SANTA MONICA—On December 14, the Santa Monica City Council voted to increase the number of taxi cabs allowed under the new controversial franchise system by 50. Some smaller taxi cab businesses felt cheated by the distribution of the new increase. Specifically, the company Taxi, Taxi was reportedly asked to decrease its fleet of cabs by two cars to permit the increase. The company’s fleet numbers only 65 cars and now 63.
The franchise system originated back in 2009 as part of a design to reduce carbon emissions in Santa Monica, capping the number of taxis and establishing a stringent licensing procedure to exclude companies whose vehicles could not meet certain emissions and mileage standards. As of November 2010, 350 taxi drivers had lost their jobs as a result of the franchise system.
The program attempts to give the city direct control over taxi companies operating in Santa Monica. As Wendy Radwan remarked to the press after the recent decision to increase the allowed cab total, this is the “first time in the city’s history that an entire industry has been regulated.” Rather than various taxi companies competing for Santa Monica market share, the franchise system gives city bureaucrats the responsibility of gauging market trends and judging consumer demand.
Issues of discrimination have also been introduced by the new franchise system, with some Armenian cab drivers initiating protests back in June and filing lawsuits against Santa Monica. A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge temporarily blocked the franchise system on grounds of discrimination. Taxi Drivers of Santa Monica filed a suit against the city Tuesday. Superior Court Judge Robert O’Brien issued a temporary restraining order blocking the franchising plan until January 7, when Santa Monica city attorneys must defend the program.