by Allen Powell II
New Orleans bureau
October 05, 2012
Kenner — While New Orleans officials and taxi drivers bicker over the city’s new licensing guidelines, Kenner officials continue to quietly revamp that city’s rules for cabs and expect to finalize the new procedures in six months.
Kenner has had a moratorium on new taxicab licenses since April 2011, and last month the Kenner City Council voted to extend that ban for another six months. The ban applies only to those companies or individual operators who are not located in Kenner.
Councilman Kent Denapolis, the chairman of the city’s taxicab committee, said the committee needs a little extra time to finalize its reboot of the city’s guidelines, which have been the same since the 1970s. Kenner established the moratorium in order to get time to modernize its rules before the city was swamped by an influx of applications from companies miffed at the process in New Orleans.
“We just didn’t want to get caught up in the dynamics in New Orleans,” Denapolis said. “We just had a scary amount of applicants. … We haven’t updated our rules or regulations or our application process in years.”
New Orleans cabbies and city officials have argued for months about the city’s new rules, which include a requirement for credit card machines, cameras and GPS in cabs and also require vehicles to be replaced every seven years starting in 2014. The city has already implemented the rules, and taxi drivers have complained that they are a financial hardship. Sporadic protests have erupted over the rules.
Denapolis said as soon as New Orleans began discussing its new guidelines, Kenner saw a surge in interest from companies. Kenner has about 400 taxi cab licenses, or Certificates of Public Necessity and Convenience, compared to roughly 1,600 in New Orleans. However, Kenner, a city of 65,000 residents, has more licenses than the rest of Jefferson Parish combined due to the draw of the Louis Armstrong International Airport. Unlike in New Orleans where big companies own blocks of licenses and hire operators, most of Kenner’s licenses are issued to single operators, and they are non-transferable. City officials believe there are too many licenses to monitor properly, Denapolis said.
“It’s a lot of paperwork, it’s a lot on us as a city,” Denapolis said.
Kenner charges $100 annually for a license, along with $20 in inspection fees. The city’s code enforcement and inspections department reviews health certificates for taxi drivers, conducts vehicle inspections and handles complaints.
The taxicab committee is considering a cap on licenses in the city, and while a final number has not been set, Denapolis would like the limit to be around 250 to 300 licenses. The city wouldn’t revoke any existing licenses but instead allow the total to decrease through natural attrition, he said.
Kenner also would incorporate variations of the guidelines from New Orleans like requiring credit card machines and cabs to be replaced every 10 years. However, because the city has so many individual operators, taxi drivers would not be required to have a two-way radio system, and possibly would be exempt from having cameras, Denapolis said. Those changes would be a hardship for individual operators, he said.
Denapolis praised taxi drivers for their assistance in drafting the new rules, adding that most operators support making the cabs as presentable as possible. He said the city just wants to make sure the playing field is even for all operators.
“The response has been great from the taxi companies. They’ve been more helpful than destructive,” Denapolis said. “There are a few bad apples that make things difficult for taxi drivers.”