Addressing the Stagnation in the Virgin Islands’ Taxi Sector: A Call for Renewed Certification and Reform



At a recent townhall meeting in St. Croix, key stakeholders within the taxi industry voiced their concerns over the stagnation caused by a hiatus in certifying new taxi operators. The absence of testing for over five years has emerged as a critical barrier, preventing potential drivers from joining the ranks and contributing to the industry’s growth on the Big Island.

Edwin Stephen, a seasoned taxi operator, articulated the community’s frustration to the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Veteran Affairs, and Consumer Protection. He highlighted the adverse effects of the government’s inaction, particularly in relation to servicing the cruise line sector. The lack of communication on when tests and examinations will resume has left many aspiring drivers in limbo.

Echoing Stephen’s concerns, fellow taxi operator Samuel Ferdinand pointed out the high interest among individuals wanting to join the sector, only to be met with obstacles due to the absence of certification exams. Despite recent training initiatives by the V.I. Port Authority, operators like Ferdinand find themselves without formal recognition, further exemplifying the inefficiencies within the system.

The Taxicab Commission’s Executive Director, Vernice Gumbs, acknowledged the issue, noting efforts to collaborate with the University of the Virgin Islands to restart the certification program, aiming for a hopeful resumption in May. However, the delay in resuming taxi classes and exams has been partly attributed to the absence of updated rules and regulations, a situation further complicated by fiscal challenges affecting the commission’s operations.

Senator Carla Joseph’s inquiries revealed that the halt in policy revision was due to unpaid legal services, although Gumbs suggested that existing regulations from 2014 could potentially be utilized to recommence classes. Nevertheless, Gumbs expressed concerns over the outdated framework’s inability to address contemporary industry needs, such as electronic payments, underscoring the necessity for an updated regulatory approach.

The discourse also shed light on the Taxicab Commission board’s dysfunctionality, with Senator Kenneth Gittens calling for a comprehensive overhaul to address the issue of members serving beyond their terms. Additionally, Gumbs cited previous audits and investigations as impediments to resuming classes, a stance challenged by Sen. Joseph, who urged immediate action regardless of ongoing probes.

The meeting concluded with a rallying call to industry stakeholders from Sen. Joseph, encouraging the submission of nominations for the Taxicab Commission board to ensure representation that truly reflects the industry’s interests. This plea resonates with previous efforts by lawmakers urging Governor Albert Bryan Jr. to appoint new board members, highlighting a collective desire to revitalize the taxi sector through effective governance and operational reforms.

As the Virgin Islands taxi industry stands at a crossroads, the unified voices of operators, legislators, and regulatory bodies underscore the urgent need for actionable solutions. The path forward requires not only the resumption of certification exams but also a reevaluation of regulatory frameworks and board structures to foster a more dynamic and inclusive taxi sector.

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