A proposal to put more taxicabs on Central Los Angeles and Westside streets won key support Monday when City Councilman Michael Woo dropped his opposition and said he wants city regulators to study the plan.
After Woo's announcement, the council's Traffic and Transportation Committee voted to have the city transportation commissioner study giving Bell Cab Cooperative permission to have 80 cabs, 15 fewer than the number Bell requested.
Inasmuch as the commission board had backed Bell earlier, it is likely to support the organization in its second look. That would send the proposal back to the committee and eventually to the council floor, probably in November.
The application of the cooperative, which is owned by its cabbies, has attracted considerable attention in City Hall, largely because of the powerful lobbyists enlisted by both sides, including former Councilman Arthur K. Snyder for Bell, and Burt Pines, a former city attorney, for the opponents. At stake are areas that are lucrative for cabs, including downtown and Westside hotels and office buildings which generate cab traffic to and from Los Angeles International Airport.
Five Bell Opponents
Opposing Bell are the five cab companies which have most of the cabs on Los Angeles streets. There are 1,068 taxis now licensed to operate in the city and, city officials said, about 600 unauthorized cabs.
Woo said he changed his mind after the committee received a report from the Department of Transportation saying that taxi service is "below city standards" in a wide area from the beach to downtown, and "unacceptable" in wealthy Westside hillside communities and in working class, heavily Latino areas in El Sereno and Highland Park.
Councilman Marvin Braude, considered a swing vote in the contoversy, supported Woo, as did committee Chairman Nate Holden, whom Bell considers a supporter. But lobbyists on both sides said they do not expect the fate of the application to be known for certain until the final council vote.
Cab drivers and executives for the established companies objected that the city Transportation Department report incorrectly implied they were responsible for bad service, and they said that the addition of more cabs on the street would not assure improvements.
Pines, representing the firm of LA Taxi, complained that the city was so eager to stimulate cabbie-owned cooperatives that it did not force Bell to undergo the stiff financial and operational scrutiny required of previously licensed companies.