Ocean City Taxi Medallion System Could See Overhaul

Ocean City Taxi Medallion System Could See Overhaul

OCEAN CITY — An overhaul of the entire resort taxi cab medallion system could be in the offing after issues with the industry were raised.

In 2010, Ocean City adopted a taxi medallion system in an attempt to better regulate the town’s cab industry and as a means to generate revenue. The intent was to limit the number of cabs that operate exclusively on the island, eliminate rogue cab companies from other areas that showed up during peak times and add stronger regulations including inspections in the interest of public safety.

At the peak of the system, there were 175 town-issued taxi medallions on the streets in town. Now, the number has dwindled to 106, largely because of changes in the industry and the proliferation of ride-share platforms such as Uber and Lyft, for example.

During an Ocean City Police Commission meeting last week, it was learned a letter was erroneously sent to all medallion holders that the inspection fees for 2020 had been waived because no inspections took place because of COVID restrictions. It was reported 43 of the 106 taxi companies did pay their medallion and business license fees last year, but the remainder did not. Now, a second letter is going out informing those who did not pay last year will now have to pay for 2020 and 2021.

In addition, another issue raised during the police commission meeting last week and revisited during a Mayor and Council meeting dealt with the fee for transferring a medallion from one operator to another. The transfer fee used to be a percentage of the original cost of the medallion, but the town has since lowered the transfer fee as the medallions have become less valuable under the challenges of Uber and Lyft, for example. Councilman John Gehrig said under the current circumstances, the entire medallion system might need an overhaul.

“The entire business has changed since we started this,” he said. “Some of these medallions are practically being given away. When we started this, the medallions were worth something. I’m fine with revisiting the entire medallion system.”

Councilman Lloyd Martin agreed.

“It has changed,” he said. “It was the wild, wild west out there for a long time, then we took these steps to make it run more like a business with licenses and inspections. Then Uber came along. The goal of this was to make the taxi business more stabilized and modernized.”

Responding to a question about how many of the 63 medallion holders that didn’t pay the fees last year drove anyway, Council President Matt James said most likely did. Those who didn’t pay had the option to turn in their medallions for a six-month hiatus.

“If they didn’t turn their medallions in, the assumption is they drove all summer,” he said.

Gehrig said it was a little onerous to charge medallion holders for both 2020 and 2021 if there were no inspections last year because of COVID and many didn’t operate anyway.

“If they didn’t operate, charging them for two years of fees seems a little stiff,” he said.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.