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Amherst poised to accept new taxi regulations

The updated draft regulations for taxi service were recently completed by the town manager’s office with assistance from the police and inspections departments and presented Monday to the Select Board.

Town Manager John Musante said if the board adopts the changes at its Nov. 5 meeting, this will give the nine cab companies operating in Amherst, all of which need to seek renewal before Dec. 31, nearly two months to come into compliance with the changes.

This would mark the first time taxi regulations have been amended since 1994. The regulations first were written in 1992.

The biggest adjustment will be eliminating the option for cab companies to charge customers by using a zoned system in which the price for a ride is predetermined by a map.

The new regulation reads: “All taxi businesses licensed to operate in the town of Amherst shall be equipped with approved metering devices ... each meter shall be mounted in such a manner as to allow passengers viewing of the display.”

The four pages of draft regulations were mailed to all taxi license holders and the town scheduled two informational meetings with these operators to solicit feedback, Musante said.

The process of reviewing the existing policies has been underway for most of this year, Musante said.

Select Board member Aaron Hayden said it comes in response to the proliferation of cab companies in town.

The regulations give the Select Board the right to cap the number of licenses issued to companies and drivers. “You have the authority to limit the number, in your discretion,” Musante said.

Many of the changes to the policy put into practice what is already happening on the ground, such as referencing the land use, building and zoning permits cab companies need, Musante said.

It also includes a lot of clarification and housekeeping, Musante said, as well as an appeals process should a taxi company be suspended or lose its right to operate.

The regulations spell out the vehicle inspection process overseen by the police department.

Several inspections were done during this past weekend by police. Amherst Capt. Christopher Pronovost said Sgt. Brian Daly completed an unannounced joint inspection with assistance from University of Massachusetts Police as a result of complaints from riders.

Some vehicles were deemed no longer safe to operate. “They took a few taxis out of service,” Pronovost said.

Language in the updated policy also provides mandatory discounts for people 65 and over and protocol for the behavior and dress of drivers.

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