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City Provides Information on How to Handle Bad Cab Drivers

The response came after a column earlier this week about some cab horror stories provoked many comments of similar bad cab experiences.

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.

Jim February 29, 2012 at 01:34 PM
With all due respect, the problems are not due to "technological advances". Rather they are due to the irresistable urge of government to stick their noses in every human activity to control, regulate and license and their "subjects" reaction in their own interests which then provokes more governmental wisdom. Have you ever heard of caveat emptor? No? How about the law of unintended consequences?
Christine Wolf February 29, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Jim, please elaborate.
Jim February 29, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Dear Christine, Registration of cabs, medallions and driver licenses are fine but when the government (Evanston) goes beyond that to regulate in their wisdom and set up systems to make things "fair", the problems begin because the cab drivers and/or their companies will try to find ways around the system in their own interests. The people who set up the system apparently do not understand human nature or perhaps do understand it but like the fact that a governmental response will be necessary to deal with the new reaction of the regulated. Hence the law of unintended consequences. My advice to cab users is to ask the driver what the cost will be to go to a specific place before getting in the cab. If he or she says,"I don't know", or doesn't speak English, call another cab. If you are vicyimized, don't use that cab/cab company again, call the cab company to complain and mention that you will not use them again and don't. Hence caveat emptor. One of the good things about capitalism is that is self correcting if you can keep the government folks from becoming overzealous in trying to protect us in every circumstance. If you are interested, I would suggest that you read Plato and Thomas More on utopia. Every time that has been tried in history, disaster ensued. This issue is a far cry from that but the principle is the same. Personally I do not need the city to tell me how to deal with bad cab drivers. Thereby I preserve a tiny piece of my liberty and those add up. Jim
J February 29, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Political philosophy is all well and good. But cab companies using computer technology to manage driver dispatch is not government regulation, it's the cab company managing its own internal affairs to maximize efficiency and profit. Capitalism, just as you would have it. The problem is that the company's interest is at odds w/the individual driver's interest. The tension is between profit to the people who own the company vs. profit to the employees. Maybe cab co's can better incentivize driver efficiency, but I doubt you'd suggest that government step in to change how these private enterprises manage their dispatch. And whatever the corporate profit structure, cabs must be required to turn on meters to ensure fair rates to customers. That cannot be optional if people are to get fair service. Would you propose that it's ok for cabbies NOT to turn on their meters, and be able to charge customers arbitrarily? No government oversight of fair trade at all? If you ever traveled in a country where that happens regularly, I think you'd see that unmetered cabs quickly devolve into a pervasively corrupt system where customers have nowhere else to turn because every option is corrupt. A free market still needs some basic oversight for checks and balances. Just look at the behavior of the banking industry!
Christine Wolf February 29, 2012 at 06:47 PM
It seems to me the only involvement the City of Evanston government takes in this case is to ensure citizens have a source of recourse when the cab companies don't act responsibly. I don't find that intrusive. Without governance of some sort, they'd have no accountability.
jim March 01, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Should the city get involved when a customer decides a cup of coffee is to hot or cold or the donut doesn't have enough jelly
Jim March 01, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Check out the Evanston city code on taxis if you think that the city doesn't regulate every aspect of taxi operations. I really do not need the city to protect me from bad cab service. The cabs are accountable to me, the customer and if they victimize me and others, their business will disappear. Very simple.

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