It may be the most underreported bipartisan story of the session. Taxicab drivers looking to expand their driver-owned company have been flocking to the Capitol in droves to argue for a bill that would allow new cab companies a go, even in a crowded market.
New urban cab companies including the driver-owned company known as Union Taxi may have a chance to thrive after a bill the Senate approved last night.
The heated conversation is a carry-over from last year when the state approved lower regulations for nontraditional cab options like Lyft and Uber.
According to sponsors, the regulation of traditional taxicabs as a public utility is preventing new companies from taking off while also failing to protect consumers and employees. Yellow Cab owns some 70 percent of the metro market while earning an “F” score from the Better Business Bureau. The company’s cab drivers pay extraordinarily high leasing fees of roughly $800 a week.
Sponsor Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster, said the passage of HB 1316 means that would-be taxi entrepreneurs no longer “have to prove market demand against a monopoly” before the Public Utilities Commission.
Concerns remain about how to ensure that cab transit — whether traditional or mobile-phone based — is accessible to customers with disabilities. Even so, this focused effort to free-up the market for working class drivers, many of whom are recent immigrants, turned out to be something that both liberals and conservatives could get behind.
“We heard from these drivers, and all they want is a shot at the American Dream,” said Sen. Laura Woods, R-Arvada.
Toy taxi picture by Cristian Hold