Scale Back Taxi Regulations

By Beacon Staff

The new ruling by the Montana Public Service Commission purportedly clarifies how “nonprofit” taxi services must operate and these new regulations will affect the services provided, free of charge, by the Ride Guy in Whitefish. The Ride Guy is a group of dedicated volunteers that seek to reduce to zero the number of people driving home drunk from Whitefish bars.

What happened to the free market? In the age of, “Get the government out of our lives,” why does the state government regulate taxi services? The PSC’s stated purpose for regulations of taxis is public safety. The goal of public safety is an admirable primary concern for the PSC. But is regulating (forcing) taxi companies to have to operate for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, really increasing public safety? Is this even a viable business model in the valley? How many taxi companies have failed in this regulatory environment? Is public safety really being proactively addressed when the PSC forces taxi businesses to buy exorbitant insurance policies? What safety measures are being met when potential taxi business owners are forced to pay to the state large sums of money for the privilege of starting a commercial taxi service? This is not a problem about safety. I say get out of their way and let them run their businesses as they see fit.

Let the free market determine the services that taxi services provide. Let the taxi businesses determine the hours of operation at which they can be profitable. If the state feels that a taxi service must operate 24 hours a day and cannot refuse service to any one, then let the state provide this service.

What about the public safety that is being performed by the Ride Guy of Whitefish? They offer drunk people free rides home. If this service was not available, a good majority of these folks would drive home impaired.

The “legal, dues paying, taxi companies” are saying it’s not fair! Can’t say that I disagree with them. It’s not fair. What is the real reason that the commission makes it hard for regulated taxi services to do their business? Perhaps the reason it is so hard for taxi services to succeed in the valley is the onerous government oversight placed upon them and the subsequent fees the state receives from these “licensed” taxi services. I would urge the commission to return to its more lenient approach to nonprofit taxis services that receive only voluntary gratuities as payment. I would also encourage a drastic scaling back, in general, of all taxi regulations and oversight

David A. Smith
Columbia Fall