Council members mulled a number of changes to the ordinance regulating taxi service in the village Monday, and generally agreed with a list of recommendations intended to improve safety and customer satisfaction. However, commissioners unanimously balked at a proposition that would allow only those cab companies with a fleet of at least 10 vehicles to operate in Forest Park.
“I do think 10 is a high number as a minimum,” Commissioner Rory Hoskins said. “I’d like to see something along the line of four.”
Chief among the concerns raised in the proposal brought forward by Village Administrator Mike Sturino is to make the task of enforcement easier, and to ensure a higher quality of service to the public. Sturino’s proposal would install a dress code for cab drivers and ban smoking in taxis. Companies would also be required to maintain a lost and found box, a 24-hour dispatch station and two-way radios.
“We want to ensure people’s experiences are as positive as possible,” Sturino said. “There have been concerns about some of the taxis in town.”
No action was taken Monday, but the proposal will come back to the council for further review.
In proposing to cut out those companies with a smaller fleet, Sturino said it’s often the case that those businesses lack the financial resources to make sweeping improvements to their operation. Commissioner Mark Hosty agreed, and said the public’s safety could even be jeopardized if those companies use older cabs that have endured more miles.
Based on the council’s Feb. 11 discussion it was unclear how many taxi companies licensed in Forest Park would meet a 10-car minimum.
Though the village encompasses little more than two-square miles, the community supports a “large taxi industry,” said Sturino, because of its two el stations and dozens of drinking establishments. Village officials suspect that unlicensed companies are frequently taking fares here as well. In an effort to bolster the village’s argument for a new ordinance, police were directed in late January to keep an eye out for unregistered cabs. Over a three-day span, authorities issued eight tickets to cab drivers operating in the village without having gone through the local registration process.
There are a dozen cab companies licensed in Forest Park, according to village hall.
By comparison, neighboring Oak Park is home to three-times the number of people and is served by several rail stations, but has issued a license to only three cab companies.
Sandra Sokol, the village clerk in Oak Park, is working with Forest Park on what could ultimately become a more uniform set of regulations for taxi cabs in the tri-village area. Should cab drivers be subject to the same rules in Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest, said Sokol, it would be easier for them to operate and easier for the villages to root out law breakers.
“It’s something that, personally, I have hoped would happen for many years,” Sokol said.
The minutia of a universal set of cab regulations will likely take a number of months to develop, according to local officials, but is a possibility. One of the glaring differences between cab service in Oak Park and Forest Park is that in Oak Park pedestrians can not hail a cab on the street, save for a few designated spots. Fares must be organized over the phone. If a new ordinance is adopted it’s unclear whether this discrepancy would remain, said Sokol.