OC Committee Recommends Helping Taxi Companies ‘To Keep These People In Business’

OC Committee Recommends Helping Taxi Companies ‘To Keep These People In Business’
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OCEAN CITY – Highlighting the need to support local taxi companies, a resort committee this week agreed to forward a favorable recommendation to decrease annual medallion and inspection fees.

On Monday, the Ocean City Police Commission made a favorable recommendation to lower the cost of annual medallion renewals and inspection fees in an effort to improve the business climate for local taxi companies.

“They are asking for adjustments because of Uber and Lyft being out there and increasing competition …,” committee chair and Council President Lloyd Martin said. “They were hoping for us to look at this a little harder, a little deeper, to figure out how we can tweak these fees that they incur.”

Currently, taxi companies pay $300 in annual business license fees, $500 in annual renewal fees for each medallion and between $150 and $450 in annual inspection fees to the town.

Annually, the town spends nearly $32,000 to maintain the program and has the potential to collect $62,000 in medallion renewal fees and more than $16,000 in inspection fees.

Taxi Program Coordinator Michelle Monico, however, shared the taxi owners’ concerns with the committee.

“I’ve been hearing back from a lot of taxi owners that the fees, especially the medallion renewal fees, have become very prohibitive for them,” she said. “It’s not just our independent drivers, but I’ve heard from several of our larger companies who are thinking about or have already suspended some of their medallions.”

Monico said ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft have seriously impacted the local taxi industry.

“They have really eaten into the taxi industry,” she said. “We have no control over them, as you know, but they are taking away a lot of business from our taxi drivers.”

Monico added that taxi companies also incurred costs from state inspections, associated repairs, insurance and more.

“I know they incur a lot of costs outside of what they pay the town to get their cabs ready,” she said. “They are required to get the state inspection and they are required to do other things, which are all parts of the cost of doing business that aren’t our concern.”

Council Secretary Mary Knight noted the high cost of annual inspection fees. Currently, taxi owners pay $150 in inspection fees through April 30, $250 in fees from May 1 to May 31, $350 in fees from June 1 to June 30 and $450 in fees from July 1 to July 31.

“Do you see any reason it should be $250, $350, $450?” she said. “It seems really high to me.”

While she agreed the fees were high, Monico noted they were meant to penalize owners who don’t get their taxis inspected on time.

“It was meant to encourage them to get their taxis inspected earlier and on time before the expiration date of their annual stickers,” she said. “We even extended the date from March 31 to April 30.”

Officials, however, questioned its effectiveness.

“It’s not even an incentive anymore to get them to come in and inspect their cabs …,” Monico said. “At this point in time, it almost being the middle of April, there really aren’t any more [inspections] scheduled for this month.”

Reserve Officer Jann Jones, who inspects the taxi cabs for the town, agreed.

“I’ve done 21 so far this year,” he said.

Committee members also questioned the cost of the annual medallion renewal fee.

“All I hear is it is cost prohibitive to do business in Ocean City anymore,” Monico said. “A lot of it is the medallion fee. We have several large companies that have quite a few medallions that make it cost prohibitive to put all of them on the road on time. A lot of them are shelving them right now.”

City Manager Doug Miller noted the importance of covering the costs associated with maintaining the taxi program if the committee were to recommend reductions.

“We just have to cover the $32,000,” he said.

To that end, the committee this week agreed to send a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council to decrease the cost of the annual medallion fee from $500 to $250 and decrease the cost of each of the inspection fees by $50.

“It hits the revenue, but we want to keep these people in business,” Martin said. “I think it’s a positive.”