Cab owner asks Massena village to allow higher night rate, license more cabs
Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - 9:33 am

BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week

MASSENA -- A local cab company owner on Tuesday asked the village board for more licenses and a fare increase, which led to a village resident and the deputy mayor disagreeing over the role local government should play in taxi regulation.

Bruce Green, who owns Green Cab Company, said he wants to be able to raise rates at night and have a couple of extra cabs licensed to run during the night hours.

The village currently allows 10 cabs to be licensed in the entire village. All of the licenses are held by Green, who runs 24 hours, and Massena Transport, which operates 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Fares are currently capped at $5, and drivers are allowed to charge $1 per stop along the fare's route.

"This $5 has been forever," Green said. "You go to McDonald's you can't tell them what to charge with a burger ... and that's what's happening with this."

Deputy Mayor Matt Lebire asked Green to come back to the board with what he specifically wants. Lebire said Tuesday's discussion was the first time he'd heard of a request for a rate increase.

Following the debate, Lebire, a Democrat, and village resident Joel Grigg debated the role local government should play in oversight of the livery industry. Grigg, a Republican, ran an unsuccessful campaign for village trustee in 2016.

"Rather than asking him for a formal response and maybe increasing his licenses or allow him to charge a little more, what business in Massena does this board have such an integral interest in that they dictate his rates and how much he can earn in a night," Grigg said. "I don't think there's any call in 2019 for the Village of Massena to have such a controlling interest as they have in the taxi and transportation businesses of this village."

Lebire pointed out that earlier this year, they considered allowing more taxi licenses at the request of a new business, and both Green and Steven Zakarauskas from Massena Transport weren't in favor of the idea.

"This village board was looking at increasing license and we had pushback ... they don't want other companies coming in," Lebire said.

He defended the regulations as necessary to prevent an opportunistic business owner from gouging local residents on fares.

"Taxi fee codes in municipal laws were put into action decades ago for fear of monopolistic opportunities that exist in small towns where there's not enough business," Lebire said.

He said he didn't want to imply Green would do this, but "another owner could freely say 'I'm the only game in town, how about $15 a ride.'"