County considering regulating taxi industry

By Greg Gelpi

Unmarked cars patrol Clayton County as taxicabs and fares aren't clearly marked.

That could change as the Clayton County Board of Commissioners considers regulating the taxi industry.

Regulations would restrict who does business in the county as well as lay out rules for those who do.

A $100,000 minimum for liability insurance, one of the proposals in the resolution, could drive some out of business, said Danny Nation, the owner of City Cab Co. of Forest Park. Already, he pays more than $200 to insure each of his 26 cars in his fleet. That and an increasing number of cab companies are cutting into his earnings.

"I used to be the only cab company on the southside of Atlanta," he said.

In recent years, everyone who has a four-door vehicle has turned into a taxi driver, Nation said

Regulations could cut back on the number of illegal companies, said Carlos Olu, the manager of Payless Cab in Jonesboro, thus helping the legal companies.

"It's good because so many people run it illegally," Olu said. "The legal ones aren't making anything any more."

The "illegal" ones don't have insurance and operate out of houses, he said.

"Some of them don't even have a sign," Olu said.

The ordinance would require company names in letters at least four inches tall to be affixed to taxis, along with the company's telephone number and fare rates.

Commissioners expressed concern about poorly maintained vehicles.

Commissioner Virginia Gray said she took a taxi from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in November. Despite the weather, the windows had to be rolled down because the defrost didn't work, and the driver had jugs of water for the overheating engine.

Nation said that the city of Forest Park already has stringent restrictions on taxis.

"It could be 0 degrees outside, but I better have my air-conditioner working," he said.

If the commission approves the ordinance, taxi companies and taxi drivers must become licensed to do business in Clayton County. Taxis can drop off in the county, but must be licensed to solicit business inside the county.

Annual licensing fees will be $200 for a company and $50 for a driver.

The ordinance also details the conditions of the car down to spots on carpets, requires drivers to carry a photo badge and orders background checks for taxi drivers.

"There's no question in my mind that we owe it to the public to keep them safe," Commission Chairman Crandle Bray said.