Resolution to taxi cab issues is achievable, drivers say
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 8:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 8:34 p.m.
If Eddie Ricci ever gets food poisoning, don't expect him to call the police.
Ricci, a driver for AA Taxi in Gainesville, believes University of Florida students have dealt with cab fare issues the wrong way.
He was one of several drivers from local taxi cab companies who spoke during a meeting Tuesday night between Gainesville city commissioners and the UF Student Senate in the Reitz Union auditorium.
“I thought it was kind of odd that the industry was being blamed at large,” Ricci said in reference to comments made by students. “If a restaurant gives you food poisoning, are you gonna call the police and do a sting operation on all the restaurants? No, that's crazy. That's profiling an industry and you just can't do that.”
Continental Cab driver Gloria Johnson specifically called out Senate President Ben Meyers and how he involved the Gainesville Police Department in the issue.
“Mr. Meyers, president of the senate, took the initiative to go to GPD, but he never took the initiative to go to any of the owners,” Johnson said. “I think before he went that far, he should have went to the owners and said, ‘Hey, let's sit down and have a meeting.'”
Meyers was apologetic after the meeting for giving the impression he was targeting companies, but maintained that it's his job to voice what is happening to students.
“I want to make it clear that taxi companies and taxi drivers as a whole are not guilty,” Meyers said. “I can understand that they feel stereotyped, but the student body has no objection to the taxi drivers in mass. They have an objection to the few and far between who (take advantage of students).”
Johnson complained of drunken students who vomit in the back of her cab or jump out and run without paying. While Meyers said he recognized the conditions cab drivers face and plans to address them, he said, “that is equally as reprehensible to what some taxis do to students.”
Student Government Press Secretary Alex Cornillie had not been made aware of student disorderly conduct until Tuesday night and feels intoxication can play a role in student-driver confrontations.
“It shouldn't be they go out, get drunk, then they're in a cab and don't know what's going on,” Cornillie said. “Then they think they're being overcharged, so suddenly inflammatory remarks are being thrown back and forth across the aisle. I think what would be much better for both sides is a comprehensive presentation done for the students, maybe during Preview or through the university's website, that provides accurate information as to how much cabs are supposed to charge and what the proper steps are to report overcharging.”
Ricci said students, drunk or sober, should look for several signs when entering a taxi cab because it could save them from being taken advantage of.
“Part of that,” Ricci explained, “is going into a cab and identifying that cab as insured, licensed, with a properly permitted driver. You look at the medallion hanging from his rear-view mirror, you look at the badge he should be carrying on his chest and make sure the dates coincide with being current. So if anything does go amiss, you know who to report.”
Eric Reed, owner of Gainesville Cab, said the recent attention is warranted because smaller cab companies have hurt the industry by undercutting prices and confusing customers.
“There are some issues in the cab business that need to be straightened out, they really do,” Reed said. “The first solution is to get the city, get the students, get all the cab companies together and have a meeting. A lot of issues will come out.”
For GPD Capt. Ed Posey, the solution is simple.
“Everybody should be charged correctly and they should pay when they get there,” Posey said. “What I'd like to see out of this is that everyone knows we're paying attention from both the consumer side and the taxi cab companies' side, too. But mostly what I'd like to see is everyone get along and have it run the way it's supposed to.”