I am writing as president of the Taxi Industry Council and as president of United Independent Taxi Drivers, Inc., a member of the council, to respond to Hofland's letter.
There is a basic assumption stated in various ways in Hofland's letter to the effect that "no regulation" is better than "regulation." This is, of course, pure nonsense.
Deregulation of taxis in San Diego has proved to be a nightmare. The taxi-going public there has no certainty as to fares. The same trip could cost $20 or $40 depending on which cab you take. One large taxi company (130 cabs) is up for sale because of the uncertainties created by the taxi business climate.
There is no major business in the United States that is unregulated by some jurisdiction, be it city, county, state or federal, and some are regulated by more than one jurisdiction. Transportation is one example.
Without regulation the atrocities perpetrated against poor, unsuspecting riders by bandit cab operators would go completely unchecked. Any interested citizen should pore over the voluminous files of the Department of Transportation at City Hall to read the hundreds and hundreds of complaints from our victimized citizens and visitors who have been grotesquely overcharged, robbed at gunpoint and, in some instances mugged and pushed out of cabs--and these are some of the milder things that have happened.
Mayor Tom Bradley's Taxicab Task Force Report will open the eyes of the Hoflands among the taxi-riding public, if they care to take the time to read it.
You don't get the mayor, City Council President Pat Russell, City Attorney Hahn and County Supervisor Ed Edelman to appear on TV promoting anti-bandit programs unless there is a real problem. These are busy people. They focus their attention on high priority items and they don't need to take time out for yet another news conference if there isn't a need for it.
It's a fact that high-ranking visitors from other countries have been lured into bandit cabs at LAX and charged $55 for a trip downtown. The metered fare in a city-sealed taxi is $21 to $23 depending on traffic conditions. A Japanese businessman was charged $200 for the trip from Los Angeles International Airport to the New Otani Hotel.
It costs a legitimate operator of a taxi in Los Angeles $690 a year for his city permit, approximately $3,500 a year for the required $350,000 casualty insurance and about $2,300 a year for workers compensation coverage. This doesn't include additional permit fees for other jurisdictions like Beverly Hills ($439 a year), the county ($90 to $125), Santa Monica (about $85) and so on. Add costs of gasoline, maintenance, etc. and you will find that it costs about $16,000 annually to keep the average cab among the 1,100 represented by the Taxi Industry Council on the road.
Bandit cabs do not pay city permit fees. Many operate without insurance. A major Los Angeles International Airport area hotel is currently involved in a lawsuit with a guest who was picked up by an uninsured bandit cab at the hotel and injured in an accident. Recently, at Sunset and La Brea, a bandit cab hit and injured a pedestrian in the crosswalk. When the police caught up with the bandit operator, who had fled the scene, they found he was uninsured.
I have had occasion to discuss with the mayor and members of the Business and Convention Bureau the potential millions of dollars Los Angeles is losing every year because of bandit cab activity, which gives us a negative image and makes travelers and convention goers stay away.
The Taxi Industry Council is dedicating its agenda to a constant upgrading and professionalization of taxi service in Los Angeles. The Hoflands want anarchy. The council wants control because control is in the public interest.