May 21, 2014 -- Sacramento has earned the ire of local cab drivers by suggesting they shower more often, speak English and be able to make change.
"Telling people to take showers!? To take an English test!?" asks Kazman Zaido, indignation audible in his voice. Zaido, head of the Sacramento Taxi Cab Union, says many of the drivers in his union have worked in Sacramento for many years. They know perfectly well what level of professionalism is expected of them, he says, and they deliver it. In his view, such rules, if implemented at all, should apply only to new drivers.
Dozens of angry drivers marched yesterday on Sacramento's city hall in opposition to these and other new controls, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The city's revenue manager, Brad Wasson, tells ABC News the big cab companies endorse the rules, which are the result of more than 20 meetings over the past 18 months between city officials and representatives from the taxi and hotel industries. "From all that, we have established a set of best practices," he says. Wasson says virtually all the opposition comes from smaller cab companies and independent drivers.
Competition for customers has gotten so fierce that fist-fights have broken out between drivers, he says. The small independents don't have a central dispatcher, so must depend on capturing airport-bound fares immediately as customers leave their hotels. "They're desperate for business," he says of the drivers. "When a fare walks out, there have been fights. Fist-fights. That behavior is not good for Sacramento or for our hospitality industry."
Independent drivers, Zaido explains, have resisted doing things the city wants them to do because of the costs involved: setting up a dispatch center for independent drivers would eat into their income, he says, which can be as little as $50 a day. So would a pending city requirement that all cabs be able to process credit cards. A credit card reader, says Zaido, can set a driver back $2,500.
Wasson says the city, in an effort to meet small drivers half way, has modified the credit card requirement: small drivers could use a smartphone to process charges, rather than a costly dedicated card reader.
As for the English proficiency requirement, Wasson says the city council gets one or two complaints a month from people who wound up at the wrong destinations because of failures in English communication between driver and passenger. The test, he says, is really quite modest. Readers can draw their own conclusion from the three sample questions below.
The next step in the promulgation of the new rules, Wasson tells ABC News, will come May 27, when the city council will have the opportunity to vote on them or to request the gathering of further information.
1. Another word for taxi is:
Car Cab Bus Amusement
2. Max was____________________to see me. (Fill in the correct word):
Blank Happy Eat Shark
3. The moon shines_________________
Bright Car Sad Box