San Jose tweaks rules toward taxis

The San Jose City Council approved changes Tuesday for taxi drivers who have fewer requirements to operate in the city and Mineta San Jose International Airport.

The modifications approved in a unanimous vote include dropping a requirement for taxi drivers to have their vehicle inspected by police, which added extra time and costs, and will only need to have their vehicles inspected by the state.

Taxi drivers who do get fingerprints can be issued temporary permits after a background check with police to work while their FBI background check is being processed, which can take up to 30 days.

The changes also include an option for taxi drivers to undergo background checks under a similar plan approved by the council last week for ride-booking services such as Uber and Lyft to operate at the airport, airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes said.

Hundreds of taxi drivers went on a two-day strike before the council voted on revisions last Tuesday for ride-booking services and protested outside City Hall calling for equal regulations with ride-booking services.

The alternative plan includes background checks with the California Public Utilities Commission, which does not require fingerprints, random monthly audits at the airport on 1 percent of the company’s drivers and waived requirements for their vehicle’s age and mileage, Barnes said.

Taxi and ride-booking drivers will have to post their business license in their vehicle, Barnes said.

The programs for taxi and ride-booking companies will be evaluated by the council in six months, Barnes said.

Any taxi trips booked through a mobile application would be deregulated and an on-demand administration fee was reduced from $1.95 to $1.55 at the airport.

Barnes said:

“We’ve made some really great progress to ensure equity among ground transportation operators.”

The 40-cent cut can save taxi drivers $50 a month, but they have already paid an average $800 a month to operate at the airport, according to Yellow Checker Cab Company general manager Larry Silva.

The on-demand fee implemented earlier this year has hit taxi drivers hard and any savings helps, Silva said.

Silva was more concerned about whether cab drivers will leave the industry to work for ride-booking companies. Some taxi drivers, none who work for Yellow Checker Cab Company, will work for ride-booking services during the days off, he said.

Silva didn’t see anyone in the taxi industry giving up on obtaining fingerprints.

“The security of knowing who’s driving our taxi cabs far outweighs a random check,” he said.

Overall, Silva thought the council took steps in the right direction, but is concerned over taxi drivers who still need to obtain licenses to operate in each city compared to ride-booking service drivers who can operate anywhere, anytime.