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April 3, 2013

Cab companies: Bylaw changes needed

DANVERS — Representatives of five cab companies rode into Danvers last night seeking licenses to do business in town.

They came away without permanent licenses and with lots of questions, but they did get a unanimous vote from selectmen to extend their temporary ability to operate until May 9.

They also hailed assurances from selectmen that the town would work to change its taxicab bylaw to address their concerns that it makes it too expensive and onerous to do business in town.

“I think the $1 million (insurance) liability (on taxicabs), you can’t get it. It’s unobtainable in the state of Massachusetts,” said Dennis Soper, owner of Nd-A-Ryd of Beverly. He’s seeking a single cab license for his small cab company.

Other cab companies also agreed that the amount of insurance coverage the town requires is unobtainable and prohibitively expensive.

It’s been more than three years since the town rewrote a bylaw to attract cab companies and protect passengers, as the town has been without its own cab company for about five to six years, selectmen Chairman Bill Clark said. Even the two spaces that once formed a cab stand in Danvers Square have been converted to parking spaces.

Police conducted a sting on Feb. 19 and fined cab drivers for responding to what turned out to be officers calling for rides at the Liberty Tree Mall. Police said they lacked town cab licenses. Sean McKinnon, general manager of North Shore Taxi of Peabody, said his driver was told by police that if they were seen in Danvers again, they would be pulled over and fined.

The unintended consequence of the sting was that cab companies stopped picking up fares in town, and residents were left without rides.

The plight of those left stranded was embodied by Peabody resident Neil Papamechail, who is legally blind and regularly uses taxicabs to get around. He found himself stranded at Costco on Route 1 in Danvers, unable to get a ride home, after getting a lift there, he said at the time.

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