Taxicab drivers in East Hampton Town will now have to be fingerprinted if they want to have customers this summer.
The new process of getting fingerprinted and licensed, which takes about 10 days, has concerned many cab company owners since every day spent waiting is one fewer day making money for the season.
But the East Hampton Town Board voted last Thursday night, May 15, to go forward with new taxi regulations before the summer season begins.
According to town officials, the new laws are to help the town more easily enforce rules that some drivers and cab companies don’t adhere to, especially in the summer.
Now taxi drivers will have to be fingerprinted before being granted a license in the town—that is already the law in Southampton and Riverhead towns—and must apply for a license every year, instead of every two years.
Just a month ago, the town introduced a new fee schedule comparable to what Southampton and Riverhead currently have. The cost of a business license for taxi companies in East Hampton is now $750, up from just $200 charged every two years.
Every cab under a taxi license must have a permit as well, which now costs $200 each year. Previously, the town charged $150 every two years. Drivers must also have permits, which have been increased to $200. All vehicles for hire must also be registered in the same name as the business license.
So the town can have access to companies’ records at any time, to track a complaint, for example, each cab company must maintain a written record of all trips, including time and place.
In response to safety complaints, the town now also requires taxi drivers to watch their cabs for overcrowding, or they’ll face a fine.
Earlier this month, taxi drivers and cab owners expressed their concern that not only will it be more expensive to operate with the fee increases, but it’s essentially impossible to make sure there are only so many customers in the back of their vehicles. Some said the town was treating them like criminals by requiring fingerprints.
But Town Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said the new regulations are necessary to keep companies and drivers safe and acting legally.
To help matters, however, now the town will allow smaller taxi companies to operate a home office to fulfill the requirement that they must have an office within town limits. Owners can park their two cars at a home, but cannot use their home as a taxi depot.
For those companies that want to branch out, they can now use an office space within an office building or complex, which they couldn’t do before.
At Thursday night’s Town Board meeting, Councilman Fred Overton said he agreed with the new rules but would like to take a closer look at some point in the future concerning the law that penalizes taxi drivers for overcrowded cabs. How to enforce that is questionable, he said.