Palm Beach County taxi drivers would have to accept debit and credit card payments and comply with a county-issued dress code, under a series of new regulations tentatively approved by county commissioners on Tuesday.
The commission voted 6-0 in favor of the new requirements, which would also force larger taxi companies to have handicapped accessible vehicles in their fleet and require inspections for older cars and vans. Commissioner Jess Santamaria was absent during the vote.
A final public hearing on the measures is set for April 16.
County administrators have spent roughly two years working on regulations for the industry, which many taxi drivers complain has gone largely unregulated.
In May 2011, the commission approved a moratorium blocking new vehicle-for-hire companies from opening in the county while county administrators studied the industry and worked to craft the new regulations. The moratorium is set to expire June 1.
Several taxi owners on Tuesday urged commissioners to extend the moratorium, arguing there are already too many companies operating here. As of March 1, there were 79 taxi companies with 638 vehicles working in the county.
“It is doing its job,” Sandra Moreau, secretary of the United Independent Transportation Association, said of the moratorium. “We have enough vehicles.”
But Commissioner Hal Valeche said it was important to have competition in the industry.
“My view on the moratorium is I feel very uncomfortable keeping it in place,” Valeche said.
Under the new regulations, taxi drivers and other vehicle-for-hire operators would have to comply with a dress code consisting of a collared shirt, long trousers or knee length skirt and closed shoes. The dress code is scheduled to take effect June 1.
New taxi companies would also have to begin accepting debit and credit cards by the June 1 deadline. Existing companies have until June 1, 2016 to accept the new payment methods, under the regulations.
Taxis and vehicles for hire that are older than 7 years or have more than 350,000 miles would have to be inspected by a certified mechanic twice a year under the proposed ordinance.
The Palm Beach County Commission also took the following action Tuesday:
Ethics: Appointed former Loxahatchee Groves Vice Mayor Dennis Lipp to the county’s Ethics Ordinance Drafting Committee. Lipp beat out Alan Johnson, the former executive director of the county’s ethics commission, for the seat.
Non-profit funding: Discussed cutting grant money awarded to 13 public service non-profit agencies to redirect it to help pay for the county’s homeless center, but decided not to.