Cab horns raise lawmaker's ire

Annapolis alderwoman has heard enough, pushes to fine drivers beeping to alert fares

February 15, 2007|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

It all started with a honking cabdriver outside the apartment complex of an irritated Annapolis alderwoman.

Words were exchanged, complaints were lodged, meetings were held, and now, the alderwoman is mounting a charge against an annoyance familiar to every city dweller. She is drafting a bill that would make taxicab drivers subject to fines for honking their horns to pick up passengers.

"I'm looking at what we can do. I'm living in a community that has been besieged," says Alderwoman Julie Stankivic, who declined to discuss the bill's details. She plans to attend a hearing today with city officials and some of the offending drivers.

Honking, beeping, denting, whatever you call it, is bothersome. At night, in the morning, in the afternoon.

Unless you're a cabdriver.

"To pass a law that says you can't honk your horn if you are picking someone up, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me," said Alfred LaGasse, executive vice president of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association a national organization based in Kensington. "Actually, it makes no sense to me."

He couldn't think of "a city in any place in the whole wide world" that attempted to ban honking, excessive or otherwise.

Robert H. Eades, who owns Neet-n-Klean Taxi in Annapolis, does not understand why the city needs anti-honking legislation.

"They've been trying to lean on us for a bunch of things," he said, not necessarily intending the pun. "I had an officer give me a ticket for honking my horn at 9 o'clock at night. I went, `Dent, dent, dent" ... Are you telling me that I can only blow my horn one time or twice?"

(Or three times in that case, in which Eades was cited for violating the city's noise ordinance.)

This is why Stankivic is willing to take on Eades and the 200 cab operators in the city.

"I hear beeping, lots of beeping, at all hours of the day and night," she said. "Someone beeped their horn over the weekend. And so I look outside and, typically, it's a cab. And I'll go outside and talk to the cabdriver."

Do not honk your horn when you are coming to pick up a fare, she'll say. Didn't you get the memo from the city's transportation office? (There was a memo.) Use your cell phone. Call dispatch. Go up and ring the doorbell.

From Dec. 30 to Feb. 3, Stankivic filed eight complaints against taxicabs operators who took the noisy route.

There they were, in her neighborhood, beeping away on different days at 8:25 a.m. 8:45 a.m. 10:45 a.m., 1 p.m. 1:20 p.m., 2:25 p.m., 2:50 p.m. and 3:10 p.m.

But in Mayor Ellen O. Moyer's neighborhood in Eastport, not once has she been disturbed by a horn.

She has developed guidelines for horn-blowing cab operators.

"I think it's reasonable to expect that a taxicab driver would let their fares know with a single horn that they are there, if it is anytime, any day and it amounts to one beep," Moyer said. "But I have no sense from anybody else that it is an issue. One person doesn't make it an issue citywide."

To be fair, it is more than one. More than 25 people have called the city's Police Department over the past 18 months with similar cabbie complaints.

And Stankivic said she has heard from seven or eight people.

Alderman Sam Shropshire, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said he has fielded three phone calls from people in his condominium complex complaining about numerous instances of taxicabs beeping and blaring in the dead of night.

"Julie and I are aware that it is a problem in our neighborhoods, and we'd like to be able to solve the problem," he said. "If anybody is concerned about the legislation, then I can't understand why."

The bill is expected to come up for review as early as March 12.nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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