Killeen cab company says deregulation is key to survival

Andrew Moor

KILLEEN - Luxury Cab in Killeen said they are getting fewer calls ever since Uber moved in. The ridesharing company has been gaining ground over the last year, and Lyft is now on the way.

Uber is cheaper per mile and easier to get a car from. But Luxury Cab company told Channel 6 News the real reason they could never compete is out of their control - city regulations don't allow them to.

"Under current regulations it's against the law to modernize, you know? If we tried to do the same thing that Uber is doing... it wouldn't work," Luxury Cab Manager Charles Nelson said.

According to Nelson, city regulations make adapting the Uber Business model impossible. Under Killeen ordinances, taxi cabs must be inspected by the city annually. If they pass the inspection it's free. If not, there is a cost involved.

Cars must all have uniform color, lettering, and must post prices on the window. The cars must also have a paper map of the city and a fire extinguisher among other requirements.

The company said they also must have a CPA to submit quarterly financial reports, have all drivers fingerprinted, and must purchase permits annually to operate in each city they severe as well as the Killeen airport. All of those requirements result in overhead costs.

Uber and Lyft, in contrast, are not regulated by the city at all. They do not have employees that must be fingerprinted, they have freelancers. They do not have a taximeter that must be inspected by the city,  they use a phone app. While Uber drivers have a logo that can be placed on a car, those cars do not have to be uniformly painted and labeled with city notices.

Luxury Cab said they brought these issues to the city multiple times but at the April 4 city council workshop, the council voted 6-1 against making any further decisions on deregulating taxi companies or regulating Uber because of bills proposed in the current Texas Legislative session. Now Killeen ordinances concerning taxi companies won't be revisited until June at the earliest.

City Councilman Gregory Johnson,  who voted alone to consider the ordinance, said it was the wrong decision.

"It's definitely frustrating for me. As a city council member I am responsible for our citizens here. I don't put my duties and responsible on hold because Austin is in session."  Johnson said. "Taxi cab bills have come before session the last 10 years and nothing has been done."

© 2017 KCEN-TV


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