Changes coming after New Year's Eve cab shortage

ST. LOUIS - From the time the last fireworks rang in the New Year in St. Louis, a lot of revelers trying to act responsibly couldn't find a cab.

Some took to social media to air their frustrations, while others called city leaders.

"I think the cab industry in St. Louis was a little bit overwhelmed because there wasn't enough taxis to serve the public at that point," said Ron Klein, executive director of the Metropolitan Taxi Cab Commission, which regulates cabs in the city and county.

There are about 1,300 cabs serving the region. But on New Year's Eve, high demand coupled with not enough drivers willing to work, led to complaints.

"We found on New Year's Eve a lot of them (cab drivers) chose to stay home. Is that good? From a regulators stand point, it is not," said Klein.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay agreed with those complaining and wrote on his blog about the problem.

"I agree with the complainers. Far fewer than the permitted numbers of cabs were actually operating on New Year's Eve and early on New Year's Day. While the decision to work or not is generally a private business decision, taxicabs operate in a regulated environment that tries to ensure the safety of passengers AND protect the livelihood of drivers by restricting cars-for-hire to licensed operators," he wrote.

5 on Your Side did an unscientific poll of cab drivers Thursday afternoon. More than half said they didn't work.

"I'm too old and crabby to deal with them drunks," said one.

Trying to hail a cab on Washington Avenue was so difficult Klein said if a driver was spotted, there would be a mad dash to claim it first.

Cab drivers are independent contractors, so the cab companies can't force them to work. And while Klein does not support more regulation of the industry, he does plan to intervene bringing everyone to the table.

"We have the perfect designated driver," explained Klein.

Reporter: "You just have to get them to work."

"And we will. I assure you we will address this problem," said Klein.

"It's definitely a problem because demand far outstrips any possible supply," said Basil Rudawsky, general manager of St Louis County Cab and Yellow Cab.

Adam McNutt, president of Laclede Cab, said he had 70 percent of his fleet working New Year's Eve.

ABC & Checker Cab's Chief Operating Officer, John Long, said every vehicle was on the road with 60 drivers making 1,000 trips.

"There aren't enough cabs in the city to meet the high demand," said Long.

Klein disagrees, saying there are plenty of cabs, but more drivers needed to do their job that night.

The big three cab companies had 317 drivers on the road New Year's Eve. Klein said the total number should have been north of 600. He promised, come Mardi Gras, there will be 1,000 drivers working the event. 5 on Your Side will be checking.

In the meantime, the Metropolitan Taxi Commission serves the public not the cab companies. If you have a complaint they want to hear from you. You can contact them by emailing or calling 314-535-7700.


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