Earlier this week, columnist Christine Wolf wrote about by not turning the meter on, taking circuitous routes or simply going to the wrong destination.
The column spurred many comments from readers recounting their own bad cab experiences both in the story's comment section and on Evanston Patch's Facebook page.
In response to the column, Stephen O'Sullivan, the city's license and measures inspector, wrote Christine with advice for what residents should do if they encounter a bad cabbie. He also explained why many of them are leaving their meters off — it means they don't lose their "spot in line" should another fare come up in the area.
Below is the full message from O'Sullivan:
If a passenger has an unpleasant experience they often contact the respective cab company first.
In the event the customer is dissatisfied with the company’s response, they contact the City of Evanston. Of course, not all of the complaints we receive take this path and many approach the City of Evanston directly.
When the City receives a complaint, I contact the complainant directly to collect any additional details. Once these details are collected, the company is instructed to suspend the dispatch of orders to the cab in question until the driver appears for an interview. The outcomes vary depending on the situation. The City has suspended and revoked chauffeurs licenses when the details warrant.
The example of meter use in your article is a recent development and is a result of technological advances. Nearly all of the cabs operating in Evanston utilize a computerized dispatch system that relies on GPS to send the nearest available cab. The available cabs log in and if more than one of these available cabs is in a particular area they are dispatched in the order they logged in. When the meter is engaged, they are removed from this cue and must log back in and are placed at the end of the line.
In those instances where a driver does not turn on the meter he is trying to protect his spot. If the cab physically leaves the cab stand, by leaving the meter off, the system recognizes this cab as available in that area or zone. The rationale is to continue to serve the customer but remain active for potentially longer orders. Regardless of the motive, this is a violation of the ordinance that governs Public Passenger Vehicles.
The meter must be engaged for the duration of the ride regardless of the distance travelled. Leaving the meter off is only allowed when the cab is headed to one of the airports on a flat rate.
The customer always has the right to dictate the destination, the route, and air conditioning or heating levels. In the case of the customer heading to Walgreens, if she requested a different location the driver must respect the wishes of the customer.
I would encourage anyone who has had a poor experience (or a wonderful one) to use the City of Evanston’s 311 system. The report should include the cab number (located on the front fenders or rear trunk lid), the taxi company, date, and time. Just dial 311 or 448-4311.