Cab drivers in Jersey City are upset that the council has approved a Fulop administration plan to add 20 additional taxis to the city’s fleet, but are optimistic that they might see a fare increase in the near future.
By a vote of 8-0-1 the City Council last week adopted a plan introduced by the administration of Mayor Steven Fulop to increase city cabs by holding a public auction for 20 new taxi licenses.
No council members voted against the measure. Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano abstained.
For the past several years, residents have complained that Jersey City does not have enough taxis at its four designated cab stands or patrolling the streets to meet the city’s growing population. The problem can lead to long wait times for cabs, especially on weekends, late nights, or during inclement weather.
The wait time for a cab at the Journal Square taxi stand, the city’s busiest taxi stand, can sometimes be as long as 30 minutes.
‘We know that at our transportation hubs during rush hour there are often long lines and lengthy wait times.’ – Mayor Steven Fulop
The Fulop administration is now trying its hand at tackling the problem.
Under the plan that was approved last week, the downtown taxi stand at Grove Street will get two additional cabs. Journal Square will get three additional cabs. The Exchange Place stand will get two additional taxis. And the stand at Newport will get four additional cabs. Nine licenses will be sold for cabs that are not tied to a designated taxi stand.
The taxi licenses will be sold for prices ranging from $50,000 to $100,000, depending on which stand a taxi services, and the Fulop administration expects the sale of the licenses to be a big revenue generator for the city.
“Our city has grown and changed tremendously in the past decade, yet many of the ordinances on the books don’t reflect that,” Fulop said last week. “This is a perfect example. We know that at our transportation hubs during rush hour there are often long lines and lengthy wait times. This is unacceptable. We want Jersey City to be an inviting place for our residents, businesses, and for tourists, which is why we are expanding the number of taxis across the city.”
The last time a taxi medallion auction was held was in 2001. Since then, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail has grown and flourished in the city with an average of 25,000 weekday commuters in Jersey City alone.
Additionally, Jersey City is now home to five hotels, each of which typically has occupancy rates in the 90th percentile, according to the city.
Currently, there are 104 taxicabs providing service throughout Jersey City, which has a population of approximately 250,000 according to the 2010 Census, though that number doubles during the weekday work hours due to Jersey City being a commercial center.
In addition to improving the availability of taxis in the city, the medallion auction is expected to generate a minimum of $1.5 million for the city budget and create 50 new jobs, as well encourage entrepreneurship, Fulop officials said.
“Our goal is to make Jersey City the best mid-size city in America, which means looking at every possible area for improvement,” Fulop said. “Improving transportation options, including taxis, is an important aspect of that. If we want to compete with other cities as a destination for business and tourism, we must provide top quality services and transportation.”
But Eric Kwless, the owner of Alex Taxi, said the plan will hurt cab operators and their families.
“There are 100 families who we support driving our cabs,” Kwless said. “This law is going to take business and money away from us at a time when gas prices are very high.”
Boggiano and Ward E Councilwoman Candice Osborne asked that the administration look into increasing fares so that drivers can make a fare wage from their businesses.
The city has not approved a fare increase since 2005.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.