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Lawton city council votes for taxi rate changes

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - The Lawton City Council voted on Tuesday to allow taxi companies to set their own rates to make it easier for them to compete with incoming ride-sharing companies that use apps.
City council members and local cab companies met last week to talk about ways to level the playing field.

City Council member Jay Burk, and the owner of AmeriCab both said that a lot of rules the city has for taxi drivers are outdated. Ever since Tride, a ride sharing app, came to Lawton at the end of last year, local cab companies have asked the city to either regulate the app, or ease up on the taxi ordinances.

They are hoping that this is the first step in getting the ordinances up to date, and allowing these local businesses to grow as the ride share industry grows.

"The current city code if you would print it out is about 12 pages long, we are regulated to the T," said AmeriCab Owner Candy Hanza.

Hanza says she is hoping over the next few weeks that the city will work with them in cutting down those pages of rules.

"There is no other business in town that is told what color vehicles they have to drive, who they have to hire,” said Hanza. “They have to take a test in order to be a cab driver. No other business in town has to do that. And to top it all off, how much we are allowed to charge."

But at Lawton's city Council meeting, the rate regulations were simplified. Cab companies can now name their own rates, but the city and customers must be told about the rate upfront.

Until now, the city was cut up into zones with different rates.

"The city of Lawton visitors that come in from our airports and stay at our hotels, they don't know understand why it's cheaper to go from the hotel to the airport than it is from the airport to the casino,” said Hanza. “It doesn't make sense and we have a hard time explaining it. Well you just passed that creek over there. They don't understand it. We don't either."

City Council member Jay Burk said when he started looking at the ordinances during their committee meeting, he realized what the companies were dealing with.

"Just some really archaic kind of rules,” said Burk. “From the test that said how many churches there are in Lawton, how many libraries. It's real tricky questions."

Hanza says the taxi driver test is one of the rules they look forward to getting rid of.

"We've lost some really good applicants because of that," Hanza.

Burk admits the changes were a long time coming, but happy they are getting done.

“We haven't looked at this in forever and you know until things like this happen and technology comes about to change things, you don't change," said Burk.

The ordinance to allow the companies to name their rates will go into effect by the end of the week.

Also, at Tuesday night’s meeting, the proposal to use $600,000 leftover from the 2012 Capital Improvements Project to use for a sidewalk on the Gore bridge going across I-44 was tabled. Oklahoma Department of Transportation has offered to pay for half of the $1.3 million project. The council wanted more details on the plan, and they will have it back on the agenda at the next council meeting.

Copyright 2017 KSWO. All rights reserved. 

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