This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Don't get in that taxi cab without negotiating a price you could be in for a bad trip.
If Gov. Gary Herbert signs SB294 into law, taxi cabs would no longer be regulated in Salt Lake City meaning fares, too, would not be set.
Salt Lake City's transportation regulations are now between the devil and the deep blue sea after the Utah Legislature passed a bill earlier this month at the behest of so-called rideshare companies Uber and Lyft that rolled back regulation.
The legislation's wide net also caught Yellow Cab, Ute Cab and City Cab. Among the consequences is that there is no mandated mileage rate. Some price gouging has been reported, according to David Everitt, chief of staff to Mayor Ralph Becker.
The Salt Lake City Council spent months in 2014 crafting an ordinance that made way for the new-age transportation companies Uber and Lyft by doing away with 30-minute wait times for limousines and the $30 minimum that applied to them. But, in the end, the council determined those rideshare companies must submit to city background checks of drivers, city vehicle inspections and mandated a $1.5 million policy for each driver.
Not least, a city business license is required. And all carriers serving the Salt Lake City International Airport must register and pay a per-visit fee.
Salt Lake City's cab companies always have been required to meet city regulations, as well as provide service 24 hours per day, seven days per week. In addition, they were not allowed to discriminate against any group, including the disabled.
But on March 12, with the passage of SB294, that was all undone. Unless Gov. Gary Herbert vetoes the bill, it will become law May 12.
Beyond unregulated fares, traditional cab companies will no longer need city background checks, city vehicle inspections or guarantee of 24-hour service or safeguards for the disabled.
The provisions relating to the airport, however, remain.
Leading up to that legislation, neither Uber nor Lyft sought business licenses from the municipality, but each continued to do business in Salt Lake City. Neither company submitted to city background checks or vehicle inspections.
If SB294 is signed into law, those companies will do their own background checks and vehicle inspections. They will provide $1 million in liability insurance and register with the state.
The oversight of those regulations would come through the Utah Division of Consumer Protection. It is not clear how the division would ensure background checks and vehicle inspections.
Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, had earlier objected to the bill, seemingly tailored to the two companies, coming so late in the session.
"It's just a red carpet, preferred, write-your-own bill as you come into town," he said.
Former mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson, who now represents Yellow Cab, called the legislative process and the bill "outrageous."
But as the legislation went forward for a vote, Salt Lake City representatives put up little resistance.
The city will take a wait-and-see approach, Everitt said, to determine if the issue should be revisited. The administration will study it for three months to a year, he said.
But city Councilman Luke Garrott said the legislation may well hurt Salt Lakers and visitors.
"We're wondering what we've lost with traditional taxis," Garrott said. "We may be letting large segments of our population down."
Two traditional taxi companies that had sought contracts with Salt Lake City have pulled out of negotiations, according to city officials, who did not name those companies.