Eyeing Tighter Taxi Regs

    With weekends quieter than in the summer, when taxis swarm downtown hamlets seeking passengers buzzing about for a night of festivities, the East Hampton Town Board is taking time to review legislation that regulates taxicab companies here.
    A law put in place before last season required taxi operators to obtain licenses from the town clerk after providing proof of insurance and driver’s license information.
    Complaints continued through the summer about the number of taxicabs — many of which were coming here from out of town to compete for summer fares — the safety of passengers, and the behavior of some drivers.
    A proposed revision to the town code, worked on by Councilwoman Theresa Quigley with Rob Connolly, a town attorney, would tighten the rules, subjecting applicants for annual taxi licenses, both proprietors and drivers, to fingerprinting and a criminal background check, and requiring taxi companies to have a business office in East Hampton in order to pick up fares here.
    An initial draft proposal, discussed by the town board at a Nov. 20 work session, included a requirement that taxi companies have a fleet of at least three vehicles. That provision will likely be dropped from the final law, according to concerns raised by town board members about excluding small-business entrepreneurs.
    The proposal also would bar the use of vehicles more than 10 years old as cabs, or those with more than 250,000 miles on the odometer, beginning in 2014, and increase the fines for unlicensed cabs.
    Licenses would be required for the business, for each vehicle, and for individual drivers, and would have to be renewed each year.
    Ms. Quigley has also proposed setting up a taxicab license review committee, with three members to be appointed by the town board, which would review license applications. Having the existing five-member license review board, which deals with home contractor licenses and complaints, also review taxi licenses, was discussed at last week’s meeting, as was a way to eliminate loopholes, such as subleasing office space, that could allow out-of-town companies to do business here.
    Carole Brennan, the deputy town clerk, reported at the work session that, of 75 taxi companies with town licenses at present, 39 are based in East Hampton.
    “I think generally this is going to go a long way toward addressing some of the problems we saw this summer,” Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said of the draft revision. The board is expected to finalize the proposed changes before scheduling the new legislation for a public hearing.