MASSENA — A Massena taxi company representative has asked village trustees to allow him to raise his rates during the night and put another cab on the road so he can cover his expenses. But trustees say they’d like to see something in writing first before making any decision.
Village code allows 10 taxis to operate in the village, but Bruce Green from Green Cab said he’d like an exception to add another taxi.
“We’re only allowed five taxis. At the same time, Massena Transport has five taxis,” he told trustees Tuesday.
He said Green Cab operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and handles 200 calls during the 12-hour day shift, although it’s slower at night. Mr. Green said Massena Transport closes at 6 p.m.
“We’re asking to have more taxis on. I don’t believe Massena Transport should have as many taxis. They’re not using them during the night. They close their doors. They’re not 24 hours, seven days a week. The only time they work is during the day and at night when it’s profitable for them,” he said.
The rate increase would apply only to the evening when the calls are slower, Mr. Green said. The rate for transportation in the village is currently $5.
“It does slow down in the summertime,” he said, adding, “We went down to one driver last night, just to test the water. At 1:30 this morning it was an hour-and-a-half wait time for a taxi.”
With one driver, he said, “We’ve got people calling and screaming because I haven’t got enough people on.”
However, putting two drivers on at night means he’s not only paying the drivers, but also a night dispatcher.
“What do you think the rate increase should be?” Deputy Mayor Matthew J. LeBire asked.
“A dollar or more,” Mr. Green said. “I’m not asking for a fortune. We’re not expecting to get rich. I’m asking for enough to cover at night. I’m not asking for anything during the day.”
Mr. LeBire said his concern was that, although they had heard a previous request for more taxis, it was the first time he was hearing about a rate increase.
“Personally, I would like to see something more official. Submit something formal to us — what do you want, the hours, the days, the rate increase you’re seeking, and as much data as you’re comfortable sharing with us. We need something specific and formal in writing so we know concrete exactly what you’re looking for,” Mr. LeBire said.
Resident Joel Grigg suggested the board should give more consideration to Mr. Green’s request.
“What I heard this evening bothers me. I do not run a taxi business. I have not been privy to any discussions the mayor and Mr. Green had. I have not gone out and read his Facebook page. However, what I did hear was, here is a man who wants to run his business, who knows how to run his business, who understands it and wants to do a good job for the village. He has a desire to do it, he has the knowledge to do it, but this board has so inhibited his ability to do that. It’s troubling,” he said.
“What business here in Massena does this board have such an integral interest in that they require, that they dictate his rates and how much business he can earn in a night? I would encourage you, please take a look at what compelling interest you think this board has in regulating such an industry, such a business, that prevents a man from running his business the way he sees fit and the way he can,” Mr. Grigg said. “I pray when this comes back up, that you have the wisdom to say, ‘maybe it’s time we back off.’”
Mr. LeBire said municipal law governing taxi fees “was put into action decades ago for fear of monopolistic opportunities that exist in one town because there’s not enough business.”
He said a company could say, “I’m the only game in town, how about 15 bucks a ride.”
“So there is a compelling interest for our citizens that we do have to be mindful” and look out for the best interests of everyone, he said. “We’re not asking him to jump through hoops. We’re asking, since he is now formally asking for something, tell us specifically what it is. We can’t put into public law, into code, ‘more or less’ or ‘something like.’”