, Salem, MA

February 28, 2013

Our view: Danvers taxi bylaw needs work

The Salem News

---- — Danvers selectmen made the right decision Tuesday night in giving local cab companies temporary permission to operate in town as long as they are applying for a license to do so. The move ensures that town residents have access to a vital service, at least in the short term.

In the longer term, it is clear there are many issues that still need to be worked out between the town and local taxi owners. The goal should be to ensure residents have access to clean, safe taxi service without putting an unfair burden on cab owners.

So far, there has been a lot of finger-pointing and swapping of blame between taxi companies and town officials. The view here is that it was reasonable for the town to expect taxi companies to be licensed, but the sudden crackdown earlier this month, which Selectman Keith Lucy said was “probably heavy-handed,” had the unintended consequence of stranding town residents with few, if any, transportation alternatives.

Danvers police conducted a Feb. 19 sting operation, calling different taxi companies and asking to be picked up at the Liberty Tree Mall. When they showed up, they were fined $100. (Under a 2009 bylaw, taxis need a license to pick up fares in town. They can, however, pick up riders in other communities and drop them off in Danvers.) According to the town clerk’s office, no taxi company has a license to operate in Danvers.

That should change soon, as several have applied in the past few days; those with pending applications or who apply by March 7 will be allowed to operate until a final decision is made. Town officials have scheduled public hearings on the license applications for April 2.

Selectmen suggested they may seek to amend the town’s taxi bylaw at this May’s Town Meeting. One flaw that needs to be addressed is the requirement that taxi companies carry $1 million in insurance on each of their cabs.

North Shore Taxi owner Sean McKinnon cited a letter from Lighthouse Insurance Agency in South Boston that states the most companies can get from state and private insurers “is a split limit of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident.”

The town also needs to change wording in the bylaws that implies that cab companies looking for a license need to be based in Danvers.

The changes are straightforward and should be simple to make.