Potsdam taxi company back in business following village board resolution

 Taxi Zero cab service in Potsdam is back in business as of Monday after a three-month hiatus.

Owner John D. Meyers said his taxi cab business has been out of operation since Oct. 13 because he realized he was losing money due to the $6 taxi rate cap put in place by the village board in 2008.

“The fact that municipalities have regulated the price of taxis came out of regulation first of the mechanical issues of cars, then unscrupulous drivers in large urban areas would overcharge drunk people, so they started trying to figure out a way to regulate that,” Mr. Meyers said. “Then I think, it became an overreach for setting a rate for taxi rate service.”

The taxi cab company’s woes began on Oct. 11, when a driver for Taxi Zero, Joseph E. Boyle, was issued an appearance ticket to the Potsdam Town Court after the village had received complaints of the taxi company charging more than the set village rates for taxis.

After an investigation by the village police, Mr. Boyle was found to have charged a higher rate than those set by the village.

On Nov. 7, Mr. Meyers appeared in front of the village board and stated his case on why the rate cap needed to be increased or eliminated.

“Their rates have to be high enough so they can stay in business. I don’t think we have any business regulating private enterprise,” he said at the Nov. 7 meeting. “We don’t tell people who give driving lessons what to charge or tell gas stations how much to charge. I don’t see how they are any different.”

A little more than three months later, Mr. Meyers’s wishes were granted.

The Village Board voted on a resolution Monday night approving new taxi rates for Taxi Zero inside village limits, through April 30, 2018:

■ $10 for one to two passengers

■ $2 added fare from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m.

■ $2 added to fare beyond two miles

■ $2 added fare per stop up to three minutes

■ $2 added to fare per extra passenger, beyond second passenger

■ 70 cents per minute added to fare per stop after three minutes

■ 50 percent charge for no-shows or cancellations

In addition, the village board approved new taxi rates for Potsdam Madstop Taxi through April 30, 2018:

■ $7 for one passenger

■ $1 for each additional passenger

■ $4 for each additional stop — $1 per minute after 5 minutes

■ $10 for 1 passenger from 12 p.m. to 6 a.m.

■ $1 for each additional passenger from 12 p.m. to 6 a.m.

■ $8 for SUNY Potsdam and medical vouchers

■ $100 per hour for moving boxes, totes, bins, etc., at a minimum of $50

According to Mr. Meyers, he worked with the Village Board members on the new rates.

“By submitting the rates to the village board for approval, there’s accountability, or oversight,” a grateful Mr. Meyers said to the village board members at Monday night’s meeting. “We not only have to display the rates in our vehicles, but by submitting them to the board for approval, we’re assuring everyone that the prices displayed are known by the village board, and by extension, the village police, so that no changes may be made except on a yearly basis.”

Taxi Zero currently operates using hybrid vehicles. In the future, Mr. Meyers said he hopes to purchase zero-emission cars for his business.

“There’s a cost associated with preserving the environment and people are aware of that. There’s no provision in the municipal ordinance for green technology and people are willing to pay a premium for green technology,” Mr. Meyers said. “People are concerned about the environment.”

One hundred Potsdam village residents use Taxi Zero per week, according to Mr. Meyers.

“There’s a broad spectrum of customers,” he said. “So we are trying to balance what is feasible to operate at versus what the market can bear. Can everyone afford our prices? No. Can everyone afford $6? No.”

“Not everyone can afford a steak dinner here at Maxfield’s,” Mr. Meyers added. “That doesn’t mean they’re not allowed to provide a steak dinner to those who want it.”