By Alyssa Schnugg
Local taxi and ride-share drivers spoke out Tuesday against a proposed ordinance that would create two assigned areas where all ride-share drivers would pick up their riders on the Square.
During the Oxford Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday and a public hearing for the second reading of the ordinance, Alfonso Jordan, who owns Zoe’s Taxi, said the designated parking areas would hurt local cab companies and potentially put them out of business.
“We don’t have that ability to have an app. … We depend on those walk-ups,” he told the board.
If approved, the new ordinance will apply to all cab companies and private ride-share companies, including Uber and Lyft, that operate in the downtown area at night.
The two locations would be next to the downtown parking garage and on 14th Street, between Harrison and Tyler.
The new pickup areas would replace any current cab parking spaces allocated on the Square.
Mayor Robyn Tannehill said the idea for the designated pickup areas came after the city received several complaints about people getting into cabs and ride-share cars in the middle of the street and backing up traffic.
“We looked at how other communities stack cars, and I know, nobody likes change. … I do believe in this instance people will get used to walking to get a taxi,” she said.
Jordan said local folks might learn to go to the new areas but visitors during football game weekends won’t know where to go and will elect to either drive themselves or walk downtown while being drunk.
He asked for the pickup area to be closer to the Square and suggested near Neilson’s Department Store.
“If this (ordinance) comes into play, the little people, like my company, will become extinct,” he said.
Ride-share companies such as Uber are mandated by state legislation and are not bound to follow city laws. However, Uber has told city staff that they will comply with the proposed ordinance for pickup locations.
Alderman John Morgan is doubtful.
“I don’t think they’ll follow it,” he said. “They may say they will.”
All vehicles for hire will have to use the designated pickup location when picking up riders in the downtown area between the hours of 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., seven days a week.
The designated pickup spaces will be marked for three vehicles on the pavement; however, there is room for about 10 vehicles.
Other drivers also spoke at the meeting against the parking areas and said that forcing everyone who needs a ride to walk to either the parking garage or to the location near Newk’s will be more unsafe for college students who may be under the influence.
A local Uber/Lyft driver told the aldermen that he was hit by a drunk driver earlier this year and is concerned that this ordinance could increase instances of people driving under the influence since more will opt to get behind the wheel than walk to one of the pickup locations.
The board will vote on the ordinance on July 6.