The City Council has decided to open the city to competition among taxi cab companies, ending the lock held by the two cab companies — Yellow Cab Company of the Peninsula and Checker Cab of Silicon Valley — who until now had sole permission to operate in Mountain View.
Under the previous system, Yellow and Checker were allowed to operate 34 cabs at any one time in Mountain View. With the new rules, approved unanimously Tuesday night, any cab company is free to operate as many cabs as it wants within city limits as long as its cars and drivers meet safety requirements and the company pays permit fees.
"I don't think we need market regulations but we do need safety regulations," said council member Mike Kasperzak. "I'm really happy with the way this has come out."
Taxi cab companies wishing to operate in Mountain View must now buy a minimum of five car registrations, or "medallions," which some council members said would restrict the market to companies that were more serious and committed to the city. Permit fees for cabs and drivers are relatively low in Mountain View but are expected to be raised at a later date.
"We've been trying to get into Mountain View for 20 years now; we've always been locked out," said one cab company owner. He said wanted his drivers to at least be able to pick up fares on their way out of Mountain View after dropping someone off, which they currently can't do — unless the company buys five medallions.
Council member Ronit Bryant said she was concerned that those drivers were wasting gas, and city attorney Michael Martello said he would find a way to address that concern in the new ordinance.
The new rules also take regulation responsibilities away from the Police Department in order to cut costs. Cab drivers will still undergo police background checks, but the city's Finance Department will now administer permits, fees, review drug test results and other requirements, freeing police officers for more pressing concerns.
And instead of paying a sworn police officer to inspect almost 100 cabs, the city will now take a statement under penalty of perjury that cabs are insured and in good working order.
Unburdened of the duty of regulating taxi cabs, police say they will now spend more time checking cabs for safety infractions on the street, either in random stops or as cabs sit waiting for fares at the downtown train station or Shoreline Amphitheatre.