Myrtle Beach Council votes to allow 15-passenger vehicles as taxis

mprabhu@thesunnews.comDecember 11, 2012 

— Operators of 15-passenger vehicles for hire in Myrtle Beach can now apply to operate as a taxicab in the city, according to an ordinance passed at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Previously, vehicles with seating for more than seven had to operate as limousines in the city. Now a driver of 15-passenger vehicle can choose to operate as a limousine or a taxi.

“A van can … operate as a limousine, but it can’t also operate as a taxi,” said city manager Tom Leath. “A taxi is a taxi and a limo is a limo. (Drivers) can’t operate in between.”

Leath said the law already said that vehicles registered as limousines were not allowed to operate as taxicabs, but the ordinance makes the rules “crystal clear.”

Now, city code defines a taxicab as a vehicle equipped with a taximeter, top light and proper lettering that seats no more than 15 passengers. Taxi drivers are allowed to solicit and accept passengers from one point to another under a fare schedule calculated by a meter.

City code defines limousines as vehicles with a seating capacity of up to 15 passengers, including a chauffeur, for compensation. Vehicles are not allowed to have lettering on the outside and all fares must be prearranged, according to city law. These vehicles apply for LS license plates through the state.

Councilman Mike Lowder said the council chose to address the issue because people in the taxicab industry had complained about limousines operating as taxicabs.

“Hopefully this will eliminate the competition between cabs and limousines (that are) doing the same thing,” he said.

During an Oct. 24 work session Charles Moore, manager of Diamond Cab, told the council a majority of taxicab drivers in the city support clarifying the ordinance.

In October, council members and members of the taxicab community questioned the ability of the ordinance to be enforced.

Myrtle Beach police Cpl. Bryan Murphy said then that the way the law stands makes it hard for officers to enforce. He said he would work with city staff to address enforcement concerns.

On Tuesday, David Clever, a police patrolman, said he believes he would be able to enforce the new law.

“Those who decide to play in that little gray area (between taxicabs and limousines) – that’s what we’re here for,” he said.

Some taxicab drivers who spoke at the council workshop Tuesday said they were concerned about a huge rush of 15-passenger vehicles hitting the streets of Myrtle Beach.

There are 182 registered taxicabs in Myrtle Beach, Clever said. Those wishing to bring a new taxicab into the city must apply for a medallion during the month of January.

The applicants must show there is a true transportation need, Leath said.

Those who already have taxicabs registered in the city are allowed to apply to transfer that taxi medallion to a 15-passenger vehicle, Leath said.

Clever said those transfers can be done any time of year.

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.

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