Cab owners applaud EU court’s Uber ruling

Sending information to Town Council
Fri, 01/19/2018 - 9:15am

Block Island’s taxicab owners are excited about the news that the European Union’s top court, the Court of Justice, ruled on Dec. 20 that Uber should be regulated as a transportation service. The island’s taxicab operators fear that Uber, and/or Lyft, drivers could operate on the island and negatively impact their cab businesses.

The top court’s ruling means that Uber will face stricter regulations, and must comply with the rules that govern traditional taxi associations in the European Union’s 28 countries. Those countries include Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Austria.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Commission on Motor Vehicles For Hire, Chair Brad Marthens said the EU’s court “determined that Uber was a taxi in the European Union countries, which is great.” Marthens suggested that the Commission include the information as an addendum to a resolution being sent by the Town Council to the Rhode Island State Legislature.

The Town Council is seeking an exemption from “Uber legislation” passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly last year that opened the door for Uber-type services to operate in the state under state-wide regulations, including on Block Island. As a result, Block Island’s taxicab owners were seeking the exemption that would allow the town to regulate Uber-type services, subjecting them to the same regulations as the island’s drivers, including having to put their name on a license waiting list with the town.

Island cab owner Jim Rondinone submitted the information regarding the EU court’s ruling to the Commissioners during the public input portion of the meeting. The information has been sent to the Town Council for a vote so it can be added to the resolution the Council unanimously approved at its Nov. 1 meeting, signed, and will be sending to the state legislature.

In other news, the MVFH members agreed that waiting time for a taxicab driver should be a dollar per minute. MVFH member and cab owner Vin McAloon sought clarification of the issue during the meeting.  

“I use my discretion,” said Rondinone, who noted that if a passenger goes into an establishment for a quick errand that takes a minute or two there is no charge. “If it’s longer than that then the charge is a dollar per minute.”

“I tell them a dollar a minute,” said cab owner Fran Migliaccio.

“Say to your customers that it’s a dollar a minute, so be quick,” said MVFH member and cab owner Patrick Evans. “It’s to your advantage to be quick.”

Marthens told the Commission and cab owners that he didn’t want to get in the habit of over-regulating the taxicab business. All agreed that if the wait is longer than a few minutes that the charge was one dollar per minute.

At the beginning of the meeting, the MVFH members welcomed new member Emily Butcher to the Commission.