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Taxi Deregulation Spurs Reports of Price Gouging

jayRaz via Creative Commons

Taxicab companies in Salt Lake City have quietly operated mostly unregulated since November. That’s led to reports of price gouging.

Traditional cab companies are no longer required to provide 24/7 service, make accommodations for people with disabilities or charge a set fee. David Everitt is Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s chief of staff. He says complaints from people who are paying more for their cab rides have already trickled in.

“We’ve really been trying to get the word out to people at the airport and throughout the city,” Everitt says. “Hey if you’re experiencing an unsatisfactory situation with regards to either the price or the experience we need to know that. We really want to track that closely to see if indeed there is a more systemic problem.”

Everitt says Salt Lake City still requires ground transportation providers to have a background check and a business license—which the city polices with secret shoppers and spot checks.

The Utah Legislature passed a bill this year that takes away Salt Lake City’s authority to regulate cabs and ride-share companies altogether. Utah Governor Gary Herbert hasn’t decided whether he’ll sign it.

Yellow Cab owner Mark Hatch says he’s lost a quarter of his fleet as drivers go to work for themselves---often times driving unmarked Yellow Cab cars that the drivers legally own. Hatch says his drivers are operating as usual and charging the same fees, but he can’t say the same about those who left the fleet.

“We’re hoping the state is going to recognize the value of having a well-organized, economical transportation company that they can regulate and control rather than have this thing out of control,” Hatch says.  

Salt Lake City eased its ground transportation rules in November to legalize ride-share companies like Lyft and Uber just as its contracts with existing cab companies like Yellow Cab expired. 

Correction: The Utah Legislature passed a bill this session that takes away Salt Lake City's authority to regulate ride-share companies like Lyft and Uber. Salt Lake City still has the ability to contract with taxi companies. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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