Paul Barna, the head of the city's Division of Commerce, said last week that there have been complaints about drivers who have refused passengers, chosen which passengers they want to take based on their destination, or waited to pick up multiple passengers in order to make more money. Barna also said there have been complaints of drivers going into the subway to solicit for passengers.
There have been 100 complaints alone since January covering many of those issues.
On Aug. 20, the City Council voted 9-0 to add new rules to the current ordinance regulating local taxi drivers.
The new rules stipulate that drivers can solicit passengers only when they are sitting in the taxicab or when they are standing right next to their taxi. Drivers cannot be more than 15 feet from their taxicabs when taking a break.
When passengers are waiting in a line, drivers must accept the first passenger and not skip to the next. Also, drivers can only say "taxi," "cab," or "taxicab" when soliciting passengers, and not ask them about their destination.
Passengers cannot sit in the front seat of a cab unless the rear seat is occupied by other passengers. This rule is meant to stop drivers from picking up extra passengers going to different destinations.
Also, drivers have to charge senior citizens the discount fare, which is $2 if the taxi meter reads $4 or less, and half price for fares over $4.
The rules go into effect Sept. 9, 20 days after the ordinance was passed.
Barna said last week that he was pleased with the council approving the new rules. Barna said drivers who violate the new rules can have their license suspended or revoked.
"I feel what it does is it gives [the Division of Commerce] the opportunity to make sure the general public is safe in their cabs, and not worry about sharing their cabs," Barna said. "It is not just for the passenger's safety, but also for the driver's safety."104 cabs
There are 104 taxis registered in Jersey City. They gather at taxi stands at several locations in the city, including Journal Square, the Grove Street PATH Station, and the Newport Centre Mall. Barna estimates that approximately 30,000 passengers use taxis in the city each year.
Barna said the rules affirm the Commerce Division's authority to cite drivers for violations. One of the new rules calls for drivers to show their license and other documentation if asked by a police officer or a Commerce Division inspector.
"We have had a few incidents with inspectors from Commerce where they don't think we have the authority to tell them about the rules," Barna said.
But Barna clarified that these new rules are not an indictment of all taxi drivers.
Barna said copies of the ordinance are being sent out to all owners and drivers of taxis so that they are aware of the new rules before they go into effect. Driver questions rules
One driver said he was not happy with the rules addressed the council.
John Amagnostos has driven a taxi in Jersey City for 20 years. For 10 of those years he has owned his own taxi fleet.
He took on the new role of public speaker at the Aug. 20 City Council meeting.
Amagnostos said he has never gone into the subway to solicit passengers. He also said senior citizens are charged the discount fare in his taxis.br>
He said drivers have to walk away from their taxis in order to "stretch their legs."
City Councilman William Gaughan said the new rules were put in to make all drivers "play by the rules." Comments on this story can be sent to email@example.com.