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ONLY ON 3: Limited permits cause taxi crunch on busy downtown nights

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Trying to hail a cab in downtown Wilmington on weekends can be a bit of a challenge, especially when there’s a big event or holiday.

As we told you yesterday, police and cab drivers say it’s a big problem, and one the city has a hand in creating.

“Yes, we get a little busy. A lot of people come from out of town, and we don’t have enough cabs for them,” Majed Shannak of AAA Coastal Taxi said. “It’s only like three or four days a year.”

On holiday weekends like last weekend the cab situation in downtown Wilmington can get so bad that many partiers find themselves walking up Market Street hoping to catch a ride.

The city says it increased the number of “W” permits for downtown cabs to 155 back in 2006 because of the demand, but it says that demand, other than on these big weekends, has slowed.

“As far as I know, we have not received additional requests,” city spokeswoman Malissa Talbert said. “We do have issues from time to time, but they are very sporadic in nature and very much time-oriented.”

The Wilmington Police Department, though, says the number of taxis has been a problem in the past on busy weekends. That shortage can lead to problems.

“There’s going to be more people downtown, and yet you’ve got the same pool of taxis, if you will, so again it comes down to a supply and demand issue,” WPD spokesman Kevin Smith said.

The local cab drivers we spoke with say that the issue is not with the number of permits but with the number of permits that go unused on the weekends.

“These people’s cabs are sitting in the yard not being used,” James Allen of River City Cab said. “I ride by certain companies, the same vehicle will be sitting there for a month, same ‘W’ number, not being used.”

To fix that, cab drivers say the city’s lone inspector may need a hand.

“He might need some more help on the street to get everybody straight and get all the illegal cabs off the road so we can get back on at least making some money,” Shannak said.

It won’t be long before another weekend holiday. St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday this year.

Cab drivers say the simple solution to this holiday problem is to have a special exemption for taxis that don’t have a city permit on those busy weekends.

More: continued here

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