The recent conflict between Lyft and the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC) adds even more credence to the argument that the MTC should not exist. Under the guise of protecting public safety, the MTC controls market entry for taxis in Saint Louis, sets prices, and needlessly regulates the for-hire vehicle market in favor of large taxi companies. There are many examples of these types of competition stifling regulations in the MTC’s For Hire Vehicle Code, including:
Regulations that restrict market entry:
- Section 203: All For Hire Vehicle Owners require a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN) from the MTC. The MTC, staffed by taxi industry players, gets to decide if there is enough demand for more cabs. (The MTC has frozen CCN issuances for taxis until they finish a study on taxi demand, because apparently the job of the MTC should be to centrally plan taxi supply).
- 202: Transfer or sale of a CCN must be accompanied by a $2,500 application fee.
- 210: All CCNs must retain and maintain a non-residential office address with a business telephone number that is staffed 24 hours a day.
- 301: All for-hire vehicles require a permit (airport taxi, premium sedan, etc.). Vehicles can only receive one type of permit.
- 602: Taxis cannot be older than nine model years and premium sedans cannot be older than five model years. Taxis that are more than six model years cannot enter service and premium sedans more than two model years cannot enter service.
- 604: All new premium sedan CCNs require at least three sedans at the time of permit issuance.
Regulations that restrict competition:
- 501: Taxi meter rates are controlled.
- 301: For-hire vehicles can only receive one type of permit; hence, airport cabs cannot compete with normal taxis which cannot become premium sedans.
- 604: Premium sedans cannot be stationed within 2,500 feet of a hotel or business property.
- 604: Premium sedans must contract for passengers at least 60 minutes before pickup.
Regulations that are needless or simply ridiculous:
- 501: Taxis must have printed, in colors contrasting to that of the vehicle surface to which affixed, on the outside of one door, the name of the vehicle license holder in letters at least 2.5 inches high.
- 504: Drivers are required to wear a uniform of black slacks and a solid, button-up shirt.
- 701: All on-call taxicabs should arrive at a hotel with heat or air conditioning running, set between 65-75 degrees.
- 304: Vehicles cannot have spinning wheels or covers.
- 304: Bumper paint must match vehicle paint unless paint is not required, then it must be factory black.
You are free to believe these and many other MTC regulations have some tangential connection to keeping passengers safe. But the simplest explanation is that the purpose of these rules is the same as their result: to limit market entry and control competition. Equally simple is the method for improving taxi service in Saint Louis: shutting down the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission.