In the Tribune’s Dec. 28 article regarding safety shield installations in area taxis (“Taxi firms, cabbies spar over safety measures,” front page), the Tampa Bay Area Taxi Driver’s Association called on the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission to request that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi rethink a 1980s decision that limited the ability of the HCPTC to require taxi companies to install safety shields in the wake of the fatal shooting and attempted robbery on Dec. 8 of 56-year-old cab driver John Dooley.
The TBATDA is a small nonprofit organization representing mostly independent taxi drivers, but the Tribune repeatedly quoted the recently formed Taxi Cab and Limousine Coalition, whose members include the major cab companies.
Yellow Cab Co. owner Louis Minardi has been supportive of driver training and the TBATDA in the past, and we believe he has the best interest of the taxi industry in mind. Other owners, however, have not been so supportive.
The Taxi Cab and Limousine Coalition is opposed to the shields due to the expense and fears about public perceptions of Tampa as a safe city. However, the shields run between $200 and $300 and are easily installed. Independent contractors should be able to install the shields at their own expense, and cameras as well.
Bondi, quoted in the Dec. 28 article, stated her office would reconsider the 1989 Bob Butterworth decision provided the Public Transportation Commission make a formal request to her office. Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, a member of the PTC, stated he needs to study the issue further before considering requesting a new opinion.
In light of the OSHA recommendations that the shields be used, the Tampa Bay Area Taxi Drivers Association urges Crist to make this request to the Attorney General’s Office sooner rather than later. His previous support for our initiatives has been greatly appreciated.
Safety shields not only prevent deaths, they also prevent assaults upon the drivers and robberies, which occur far more frequently than is reported in the media. Additionally, the PTC promises to oversee the public’s safety. However, neither public safety nor driver safety is served when, according to Mario Tamargo, chief inspector for the PTC, there are only four inspectors charged with spot checking and inspecting 2,202 vehicles and guaranteeing the fitness and legality of all Hillsborough County drivers, whose numbers are now 3,012.
With an annual budget of more than $1.23 million, the PTC has enough funds to hire more inspectors and properly police the safety of vehicles and fitness of drivers.
Those concerned with the image of Tampa as a safe place to live and vacation would do well to note that unclean, poorly maintained and unsafe cabs and rogue drivers do more to hurt Tampa’s reputation than safety shields ever could.
Chairman, Tampa Bay Area Taxi Drivers Association
Jean R. Louis
Vice Chair, Tampa Bay Area Taxi Drivers Association