Sixty-eight more taxicabs will roam Baltimore streets soon.
Taxi regulators said yesterday that they have settled a 4-year-old dispute with cab companies over how many taxis are needed to serve the city. The agreement will let the state Public Service Commission schedule a lottery to issue owner permits to 68 lucky cabdrivers.
The regulators, seeking to improve the city's much-maligned cab service, want to issue more permits for drivers to own and operate their own cabs, said commission attorney Bryan G. Moorhouse. The PSC sets the number and rates of taxicabs for the city, Baltimore County, Cumberland and Hagerstown.
The regulators' attempts to raise the number of cabs on city streets to 1,151 has been fought by local cab companies, which insisted the problem with city service wasn't too few cabs, but too-low fares.
The cab owners sued the PSC to block the lottery in September but have agreed to an out-of-court settlement, Mr. Moorhouse said. The state hasn't set a new date for the lottery.
Chuck Gale, a longtime Yellow Cab driver who has applied for one of the permits, said nearly every driver would prefer to be an owner, because owners earn more and can be their own bosses.
Drivers lease cabs from their owners for about $50 a day, then pay for their own gas. Often a driver spends a total of $90 during a day searching for fares, he said.
But getting a permit to buy and operate their own cabs is tough. The state long ago capped the number of owner permits at 1,083, pushing the price of privately held permits to about $15,000, Mr. Gale said.
More than 800 drivers have applied for the lottery, which will give drivers with six months' experience a free owner's permit. Those permit holders would not be able to sell their permits for four years. But after that, they could sell them for whatever price they could get.
Mark Joseph, owner of Yellow Transportation Co., said the cab owners agreed to let the lottery go ahead "to show good faith with the public" even though the owners still believe the number of cabs isn't the cause of complaints.