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Milwaukee-area hotel managers want more cabs (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

By Don Walker, Milwaukee Journal SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 07--Managers of several hotels on Monday expressed muted support for a new city ordinance that would increase the number of cabs.

The managers told aldermen on the Milwaukee Common Council's Public Safety Committee their customers want good cab service but often have to wait a long time to get one or have difficulty getting a cab to return them to their hotel when they go out to eat or to a show.

"We are dealing with a clientele that needs things immediately," said Michael Die trich, the general manager at the Hilton Milwaukee River in Glendale.

Hotel guests want to see a Milwaukee Brewers game, go to the Milwaukee County Zoo or go downtown for an event, he said.

"We hear from guests how hard it is to get there," he said.

Aldermen are considering a makeover of the city's taxicab industry. Sponsored by Ald. Bob Bauman, the proposed measure would repeal the current cap on taxi permits -- it stands at 321 -- and authorize 50 new permits before Nov. 1, 2014. It would then establish 10 new permits a year for five years.

Bauman's plan also would set up a system for accepting and processing permit applications and prohibit applicants from having a financial interest in more than two new taxicab permits, though the limitation does not apply to permits issued before Nov. 1, 2013. In addition, no person holding more than one taxicab permit issued before Nov. 1, 2013, is eligible to apply for a new permit after that date.

The proposed ordinance also would have an inspection system for taxicabs.

Taxicab owners, while accepting that change is in the air, have suggested that at least half of the 50 new permits be designated for specific areas of the city where cab service is difficult to come by. The owners also have proposed that all cars have equipment to receive payments by credit card, and that all new vehicles have back-seat credit card swipe devices.

Robert Grosch of the Milwaukee County Hospitality Association told aldermen that bar owners and restaurateurs think there is a cab shortage.

"There is a definite need for more cabs," he said.

Tim Smith, general manager of the InterContinental Milwaukee Hotel, said his hotel normally has cabs waiting in line to serve customers.

"It can evaporate very quickly," he said.

He said he and his wife live just north of downtown and often have problems getting a cab to go downtown for an event. The wait can sometimes be an hour long, he said.

On Thursday, the Public Safety Committee will meet again to consider the proposed ordinance. The committee chairman, Ald. Terry Witkowski, said he wasn't sure yet if a vote will be taken.

Even if Bauman's proposal advances, attorneys for cabbies say any cap on taxicab permits is unconstitutional. Last month, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jane Carroll ruled that the city's current law violates the state's constitution.


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