St. Croix Taxi Drivers Voice Concerns Over Unlicensed Competition and Industry Challenges



In a series of town hall meetings culminating in St. Croix, taxi operators voiced their concerns over the challenges facing their industry, including the rise of unlicensed competitors and a perceived lack of regulatory enforcement. Samuel Ferdinand, a veteran in the taxi business, highlighted the frustrations experienced by licensed drivers as they face competition from non-licensed individuals, exacerbated by hotels directing guests to these unlicensed services. He criticized the absence of regulatory oversight and the impact of ride-sharing platforms like Uber on the traditional taxi industry.

Ferdinand praised Taxicab Commission Executive Director Vernice Gumbs for her efforts but pointed out her lack of support in addressing these issues. The underfunded state of the Taxicab Commission was underscored by Gumbs’ need to attend the meeting via a cell phone, highlighting the technological and financial constraints faced by the commission.

The meeting also touched upon the disparities between taxi and limousine regulations, with Ferdinand noting the advantage limousine operators have in being able to use one license for multiple vehicles, a flexibility not afforded to taxi operators.

Senator Gittens, who attended the meeting, agreed that enforcement was a critical issue and called for all law enforcement officers to be knowledgeable about the regulations governing vehicles for hire. Edwin Stephen, another taxi operator, lamented the decline in licensed drivers, attributing it to the pandemic and retirements, and criticized the government’s failure to conduct licensing exams, calling it a form of “sabotage.”

Paul Roberts emphasized the need to lower barriers for younger drivers to enter the industry, suggesting that their fresh perspectives could revitalize the taxi sector. He and others criticized the slow progress in resuming taxi classes and exams, with Ms. Gumbs revealing that a lack of finalized rules and unpaid bills had stalled the process.

The disparity in treatment between limousines and taxis was a recurring theme, with calls for the regulation of limousines to be returned to the Taxicab Commission’s jurisdiction. Senator Joseph assured attendees that legislative efforts were underway to address these issues, while Senator Gittens urged his colleagues to act swiftly to prevent further damage to the industry.

The meeting concluded with a call for greater involvement from the taxi community in St. Croix and a warning from Senator Gittens about the risks posed by unlicensed drivers. The commitment to addressing the challenges faced by the taxi industry was reaffirmed, with a focus on legislative and enforcement solutions to ensure a fair and competitive environment for licensed taxi operators.

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