Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Taxi Control

Gotta Go taxi at the scene of Hadley Hoe Down last fall when they had 12 taxis, now down to only two in Amherst

The Wild Wild West days for the taxi industry in Amherst seem to be over. If only the rental housing market were as quick to respond to regulatory pressures.

Last night Town Manager John Musante reported to his bosses, the five-member Select Board, that nine taxi companies have applied for and been approved 2013 town licenses, down from a dozen in 2011.

But the h-u-g-e difference is in number of taxi vehicles approved for road service that have passed an extensive inspection process: 61 last year, down to only 19 this year.

When UMass is in session, weekend late evenings start to resemble a three ring circus clown act with the number of young people packed into taxis, which careen around town like their were firefighters on the way to major structure fire.

The towns new insistance on a meter system which requires an expensive machine in each taxi accounts for the low number of units on the road this year. In business it's called a "barrier to entry".

 Now any Tom, Dick or Sally will think twice before simply turning their personal vehicle into a taxi.


Anonymous said...

So there will be fewer taxis -- which means more drunks stumbling along the side of the roads, and more drunks careening around behind the wheel.

Good job, Amherst!

Larry Kelley said...

We do have a very extensive free bus system.

Ten years ago we had only one or two taxi companies.

Dr. Ed said...

Or you will have "pirate taxis" like those that plague DC -- unlicensed, unmarked vehicles operating illegally -- and it is very very difficult to catch people doing this. Besides, if you give me a ride somewhere and I give you "gas money" for it, am I hiring you as a taxi or simply being a decent person who doesn't impose on friends?

Anonymous said...

Now if they could just make them stop doing U-turns, from bus stop to bus stop, in front of St. Brigids. I've seen so many close calls.

Tom McBride said...

There has to be some solution. And John Musante has to get INVOLVED. It's not an overstatement to say this is a crisis. Yes, meters are expensive, but there have to be more taxis. All we hear, and this is a real problem, is that we have to make sure people that have had a bit too much to drink DON'T get behind the wheel. And town and university law enforcement will come down with the full force of the law if they stop a drunk driver. Yet the hypocrisy of the town manager and the select board which work closely with the police, is that they're making it HARDER for young people and old to get a taxi. If you want to make the roads safer, and make it easier for people to get a ride, you have to do something about this instead of continually berating the taxi companies. Working with them (the taxis) is as important to making the roads safe by stopping inebriated drivers. Yes, you can do that, but it would be better to make sure they get a ride home instead of putting them through the hell of getting arrested, losing their license, have a criminal record which will follow them the rest of their lives, and costing them thousands of dollars by the time they're finished with the court system, quietly sitting the Hampshire district court in Belchertown listening to what their punishment will be. Is that really what the town wants?! The IRRESPONSIBILITY of the town is very evident. I guess I've made my point.

Dr. Ed said...

I call the PVTA the "Potentially Viable Transportation Alternative" for a reason -- with emphasis on "potentially" for a reason as well.

Like many things UMass, the UMass Transit (the PVTA vendor that runs the buses) has the attitude that it will do whatever it will damn well please and that it is the students' fault that they don't conform their lives to make use of what the PVTA offers.

Two specific examples. First, I challenge any defender of the PVTA to simply attempt to go from UMass to Stop & Shop on a Friday or Saturday evening, say about 7-8 PM. The term "overloaded" is twisted to a new dimension when one describes those buses - but heaven forbid that the PVTA provide more buses or bigger busses when the demand calls for it.

Second, Wysocki House is/was some distance from the nearest bus stop. Folks - many foreign students who didn't own cars, many with small children in tow - had to go from either North Village or Lincoln apartments to Wysocki to conduct business, and some of the university employees working there didn't own cars either.

One employee in particular, now retired, used the PVTA to both commute from her apartment and to go into town for various purposes. This time of year it is dark at 5PM, the sidewalks on North Pleasant are in very rough shape, while plowed the plow doesn't clean to bare surface, and she had to cross the street without benefit of a crosswalk -- as did all the people coming from North Village who (wisely) decided it was safer to cross in front of Wysocki than in the crosswalk on the curve with the busy intersection of both NVA Drive & Hobart.

I didn't think this was right, I thought there ought to be both a bus stop and crosswalk at Wysocki House, and I got the university to agree with me. It was the Town of Amherst that wouldn't...

I remember a conversation with some UM Physics Professor (whom I am sure both had a car and a parking space near *his* office) who was the Chair of the Amherst Committee for Something that told me that the town (i.e. his committee) wasn't going to allow this to happen because it would facilitate the university putting a parking lot somewhere and with a bus stop there, students wouldn't have to walk as far from said parking lot.

I told him I had no idea what he was talking about, that there already was a bus stop near where the university was planning to put a parking lot (up near the new roundabout), and I explained my rationale for why there ought to be both a bus stop and crosswalk there.

The UM Professor -- that irony was not lost on me -- adamantly refused to let me have the bus stop but did agree to let me have the crosswalk.

This wasn't on the basis that people not using cars (which the town wants) needed it, but my secondary argument of making things easier for drivers. I argued that it was better to have all the pedestrians in one place on a straight stretch of road than crossing at random along a couple hundred yards of it, including on the back side of blind curves and the like.

That was at least 15 years ago. Neither the crosswalk nor bus stop was ever installed, and the university office closed last June. And what more can one say?

Dr. Ed said...

Let me put it in simpler terms -- if the PVTA actually took the UM students where they wanted to go and when they wanted to go there, with any degree of dependability and dignity, the market wouldn't support any taxi service.

It is the same thing as with exercise clubs -- the university built one that met the needs of the undergraduates and which they like, and that was the end of them going elsewhere.

With the expensive meters serving as a "barrier to entry", it will not be long before Amherst sees the rise of limousine services -- which can't be regulated the way that taxis could be because they are legally a different entity.

And to a large extent, that is what the taxis really had become -- limos to take groups of students from party to party -- and then you will have the subletting of limos and things will really get interesting....

Anonymous said...

Firefighters are great drivers.