CAROLINA BEACH — Becoming a taxi driver in Carolina Beach could be getting easier thanks to a proposal to loosen regulations on the industry. The proposed text amendment is in response to complaints made by a taxi company about golf cart taxis not being held to the same standards as regular taxis.
If approved, the new language would remove requirements that taxis must utilize a taximeter. According to the current code, “It shall be unlawful for any person to operate any taxicab in the town unless such taxicab is equipped with a taximeter.”
But instead of requiring golf carts and low-speed vehicles to install meters, the town is suggesting the removal of the meter requirement altogether.
“No person shall utilize a taximeter unless it is of a type and design which shall be
approved by the police department. It shall be the duty of the person operating such taxicab and also the driver thereof, whom choose to utilize a meter, to keep such meters operating at all times within five percent of absolute accuracy. No passenger shall be carried in such taxicab unless such taximeter shall be in operation and such meter shall be kept operating continuously during the entire time that it is engaged in the transportation of passengers for compensation and during any waiting time,” the proposed amendment reads.
The language can be slightly confusing, since it focuses largely on meter requirements, but the line “whom choose to utilize a meter” signals the amendment’s main impact: making meter use optional. In other words, taxis could use meters – if they meet the right requirements – to figure out what fares to charge, but the town would no longer require meters as a prerequisite to being a taxi.
What started the debate?
Over the summer, Len Simpson, owner of Ebb Tide Taxi, voiced his concerns that the newly-formed Sun Fun Rentals golf cart taxi service was not being held to the same standards of taxicabs.
Related: Is there a double standard for Golf cart taxis in Carolina Beach?
“There’s a company on this island now that doesn’t adhere to all the rules and regulations of taxicabs. I own a taxicab, I know what it takes. I know the expense involved, there has to be a state-regulated, calibrated meter in each taxicab – they do not have this. There has to be a taxi license plate – they have none at all,” Simpson said during a Town Council meeting.
Mayor of Carolina Beach Joe Benson said he supports the unique method of transportation and is okay with making the code more accessible for golf carts.
“I like the idea of a creative and unique way of getting around town. They still have to adhere to the low-speed vehicle ordinance — having blinkers, lights, etc,” Benson said.
He also believes the taxi industry will always have a place in town, regardless of golf carts operating as cabs. Taxis will always have the trips to and from Carolina Beach to Kure Beach since their neighbor to the south does not allow golf carts to operate in town, Benson said.
The same is true for anyone trying to get across the bridge. Also, having another way to avoid drunk drivers is a benefit for Benson.
“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive for the golf carts. I see it as a way to reduce the number of folks who would drink and drive – I can’t quantify it – but that’s a fact,” he said.
However, if staff makes a recommendation to require taximeters, Benson said he would not be in opposition to that and he believes that the golf cart cabs would be able to offset the cost of installation easily.
Council will debate the issue on Tuesday evening at its regular scheduled meeting, there will be a public hearing and vote on the issue.
Michael Praats can be reached at Michael.P@Localvoicemedia.com