KEYPORT — The well-used cab company Keyport Yellow Taxi effectively shut down today because the Borough Council failed to extend its provisional license.
Meanwhile, council members plan to hold a hearing Sept. 8 with the company’s owner, Geraldo Rodriguez — more than a week after his taxis need to be off the road – to address their individual grievances about his business to him.
“The borough has reached out to Rodriguez to attend the next council meeting to address the council’s concerns and come to a resolution should he desire to re-apply for licensure,” Councilwoman Sophia Lamberson said in a text message in response to questions about whether the taxi company will be allowed to continue its operations past Aug. 30.
Rodriguez owns a cab company in Perth Amboy, too. Lamberson said those cabs, and others based in neighboring towns, can be called by residents to pick them up. Rodriguez’s Keyport cabs will not be allowed to solicit fares.
Attempts to reach Rodriguez through his business were unsuccessful.
Councilman Kenneth Howe, one of the more vocal critics of Yellow Taxi, did not return repeated emailed requests for comment. He was absent from the council’s last session on Aug. 18.
In June, the Borough Council approved a temporary 60-day renewal of the taxi company’s license instead of a full renewal, according to a report in the Independent. At that time, the councilors wanted to kill the company’s license. That temporary license expired today.
“They’ve got to know that we are not afraid to say, ‘no’ ,“ Councilman Joseph Sheridan said during the Aug. 18 meeting, the council’s last session before the license expired.
Members of the Borough Council have complained about the yellow taxi drivers all summer.
The topic has been brought up at each of the July and August meetings, but no word was said about extending the temporary license.
At the Aug. 18 meeting, Stephen Gallo, the borough manager, said he met with Yellow Taxi operators in July. He reported that the operators promised to make changes to how they conduct their business, but he hasn’t seen much of a change.
Mayor Harry Aumack II is personally annoyed by the early morning horn honks near his Kearney Street home as a signal to fares still inside their house that their cab is waiting.
Using a car horn for any other purpose than to signal a move or warn other drivers is a violation of state traffic laws, Gallo explained.
What are the other complaints?
Cab drivers double-park on narrow and crowded streets to allow their fares to enter and exit the cab. Council members want the cabs to find street parking or use driveways.
Cab drivers wait in parking lots throughout the borough — known as deadheading — as a means of soliciting fares or waiting to be called. The council wants the cabs to return to the company’s Route 35 dispatch when they are not carrying fares. Aumack questioned whether they were allowed to solicit fares in town. It was explained to him that they are allowed to do so, but cabs based elsewhere cannot.
Bob Ludwig, a Council Chambers gadfly who often verbally spars with borough officials in public forums, added fuel to the fire when he complained that he saw a yellow cab double-parked while a woman unloaded her groceries from the taxi.
Issues with Yellow Taxi seem to stretch back to 2013, at least.
A review of the Borough Council’s minutes published online shows that former Councilman Ken McPeek complained Nov. 12, 2013, that he saw a yellow cab parked in the handicapped spot at 7-Eleven.
McPeek’s complaint resulted in a debate about imposing limits on how much the cab company could expand within the borough, and how to get the company to comply with borough regulations.
Shutting down a well used business in town does not seem like it was borough officials’ intent. The council intended to continue the debate about the company’s performance, but it did not list any resolution to renew the license.
Lamberson, the chairwoman of the council’s Police Commission, said she has coordianted with the borough’s police and other professionals extensively on the issue. She was, however, absent from the Aug. 18 meeting.
“I don’t think the Borough Council would act to take away anyone’s livelihood,” Lamberson said Friday evening.
When it was explained to her that inaction is what caused the license to expire rather than a direct act of the Borough Council, she ended the call to gather more information.
Likewise, Stephen Gallo, the borough manager, seemed to be caught unawares Thursday by the question of the Yellow Taxi license expiration.
“Technically, yes,” Gallo said in response to the question about the license expiration. “But I have to check with the police chief to see what he wants to do.”
Gallo promptly ended the call promising to call the Anchor again if anything had changed. There was no follow-up call from Gallo to correct the information.
By all accounts, the taxi service is used extensively by many borough residents. The cabs can be seen moving about the town at all hours of the day.
Keyport Yellow Taxi operates eight cabs within the borough. The cabs, mostly minivans, are painted in the same mustard yellow as New York City cabs.