Town Fare: Viking Taxi Owner makes a Pitch for Fare Hike Within Town Limits

Thursday, July 21, 2011
By Cary Shuman

Russell Gillis, owner of Viking Taxi, listens as Councilor Nicholas DelVento speaks about his request for a taxi fare increase. Also pictured are Councilors Paul Varone and Larry Powers, Council Vice President James Letterie and Council President Jeffrey Turco.

The Town Council will vote at its Aug. 2 meeting whether to grant a request made by Russell Gillis, owner of Viking Taxi, to increase fares for taxi transportation within the town. The Council held a public hearing on the matter Tuesday night.

Councilor-at-Large Larry Powers, a member of the council’s finance committee, opened the public hearing  by stating that Viking Taxi had requested a fare increase for seniors from $2 to $3 for intra-town transportation and $3 to $4 for non-seniors.

“The basic proposal is to increase fares by a dollar – for seniors (age 65 or older) and others,” summarized Powers.

Council President Jeffrey Turco asked whether the finance committee had made a recommendation on the fare increase proposal.

“The recommendation was to bring it before the full Council,” Powers responded.

Powers read a letter from Winthrop resident Peter Gill stating, “I would ask the Council to instruct Viking Taxi, that if there is to be consideration for a fare increase that they use the taxi stands recently designated by the Council. I pass by the designated spaces at the Hagman Road parking lot location and I have never seen a taxi parked in either of them. In addition I urge the Council to encourage the owner to continue to replace the taxis. The current fleet appears to be old and in poor condition.”

Gerald Ogus, chairman of the Winthrop Licensing Board, told the Council that one of the “problems” his board hears repeatedly is the condition of the cabs.

“We’re very concerned from a public safety standpoint about the condition of the cabs as well,” said Ogus. “The majority of the cabs are 2006s and 2007s and that is way beyond what I would suggest should be the age of the cabs. The second issue has to do with the mileage of the cabs. These cabs have hundreds of thousands of miles on them as well and I think that also needs to be addressed.”

Ogus also suggested that the cabs be inspected twice a year by local authorities.

Gillis defended the condition and upkeep of his cabs.

“The length [age] of the cab should not basically be considered [in respect] to the duration of the cab for when it should be taken off the road,” said Gillis. “If a cab passes a state and local inspection, it should be allowed to be on the road within a certain amount of years. Any time Officer Jaworksi or Officer Brown or Chief Delehanty want to inspect them, all they have to do is call me. Right now the taxis are in tip-top shape.”

Councilor Nicholas DelVento wondered whether the Council should be discussing only the request for the fare increase and not the age and condition of the taxis in respect to the fare increase.

“If the cabs were not in compliance, it’s not the purview of the Council; we have a licensing commission and a police department that should be handling those issues,” said DelVento. “These issues should not be pertinent at this point.”

Turco said that the finance committee reported that “the Council ought to look at the fare increase but we  ought to also look at the totality – the complaints regarding Viking Taxi.

“When we’re considering a fare increase, we’re allowed to consider everything including do we have an owner that’s meeting his responsibilities and are we satisfied that the taxis are in compliance with our ordinances?”

Powers firmly disagreed with Delvento’s general point about the jurisdiction of the respective boards.

“I think anything to do with the cab company, the operation and condition of the cabs, are all very germane to whether a fare increase should be considered,” said Powers.

After further discussion by the councilors, Turco said that town ordinances require that a vote on the matter be advanced to the next meeting of the Council.

  • At one point I wanted to open a small taxi company in the Winthrop town limits and was told by the city clerk the cars I planned to use were much too old. The town has actual ordinances on how old the cars can be. If I recall correctly they are to be no older than 3 years old. This would mean that in a few months there should be no Winthrop taxi older than a 2009. In terms of taxi regulations in the Commonwealth this is perhaps the most stringent age requirement I have yet to see. Even the city of Boston allows 6 year old cars. Perhaps the town could alter the ordinance so cars could be as much as 10 years old and inspect them twice a year as other towns do. They could even hire outside companies to do the inspections saving the town money and opening Winthrop to competition for their taxi riders from companies that will actually honor the ordinances.

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