Mayor, cabbies clash over downtown taxi rules

Taxi stands in effect during peak hours

Published On: Jun 24 2012 12:11:17 AM CDT   Updated On: Jun 24 2012 09:27:42 AM CDT
Paul Soglin
MADISON, Wis. -

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and taxicab drivers disagree over whether new cab stands near State Street will increase safety in one of the city's most popular areas.

The stands, which are just a sign on top of a pole, are at nearly every major State Street intersection. People who want a cab ride must wait at one of the stands from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., unless they've called ahead for a ride.

While cab drivers dispute their effectiveness, Soglin said the stands are supposed to cut down on cab cruising on State Street, where cars are banned.

"There's just no reason that tens of thousands of people should have to tolerate these enormous violations because one or two people have special circumstances," Soglin said.

The taxi stands are part of Soglin's plan to make downtown Madison a safer place, and he's highlighted the proposal in recent news conferences.

But cab drivers said they feared intoxicated people would crowd around the taxi stands at 2 a.m., when downtown bars close.

"They'll be alcohol and testosterone fueled crowds standing, competing for scarce resources (taxis)," said Adam Churn, who works nights for Union Cab. "I've seen it a lot of times where people bully their way in front of other people to get into that taxicab because they just want to get home."

Churn said about 150 taxis work State Street when bars let out, and cruising along the pedestrian mall helps to satisfy demand.

Some of the taxi stands, such as those on Johnson and Gorham streets, are on busy thoroughfares. That makes it even more dangerous for inebriated people making their way to the taxi stands, Churn said.

"It'll be one cab pulling up at a time immediately being loaded from either the most aggressive people in the crowd, the politest people in the crowd, maybe the person waving the $20 bill," he said.

Reactions were mixed among people enjoying the State Street atmosphere Saturday night. Some thought the issue was being overblown by the mayor, while Pam Terry said she'd rather there be fewer vehicles.

"The less traffic on State Street, the better," the Madison woman said, adding that she hasn't been on the pedestrian thoroughfare at 2 a.m. in decades. "It's Saturday night, people are out and about, and you don't have to worry about getting hit by a car."

Taxi drivers will still be allowed to drive along State to pick up a customer who's called ahead, although city ordinance prohibits cruising to find a fare.