Taxi Contract Controversy at Transportation Committee Wednesday

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Photo, by Joe Linton, from the L.A. Taxi Workers Alliance protest at City Hall in August

The agenda for this Wednesday’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee includes an important hearing on the future of Los Angeles’ taxi system.

As is evident in cities throughout the world, taxis can play an important role in providing a healthy balance of transportation options. Taxis are considered a public utitlity, hence are regulated
tightly by the city. Taxis’ effectiveness is hindered by L.A.’s byzantine system of taxi regulations. Numerous issues in the taxi industry have been raised by studies including UCLA’s Driving Poor and the Los Angeles Taxi Workers’ Alliance’s Sweatshops on Wheels.

In late 2008, the city issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) for a consultant to review the current taxi system and to make recommendations on how to resolve problems. The review is targeted to
be completed so that feedback can be incorporated in to the system before the city revisits existing taxi franchises due to expire in December 2010.

The City Council directed the LADOT to report back with their recommendations for the council to review, but that process went out the window this summer. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation made the determination that, despite the council’s specifications, LADOT could select a consultant, bypass the City Council and Taxi Commission, and go straight to Mayor Villaraigosa. In July, LADOT and the Mayor’s office awarded the $250,000 taxi consultant contract to Nelson/Nygaard and its team leader Will Rodman. Rodman worked with the city in 2000 to craft the current system that has so many problems.

LADOT’s lack of transparency triggered protests by taxi drivers, calling for the contract to be rescinded. Councilmembers Alarcon and Rosendahl initiated a motion (08-0531-s1) requesting that LADOT appear before the Transportation Committee this week to explain why the council and the public were excluded from the contract approval process.

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