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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : ANAHEIM

City May Call Cab Competition

Franchise System Contemplated Would Replace the Exclusive Licenses Now Held by Two Companies

March 29, 2000|JUDY SILBER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Visitors to Anaheim may only occasionally spot taxis, but the City Council has recently paid a fair amount of attention to the taxicab business.

Despite an evaluation concluding that Anaheim's taxicabs provide adequate service, last week the council agreed to look into altering the decades-old permit system which gives only two companies the right to pick up passengers in Anaheim.

Officials say a franchise system would better serve the increasing tourist population anticipated with the completion of Disney's California Adventure theme park and the Convention Center because it allows the city to set strict standards.

"Hopefully, with a franchise, they'll [visitors] get a better product," code enforcement manager John Poole said.

Poole also acknowledged that a franchise system might allow more companies to do business in the city, a potential threat for Anaheim's current permit holders. "It's really hard to know what they're looking for," said Larry Slagle, president of Yellow Cab of North Orange County, which has operated in Anaheim for 55 years.

Under a franchise system, companies would compete for franchises, which would give them the right to operate in Anaheim. If the companies did not meet city standards, the city could opt to fine them or revoke their franchises.

That what happened recently at John Wayne Airport, where officials took away the exclusive franchise of A Taxi Cab--the other Anaheim taxi service--for failing to provide a state certificate of insurance. A Taxi Cab will lose its Anaheim permit if its insurance doesn't meet county requirements, Poole said.

Under the current system, riders may complain about individual drivers, but companies don't usually face penalties.

"I have no idea why every city in the country doesn't change to a franchise system," said Gorman Gilbert, director of the institute for transportation research and education at North Carolina State University. Gilbert said franchises give cities leverage to demand high quality and standardize service. The city can set maximum response times or acceptable driver appearance. "It's a more effective way of controlling the companies," he said.

The Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau has received few complaints about taxi service. But visitors have complained about a scarcity of taxis during peak visitor periods, bureau President Charles Ahlers said.

To alleviate shortages, the council ruled Tuesday night to grant extra permits to the two companies during peak periods.

Mike Nebin, executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, doesn't believe a new franchise system is needed. He said that, like the Visitor and Convention Bureau, the chamber has received few complaints about poor taxi service. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Nebin said.

Judy Silber can be reached at (714) 966-5988.

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