NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Locally-licensed taxi owners voiced support for a new law banning cabs not licensed by the city from picking up fares within city limits at the city council meeting on Mar. 2.
The five-member council unanimously approved the law aimed at ensuring passenger safety after a public hearing.
Changes to the law prohibit out-of-town operators from picking up fares within city limits, although fares picked up outside New Brunswick can be dropped off in the city.
The penalty for a first offense is a $750 fine and a possible jail term of up to 30 days, while a second offense is punishable by a $1,550 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
Currently there are only four companies licensed by the city as “taxi associations,” easily identifiable by the company’s name on the cars.
Licensed cab owners complained that out-of-town operators sometimes intercept fares to which they are dispatched causing insurance problems.
“Somebody called once, and I was late. But then the person got in another cab, and there was an accident, and we were blamed,” said Rachid Aboujaouide, a driver with All Brunswick Taxi.
“This is a safety issue. If something is lost in another cab that picks them up, we are blamed,” he said.
“There’re a lot of illegal cabs driving around New Brunswick picking up people. We want them to be regulated,” Aboujaouide added.
“You have a lot of illegal cabs here. I see private cabs pick up customers,” added Mehman Azzi, manager of Yellow cab. He asked whether there are enough licenses available for out-of-town operators.
“If there’s a demand for more licenses to be issued, then we can raise the amount,” council president Robert Recine said. “In terms of enforcement, the police know which companies are allowed to pick up passengers in the city.”
“They have to comply with our requirements including insurance,” Recine said. “It’s constantly abused by out-of-town cabs. It’s time to tighten it up. We can only insure and regulate our cabs.”
City attorney William Hamilton said the problem of cabbies not licensed to operate in the city becomes a police problem when complaints are filed by riders.
“The purpose wasn’t to protect the cab owners,” he said of the changes to the law. “They can still do almost everything New Brunswick cabs do. But regulations are completely ignored by out-of-town taxis.” The new law “makes the police’s job a whole lot easier now.”
Said Joseph Adam, manager of All Brunswick Taxi, “We’ve been suffering for six years now. With this law we have hope.”