Birmingham City Council

Birmingham Loosens Rules on Taxis to ‘Modernize’ Service

Source: Ad Meskens [ CC BY-SA 3.0]
The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to “modernize” the city’s taxicab ordinance, loosening restrictions on the appearance of taxis and allowing them to use third-party GPS technology to calculate fares.

The change comes as traditional taxi companies compete against ride-sharing operations that aren’t under the same rules as cabs.

“The goal of this is updating, modernizing some of the (ordinance) to the way the industry operates now,” Assistant City Attorney Julie Barnard told the council. “There’s a lot of changes. The primary thing is, this opens the city up to more modern operations and taxis, and that’s the goal here.”

The changes were proposed by Birmingham Yellow Cab, — though “they didn’t get everything exactly as they asked for it,” Barnard said. It asked to partner with third-party app zTrip to implement those GPS services in its fleet.

Many of the changes involved the city no longer mandating changes to cabs that would affect their resale value, such as a bright-yellow paint job or a taxi light screwed into the car’s roof. This is intended to allow cab companies to more easily update to newer models.

The other major change allows for the implementation of GPS technology to calculate ride fare and distance; services that wish to switch from a traditional taximeter will first have to inform riders before the ride starts and must have a mounted tablet inside the car showing real-time fare calculation to the rider.

Fare rates have not changed, and cabs will not be able to charge “surge pricing” during peak hours, unlike mobile ridesharing competitors Uber and Lyft.

The revised ordinance also cuts “services offered by third-party transportation app services” from its list of taxi services that require vehicle insurance, though “taxicabs” and “on-demand service vehicles” remain on the list. It also slightly broadens the ordinance’s definition of “non-emergency medical transport services” to include sedans in addition to vans, minivans, buses and accessible vehicles.