Government is often all about compromise. The latest example of achieving a middle ground on a controversial subject is the regulation of the taxicab industry in Ocean City.
Ultimately, after lots of exaggerations and accusations, the end result is this: each taxi cab driver will have to buy a one-time medallion for $1,500 ($500 for an annual renewal) to operate in Ocean City. In exchange for this new fee, the Mayor and Council agreed to give the taxicab drivers a rate hike, albeit not as high as they would have liked. Riders will now see a fee of $3.20 just to get in a cab with a $2.20-per-mile charge applied thereafter.
The idea here was to give a little and take a little for the council, which has in recent history shown an adamant desire to be as fair as possible when controversy surfaces. An argument could even be made this council bends too far in the name of a common ground, but it’s proven over and over it does not want to force any measure upon anyone without a willingness to tweak an amendable end.
It’s a small community and the city government is sensitive to perception and wants to demonstrate a willingness to cooperate and work with the business community. In some cases, like the carbon monoxide ordinance that was not enforced the way it was initially intended after an overly generous grace period, that approach backfired. However, in most instances, like this taxi regulation, a will to compromise is the best tactic.
In the end, cab operators will have to pay $1,500 for a medallion, spread out over six payments, this year. As a result, they get to charge more money for their fares and therefore boost their revenue. Come next year they will just have to ante up $500 for a renewal. This is more than fair.
What all this means is the consumers will be feeling the pinch. As is often the case with changes made by governments, it’s the users that feel the impact more than anyone, but this is a move we do not think will discourage riders.
Taxis are important in Ocean City. The industry employs folks year-round, while also seemingly reduces the number of people who get in their vehicles and drive drunk around the area. However, while its need was never in doubt, the industry was once a joke.
Before the introduction of meters, suspect drivers charged what they wanted, when they wanted and took advantage of both tourists and locals. Price gouging was rampant. Although dependable and showing a willingness to serve, many drivers took advantage of vulnerable drivers, charging $10 for a fare at one point in the evening and then upping it to $25 later, for no good reason.
The industry has been cleaned up for the most part since those days, and it’s been a good thing for everyone involved, from the solid operators and ethical drivers to the business owners and riders who depend on it.
Seeking a middle ground is usually the best way to handle disagreements because most of the time neither side is happy. This could be the case with the taxi situation. Neither got what they wanted initially, but the cabbies and the city can live with the result. What will be interesting is to see what the consumer decides to do about the changes, but we do not expect the marginal fare hikes to dissuade anyone.