Illegal cabs steal business from city taxi companies


New Brunswick taxi owners lose business everyday because more than 100 illegal, "gypsy" drivers from surrounding areas with less expensive licenses and less strict requirements cruise the city.

As the economy bears down on businesses throughout the nation, the city's taxi owners addressed their concerns Wednesday night to the City Council.

Joseph Adam, co-owner of All Brunswick Taxi, said they have already seen a 60 percent loss of business due to the many illegal drivers in New Brunswick taking away his business.

A judge addressed violators who cruise illegally in the city last week in municipal court, said Co-owner of Victory Taxi Cab Roger. He said most of them are from out of state, with many coming from Maryland.

City Attorney William Hamilton said only four taxicab companies are licensed to service New Brunswick: Victory, Yellow, All-Brunswick and Metro.

The issue of illegal drivers is something city taxi drivers have been grappling with for six or seven years, said Kameel Eid, manager of All Brunswick Taxi.

He said the "gypsy drivers" get issued licenses from other townships where licensing is cheaper than in New Brunswick, where they pay $85,000.

"They come from [other townships] to work in New Brunswick under the name of Amigo or Liberty. Week after week, you see a new name," Eid said. "They are in New Brunswick. They sleep in New Brunswick, they work in New Brunswick and they park in New Brunswick."

Eid said the gypsy cabs transport passengers to and from New Brunswick at a cheaper rate, which is illegal.

Licensed New Brunswick drivers charge $4.75, the minimum rate for a ride within New Brunswick as set forth by city ordinance, while the gypsy drivers charge $4, he said.

Gerges said one man had four tickets, including speeding on Easton Avenue, illegal change of lanes and operating without a license.

Gerges said he is willing to work with the city to clean up this dilemma because they are losing so much business.

"Our goal is the safety and comfort of the passengers and the citizens," Gerges said.

City Council President Elizabeth Garlatti said they are doing the best they can.

"We have employed various strategies to attempt to address these problems. It is an ongoing issue for all of us," Garlatti said. "We have all suffered from the overabundance of illegal vehicles in New Brunswick, taxicabs or otherwise."

Hamilton said he will present a series of recommendations to tackle this issue at the next City Council meeting.

"Anyone who says we have not done anything is nuts," Hamilton said.

New Brunswick resident Nona Dempsey said some illegal taxis like Amigo are at the forefront in the city.

"If I know that they should not be here, they may not have any insurance, they might not have any registration … I'm not getting in that cab," Dempsey said. "But if we're not informed, or misinformed, we do not know."

The council also discussed a city ordinance at the meeting concerning the use of full-size vehicles for taxi services. Some taxi companies in the city employ Chevy Malibus, but Hamilton said the council's position has always been for safety and convenience purposes and they want the largest vehicle available. The Chevy Malibu does not fit into that category, he said.

If the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission deems a vehicle safe, the car size should not matter, Dempsey said.

 


Heather Brookhart

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