Updated at 12:40 p.m.
Minneapolis is poised to make major changes to the city's taxicab ordinances under a proposal that will be considered in conjunction with Lyft and UberX regulations next week.
The revisions (below), sponsored by council member Abdi Warsame, eliminate a litany of regulations that city officials have layered into the taxi code over many decades. Cab companies would no longer be required to have wheelchair-accessible vehicles, for example, nor would they have to maintain a physical dispatch office.
Taken together, the changes aim to make the city's taxicab ordinance look more like regulations being debated for app-based companies like Lyft and UberX, which have been operating illegally in the city.
Warsame said some of the most significant changes for the industry allow them to use older vehicles, park downtown and park the vehicles near their homes in residential areas.
"They're not allowed to park ont he meters downtown," Warsame said. "So they can't even put money in the meters and then go get coffee."
“[The proposal] takes a lot of the complaints that they had and it basically has parity with regards to what Uber is going to get," Warsame said. He added that the industry still has concerns with using the meter rate and the insurance used by Uber.
The proposed ordinance for Lyft and UberX has also been modified (see before and after here) to ensure that the drivers' personal insurance plans are aware that they are occassionaly using the cars commercially. It also specifies more clearly when drivers are active in the system.
Core distinctions between the services would remain in city code, however. Taxis can only charge the meter rate, while Lyft and UberX can modify their pricing. Those app-based companies, meanwhile, would not be allowed to accept street hails.
The proposed changes do not raise the meter rate, but eliminate language that linked future rate changes to the Consumer Price Index and other measures. The city has bypassed that language in the past when rates were frozen in 2012.
Other changes include (click links to see section, or scroll through document posted below):
- Allowing cabs to be up to 10 years old, rather than five. Vehicles could be older if they are wheelchair accessible.
- Creating an incentive system for taxi companies to have wheelchair-accessible vehicles, likely through a surcharge. This follows the elimination of a section specifying the number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles that must be available. The city says the companies were frequently not complying with the existing mandate.
- Eliminating a provision that bars owners from charging drivers more than $85 per shift.
- Adding the punishment of taking cabs out of commission if they do not accept credit cards.
- Specifying that the fare be visible to passengers at all times. This is to accomodate future app-based meter technologies.
- Allowing cabs to be used as private vehicles. Warsame said this expands where they can park.
- Nixing language that bars drivers from picking up additional passengers during a fare.
- Increasing fines for lapsed insurance and eliminating fees for a mandatory drivers course.
- Eliminating of special downtown taxi stand permits.
- Allowing vehicles to be inspected by approved facilities, rather than only by the city.
- Eliminating trip sheets, on which drivers manually documented where passengers were picked up and dropped off. This information is now largely available from the companies themselves.
- Repealing a section that specified how charges must be computed. This is largely needed to allow for more app-based meter systems.
- Deleting language that bars cabs from also being used as private vehicles.
- Eliminating language that allows for taxi companies to have reduced fare "contract rates" with certain companies. That does not bar them from continuing to have those contracts, however.
- Nixing special "group loading" charges for several passengers going to different locations.
- Adding language to allow for companies to satisfy 24-hour dispatch rules with electronic dispatch systems.
- Allowing Wisconsin drivers to get a taxi license in Minneapolis.