San Diego taxicab reform heats up

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – San Diego City leaders are considering a big change in the taxi industry, but would San Diego be better off with more taxis on the street?

In San Diego, there are two types of taxi drivers: the kind with permits who own their own cabs, and those without permits who have to lease them.

The difference is enormous, and the differences are now at the forefront as city leaders consider a proposal that would remove a cap on the number of taxi permits.

There are only 993 of the city’s coveted permits, and Ray Salehi has some of them.

Because of the cap, Salehi could not buy a $3,000 permit from the city, so he eventually went to a speculator on the black market.

He says if the city removes the cap, hundreds of new drivers will be applying for permits, making his investment worthless.

Drivers like Abebe Antallo tell another story because he had to lease a cab at a cost of nearly $2,000 a month.

The pay for the weekly lease, drivers like Antallo say they’re forced to work long grueling hours. He says complaints sometimes result in retaliation by the cab owners.

Ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft have made this debate over permits even more contentious.

Battling new competition from services like Uber and Lyft could mean the city would remove the artificial barrier to competition.

Drivers with permits would lead to lower fares and better service.

Drivers who want the caps to stay in place say they are afraid of what will happen if too many cabs are on the street. Hundreds of drivers showed up for this discussion by the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. Other cities across the country have had to deal with taxi reform as the success of companies like Uber and Lyft increases.

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