Iowa City weighs new taxi rules after assaults
IOWA CITY (AP) — Iowa City officials are considering imposing new taxi cab rules after a driver was charged with sexual assault last winter.
Cedar Rapids television station KCRG reports that Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine recommended the new rules, which could include city-issued IDs, 24-hour dispatch centers and other changes to the way cab companies operate.
Police officers spent 200 hours tracking taxi drivers from different companies last winter because the assault victim couldn’t identify the driver and company owners couldn’t tell police who was on the road at a given time.
Iowa City Police Capt. Doug Hart said the idea behind the proposal is that if drivers were employees, it would be easier to keep track of who is driving at any given time.
Company officials say they’ll oppose some of the measures, including one that would require them to hire drivers as employees instead of keeping them as independent contractors.
Rafat Alawneh owns Number One Cab in Iowa City, and he said making all the taxi drivers employees would cost him a lot of money. Currently the drivers work for themselves as contractors and split their income and expenses with companies.
“To interfere in our business and the way we run it, I think that is kind of difficult,” Alawneh said.
The business owners will have a chance to weigh in on the rules when the City Council reviews them on Tuesday.
Bigger companies, such as Yellow Cab, already have dispatchers working 24 hours a day and GPS tracking devices in each vehicle, but smaller companies do not.
Yellow Cab manager Roger Bradley said most of the proposals, such as requirements for distinctive colors for each cab company, probably won’t attract much opposition.
Bradley said the taxi companies will resist changes that aren’t likely to significantly improve safety, especially if they are costly.
“I think there would be some push back. Yes, we’re taking a wait-and-see approach and we’re not even sure if all the ideas would make it into the city code,” Bradley said.