
Down the block, on 6th and Hennepin, a reporter observed two young black women and a man trying to hail a cab. Kaylena Greenwell said her group had been trying to catch a cab for over an hour.
“I’m not trying to pull the race card, but it seems like taxicabs don’t want to stop for the black people,” she said.
Minutes later, a driver let them into his van but demanded they pay him $20 up front before taking them to 1800 S. Washington, a 2-mile ride.
Eventually, the Star Tribune reporter tried to hail a cab for the women. Four cabs stopped. One cabdriver said he was picking someone else up. Two other drivers, including a Skybird driver, said they could take the reporter, but when the women and their male friend approached, they drove off.
Bari Niaz, president of Checker Cab, a sister company of Skybird, said it’s against company policy to refuse a ride to anybody. He said he cannot speak for why the driver refused to give the women a ride but said drivers sometimes don’t feel safe.
“It’s a very risky business and a lot of things can happen,” Niaz said.