MADISON, Wis. - Madison's mayor has upped the stakes against cab drivers caught cruising down State Street without a fare, and taxi operators said they aren't happy about it.
Madison police will begin enforcing the cruising ban Monday night, Mayor Paul Soglin said. City ordinance prohibits driving along State Street unless the taxi is there to pick up a specific fare.
"The ordinances say no cruising," Soglin said after meeting with representatives from three Madison cab operators. "Us ordinary mortals -- Madison citizens -- are not allowed to (cruise)."
Soglin said he would allow three city committees to look at changes to the ordinance, opening up the debate to public comment.
A representative from Badger Cab said he walked out of the mayor's meeting on Monday, frustrated that the mayor appeared inattentive to his concerns.
Operators said they weren't happy with the mayor's decision, but appreciated that committees would get involved later this summer and into the fall.
"What we wanted to do was to get back onto State Street. We didn't get that," said David Lee, Union Cab's operations manager. "What we did like was that the mayor was willing to talk about going to city committees to make changes to ordinances to get us back on."
Soglin has promoted the idea of cab drivers picking passengers up at taxi stands, even directing city staff to install a handful of signs on major roads that State Street intersects. The stands are in operation from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day.
But taxi drivers are unlikely to use the stands because of the danger they create when bars close, Lee said.
"They don't really want to be a part of that," Lee said. "The cab stands are a great thing in the early evening, but as (cabs leave), the cab stands fill up with people. When a cab pulls up, it turns out to be whoever has the most testosterone or pushiest will or biggest fist that ends up getting the cab."
Cab drivers have said they feared intoxicated crowds would gather around the taxi stands around 2 a.m., WISC-TV previously reported.
Soglin said he's now committed to allowing State Street stakeholders, such as pedestrians, bikers, property owners and the cab companies to weigh in at committee hearings.
"What we've recognized is that there should be full public discussion, which involves not just the drivers but other users of the street," he said.
Until at least Labor Day, cab drivers will have to comply with the city ordinance or face fines.
"We're going to have to live with it," Lee said. "We don't like it, but we're going to have to live with it."
Taxi drivers will still be allowed to drive along State Street to pick up a customer who has specifically called ahead.
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