Taxi services could be hurt by city’s State Street ordinance

Soglin wants no vehicles on downtown street
Taxi services could be hurt by city’s State Street ordinance

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said he’s meeting with downtown businesses to get them to self-enforce an ordinance designed to keep State Street free from vehicles.

However, officials from one local taxi company said convenience and safety for pedestrians on State Street depends on the timing.

Fred Schepartz, a driver for Union Cab, said under this ordinance, he can only use one block to pick up passengers standing on State Street.

“It’s smart business to go where the business is,” said Schepartz.

Soglin said too many business vehicles are cruising the city’s main drag.

“It’s a pedestrian transit mall,” said Soglin, “It was designed to take care of the needs of pedestrians. It was designed to minimize motor vehicles.”

It’s why the city officials plan to add taxi stands on State Street intersections.

“I mean, 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,” said Soglin.

Greg Brown, night and weekend supervisor for Union Cab, said the ordinance will really be a problem from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Taxi stands won’t provide enough supply for bar-time demand, Brown said.

“If you have 100 people pulling into a cab door, that’s not a recipe for safety. Somebody could get hurt,” Brown said. “If you have five blocks of State (Street) to line people out smoothly, it’s much safer for the drivers as well as the public.”

During those overnight hours, Union Cab’s presence on State Street becomes a public service, Schepartz said.

“You never know. Some days might be really great; some days might be really horrible,” Schepartz said. “It’s about the thrill of the hunt.”

As far as ramping up police enforcement on State Street, Soglin said that isn’t an option he’s interested in. He said he is aiming for self-enforcement from area businesses.