Henrico supervisors consider taxicab ordinance adjustments

FEB. 25, 11:50 A.M. – Faced with the possible dissolution of the Capital Region Taxicab Advisory Board, officials from the four largest Metro Richmond localities are considering changes to their individual taxi ordinances to grant cab companies greater freedom from regulation, making it easier for them to compete with companies like Uber and Lyft.

In Henrico, the county's Board of Supervisors met Tuesday night to discuss potential changes to the county's ordinance, proposed by the Henrico Division of Police. Those changes would lessen regulatory issues for taxicab drivers – most notably by reducing the current yearly permit renewal process to just once every three years.

“Local cab companies are under a lot of pressure and competition from other companies such as Uber and Lyft. They want a greater freedom from local regulation,” Henrico Police Chief Doug Middleton told supervisors.

The CRTAB, composed of representatives from all four jurisdictions, is responsible for ensuring a reciprocal regulatory process, so that the four localities have identical taxicab regulatory ordinances (allowing cabs to serve all four localities). But it faces an uncertain future because of legal and financial concerns. Each locality had pledged $9,000 to the board this year, but only Henrico and Chesterfield followed through. Hanover contributed just $250, and Richmond provided no money.

When it meets April 7, the CRTAB may choose to dissolve itself, transferring regulatory measures to the law enforcement agencies in each respective locality. The Henrico Division of Police is prepared to take over those responsibilities in the county and is capable of doing so, Middleton told the board.

“The staff in the police division are very confident that we can perform all these functions. We can do them more efficiently and more professionally, without spending the $9,000 a year that we currently spend,” Middleton said.

Because the City of Richmond made changes to its taxicab ordinance in November, the uniformity that previously extended in the region no longer does, which makes the situation more difficult for both taxi companies and drivers.

“Ordinances are intended to be reciprocal so that taxicab drivers granted approval can legally operate in all the member jurisdictions so long as the ordinances remain comparable,” Middleton said.

As a result of the uncertainty about the future of CRTAB – and the changes made to the Richmond ordinance – police chiefs from the four jurisdictions have discussed (and come to some agreement about) how to restore the uniformity on their own.

The proposed changes to Henrico's ordinance would give greater flexibility for the operations of taxicabs. Henrico Police officials recommend developing a permitting process through the ordinance that includes standardized fees and administrative processes.

According to Middleton, the police chiefs of the other three localities agree with that plan. Despite changing their ordinance just this past November, City of Richmond officials are prepared to adopt whatever ordinance the other three adopt, according to Middleton, which would simplify the taxicab regulatory processes.

Henrico has the most taxicab businesses among the four localities, with 118 cab companies and 356 drivers. (By comparison, Richmond is home to 15 cab companies and 195 drivers.)

In order to pass the existing regulations set forth in the Henrico County Code, taxicab companies must pass driver background checks, training seminars and yearly vehicle inspections. Each driver must also pay a $20 Taxicab Driver Permit fee to receive a certificate of public convenience and necessity, which includes an initial application fee of $15 per vehicle and must be renewed every year.

Among the amendments made to the City of Richmond's ordinance in November:

• elimination of some restrictions on which vehicles may serve as taxis;

• clarification of rules about payment tolls versus the requirement to take the most direct route;

• and the elimination of an annual taxi driver orientation training requirement, while keeping intact the initial training.

Competitive issues remain
While the proposed amendments to the ordinances are expected to help taxi companies and drivers, the issue of transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, still remains.

“The competitive nature of that business is a real challenge for the cab companies, which is why we’re trying to make it an easier process for them so that they can be more competitive, without overly regulating them," Middleton said. "We still have to do some regulatory measures – it's our responsibility – but we do not have any control over those TNCs at all."

Companies like Uber operate under state legislation, so local governments have no authority over them. That lack of local regulation has been and will continue to be a source of frustration for Henrico County, according to Tuckahoe District Supervisor Patricia O’Bannon, who also serves as a member of the airport commission.

Richmond International Airport, which has its own set of taxicab rules, is a source of frustration for local taxicab companies. The airport operates under the Henrico County ordinance, but it also imposes additional regulations and fees for taxis.

All taxicab drivers are required to enter through a certain gate and pay a fee, but Uber drivers dodge the fee by entering the airport a different way.

“[The fee is] charged by the weight of the vehicle because that’s how the airport makes its money," O'Bannon said. "They repave the roads with that."

After complaints from local cab companies, airport officials amended the rules, requiring companies like Uber and Lyft to enter through the taxicab gate even though they are technically not cabs. Issues like that one continue to arise as the alternative transportation companies grow in popularity.

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Henrico Master Gardener training program accepting applications through Oct. 27

The Henrico County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension is accepting applications for its next volunteer Master Gardener training program, which provides instruction in all aspects of horticulture.

Applications for the 2018 training program will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 27. Classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from Jan. 16 through March 22. > Read more.

Henrico Schools to host Oct. 30 job fair

Henrico Schools will host a job fair Oct. 30.

The event, to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fairfield branch library, is designed to attract potential full-time and substitute registered nurses, instructional assistants, bus drivers and school nutrition workers. > Read more.

Henrico Police to participate in ‘Tip a Cop’ Oct. 21

Henrico County Police Division and the Virginia Division of Capitol Police are participating in “Tip-A-Cop” to Support the Special Olympics Saturday, Oct. 21.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. that day at Red Robin, 11784 West Broad Street, members of the two agencies will be working for tips as a donation to the Special Olympics. > Read more.

Participants sought for ‘Walk to End Alzheimer’s’

The Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held Saturday, Nov. 4, at Markel Plaza in Innsbrook, and the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Richmond is seeking participants.

The event, one of three walks the association will hold in its service area this year (the Middle Peninsula-Northern Neck walk was held Oct. 7 and the Fredericksburg walk Oct. 14) raises money to help the association fight the disease, which affects more than 26,000 people in the metro Richmond region. > Read more.

Fairfield meeting Oct. 25 to focus on cybersecurity

Henrico County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman and Fairfield District Supervisor Frank J. Thornton will hold a constituent meeting Wednesday, Oct. 25 to discuss cybersecurity.

Thornton also has invited candidates who will be seeking election to local offices on Tuesday, Nov. 7 to introduce themselves. > Read more.

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October 2017

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The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, in partnership with the Latin Ballet of Virginia, will present the Day of the Dead / El Día de los Muertos Festival from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. This festive celebration of life will feature live performances by the Latin Ballet and the Richmond Ballet’s Minds in Motion Ambassadors, as well as dancing, music, sweets, treats and art activities. Mercado Muertos, a mini-shop featuring an array of themed gifts and art to celebrate the spirit of the dead, will have items for sale with most priced at $20 and under. Costumes are encouraged. This family-friendly event is free and open to the public. For details, call 261-ARTS or visit http://www.artsglenallen.com. Full text

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