After Plainfield taxi owners and drivers protested at the City Council's October business meeting about North Plainfield taxis picking up customers in Plainfield in violation of our taxi ordinance, the Mapp administration proposed an update to the ordinance that passed on first reading at Tuesday's combined meeting.
According to Corporation Counsel David Minchello, the administration proposes to strengthen the ordinance by giving a police officer who witnesses a pickup by an out-of-town taxi company the option of having the vehicle towed, in addition towriting a ticket.
This is sort of a "nuclear option" in the taxi wars.
In the first place, the passenger(s) would be left in the lurch -- and frightened, too, if we believe remarks by a driver during public comment at Tuesday's meeting.
Secondly, the cab would be towed away to the tower's holding lot, and could only be recovered after the ticket was properly paid at the Courthouse. This would tie up one of the company's cabs for a considerable time -- hurting its business.
There is something about this situation that no one has discussed, far as I know.
That is that Plainfield and North Plainfield really have a symbiotic relationship, with large numbers of the residents of each town patronizing businesses in the other one.
I even recall that the highly collectible Courier-News photo book of 1927 makes no distinction between the two towns, nor even between Plainfield and Watchung and Warren.
Unspoken in the argument so far is the fact that Plainfield taxis pick up hails and calls for rides in North Plainfield -- which is also illegal. If North Plainfield is encouraged to take a similar position to Plainfield's, it will be a costly taxi war with no winners.
I wonder if it's not possible to tackle the issue through setting up a combined Plainfield-North Plainfield taxi licensing system. Would it not be possible to create a two-town licensing agreement?
According to Minchello, Plainfield taxi companies are restricted from adding more cabs to their fleets, which puts them at somewhat of a disadvantage with North Plainfield's Soria Taxi, which has the largest fleet.
But that could be a question on the table in any negotiation to resolve the issue.
Maybe it's worth a shot?
-- Dan Damon [follow]